I still remember Mera exclaiming something like "I love this place. It's good to know that the skills I have spent my life learning are appreciated somewhere".That reflects much of the appeal of Second Life to me: the sense of efficacy and satisfaction that I derive from it. The things that I love are things that matter in Second Life. And I love what things matter in Second Life.
Consider a game such as, say, World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer online stupefacient that held my attention prior to joining Second Life. I could perform decently in such a game, but the things that mattered—the things around which the hierarchy of reputation was formed—were the ability to kill things quickly, and the ability to kill other things quickly. Rarely was there reverance for a great healer; appreciation, of course, because they helped the other people continue to kill things; but not reverance.
I was never very competetive by nature, nor was I destructive. I found more satisfaction in cooperation and creation. I did not care to organize a group of other players to attack the enemy's home cities and kill their citizens. I would rather (and did, on several occasions) organize a dance-raid: march into the enemy city and have a peaceful dance party with the enemy! (For some reason, the enemy did not usually appreciate my efforts.)
Second Life was different.
Many people take great pains to stress that Second Life is not a game. But for me, it always has been a game—of sorts—and one that I was good at (and more, enjoyed!). In this amazing new game, instead of killing things, people created things. Instead of smacking each other with swords, they joined hands and made the world better. The people who were most widely-known and respected were renowned for their creative ability or friendliness! What a marvelous thing to find!
Of course, the "rules" to this "game" aren't as concretely established as in Warcraft, and everybody "plays" a different way. But for me, every time I create a new sculpture or enjoy an activity with my friends, it's more satisfying and rewarding than killing monsters or running around from place to place ever was.
So, what do I like most about Second Life?
It's not the amazing and wonderful people I've met. It's not the dynamic environment. It's not even the building.
It's the attitude and spirit.
Create, not destroy.
Help, not harm.
Join together, not tear apart.
Everything worthwhile in Second Life is a branch on this tree.