I've just about finished researching and writing an article about the implications for planning in a virtual environment called Second Life
If you're one of the 578,672 people worldwide who participate in the virtual world called Second Life, you are empowered. You use the game's virtual environment to interact with others, design buildings, develop communities, or even construct your own island, complete with an economy, design guidelines, and many of the same issues and problems that come with a real community. However, calling Second Life just a game understates the potential of the technology
Even in virtual environments -- it turns out -- good planning, urban design, and zoning are valuable. Places that have strong design aesthetics and a reasonable mix of uses tend to be the most popular and generate the highest lease and purchase prices. A difference with the real world seems to be that in Second Life planning and design are accomplished more by individual and collaborative efforts than by government regulation.
However, with some exceptions, there are few zoning or content restrictions on land use in Second Life. This results in a wide variation in design, and yields lots of examples where incongruous land uses -- such as a mega casino that allows hang gliding from the six-story roof towering above a small farm and single-family homes next door.
Included is a screen shot from the gated and planning community, Anhinga Island, as well as a screen capture of an interface while I was taking an online course on how to build a trampoline. (You've got to start somewhere...)