Warner Takes a Virtual-Reality Trip

Mark Warner is burning up the shoe leather—and the jet fuel—in his I’m-not-running-for-president-just-yet travels.

By: Garrett M. Graff

September saw the former Virginia governor pass through Nevada, California, Arizona, New York, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He’s also making side trips into a different reality.

Warner dipped his toe into the online world known as Second Life, which signed up its 600,000th user the day he made his appearance. The free-to-join digital universe, which has its own currency and laws of physics in which users create a character, or “avatar,” allows thousands of people to play together in a virtual world doing, well, things they do in the real world—chatting, exploring places, and buying property.

When Warner signed in to visit this virtual world, a Second Life “reporter” questioned him as a crowd of other players looked on. One Warner aide created her avatar as a slim, sexy brunette in a white pantsuit and black top exposing her taut midriff, while another appeared as a midget in Colonial garb.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank appeared as an amoebic man in a white dress and a shock of neon-purple hair; nearby, his colleague Chris Cillizza —appearing as a clean-cut young guy in jeans and a white T-shirt—seemed normal, except he was levitating over the crowd.

One nameless participant showed up as a large pile of tubes—a reference to how Alaska senator Ted Stevens recently described the Internet.