MMO entrepreneur claims victory over death

Self-styled 'virtual worlds pioneer' John 'Neverdie' Jacobs believes that virtual reality holds the secret to eternal life - and in a publicity stunt of questionable taste has resurrected his deceased fiancée as 'proof.'

Jacobs has often been in the headlines thanks to his obsession with virtual worlds. He sold his off his entirely virtual asteroid-based nightclub in the game Entropia for a massive $635,000 - and that's real-world money, folks - but his most recent stunt does leave one questioning whether he's gone too far this time.

To celebrate the launch of the second Club Neverdie, which this time calls Jacobs-owned paradise simulator Next Island its home, Jacobs has resurrected his fiancée's avatar - Island Girl - to populate The Island Girl Spa.

Tina Leiu, the real-world person behind Island Girl, died in 2005 from complications resulting from an attack of myacarditis.

The Island Girl Spa represents, Jacobs claims, "one of her [Leui's] unfulfilled dreams," and will actually include an avatar representing the deceased girl.

While it's not clear who - if anyone - will be controlling the avatar, the move represents Jacobs' growing belief that - and I'm quoting here - "virtual reality will be the means by which humanity transcends death itself."

That transcendence is furthered by the actions of the Island Girl avatar: Jacobs explains that "she automatically revives anyone who dies gaming on the island, bringing another level of meaning to the name Club Neverdie.

"For me the return of Island Girl at the new Polynesian Club Neverdie brings everything full circle and represents an important statement to the online community and the world; that virtual reality is the place where we can transcend death, perhaps not on a literal level right now, but very possibly in the future."

It's hard to figure out how to take Jacobs' announcement: on the one hand, games are escapism, and if Jacobs wants a way to remember his fiancée in the environment that they both loved, who is to say he's wrong?

Looking at the flipside, however, brings up a distasteful image of an undeniably successful entrepreneur trading off the memory of his deceased partner in order to drum up interest for the inevitable sale of the second Club Neverdie - or perhaps merely to get some cheap publicity going for Next Island, the second multiplayer on-line game to come out of Jacobs' Neverdie Studios and home to his ersatz fiancée.

One thing is for sure: Jacobs' antics are increasingly leaving a bad taste in my mouth.