LONDON, Nov. 14, 2008 -- The line between actual reality and virtual reality has become more blurred with the advent of the popular online game "Second Life."
The virtual world provides a place for individuals to create an avatar and engage in most everyday activities, including attending concerts, conducting meetings, meeting new friends, and apparently having virtual extra-marital affairs.
Amy Taylor, 28, and David Pollard, 40, expect to have their divorce finalized next week. Their three-year marriage came to a crashing end after Pollard was caught by his wife e-snuggling with another Second Life female avatar lover.
"I caught him cuddling a woman on a sofa in the game. It looked really affectionate," Taylor told Sky News.
When Taylor confronted her husband about the matter and asked to see his chat history, he quickly turned off both the monitor and the computer to erase any evidence of his interaction.
The incident was the last straw for Taylor, since it wasn't the first time Pollard had strayed digitally.
After the couple met and were smitten with each other in an Internet chat room in 2003, they decided to get married and held an online wedding in Second Life in 2005. But the honeymoon didn't last long -- Pollard's avatar was caught having sex with an online prostitute in Second Life.
"I went mad…I was so hurt," Taylor told Sky News. "I just couldn't believe what he'd done."
Dr. Cynthia McVey, Head of Glasgow Caledonian University's Psychology Department, told ABCnews.com that Taylor's emotions reflect her feelings that she "may not be exciting enough" to her husband and even though Pollard may not have committed physical infidelity it still signaled a "step away from her."
Second Life serves as a meeting place for friends and a virtual marketplace, and some countries have even set up embassies on the platform.
Richard Gandy, a Second Life devotee, told ABCnews.com that it was "more than just a game," adding that it was a full-fledged "3D virtual world."
Gandy explained that there were "two distinct areas on the mainland – PG and Mature, where anything goes."
Gandy explained to ABCnews.com that the official Second Life monetary unit, Linden dollars, could be converted into U.S. dollars and functions like any other currency with an exchange rate. Gandy said that there "have been real millionaires" resulting from Second Life activity. In fact, Gandy, who owns Felsham Village in the platform, told ABCnews.com that he rents out parcels of lands and earns rent from the tenants which he could convert into real money
But what makes one go beyond those public activities and pursue more intimate relationships in Second Life?
McVey told ABCnews.com that people hope to "present themselves as they want others to see them and how they want to be."
McVey explains that Second Life can be a safe haven for individuals who are "shy and lonely," and can be a place where "appearance is no longer a concern" and where people can "connect with someone" without the worry of being judged. Those factors may have played a roll in this situation where the couple's avatars clearly did not match up with their real-life physical appearance.
"There is a novelty value associated with it…you can be anything you want to be," McVey said, and says in some ways it is "an emotional representation of yourself."
The "other woman" involved in the affair, 55-year-old Linda Brinkley, who lives in Arkansas, was first attracted to Pollard after her online character began work as a hostess at a nightclub run by Pollard on Second Life, the Daily Mail reported. Brinkley claims the relationship between her and Pollard was that of just friends until he split with his wife.
The timing of the affair doesn't matter to Taylor.
"It's cheating as far as I'm concerned," Taylor told Sky News.
A statement given to ABCnews.com from Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, says that "we were saddened to hear of this unfortunate incident... Second Life provides a richly immersive environment for communication, and we have seen very positive real-life relationships form between Residents who first met in world."
While it may be true that many have experienced meaningful relationships and made important contacts on Second Life, this Internet fairy tale didn't live up to it's happy beginnings, as the couple's divorce is due to be finalized next week.
And perhaps this couple should have listened to the advice of the Second Life creators: "As with any online communications medium -- from e-mail to dating Web sites -- we recommend that people choose their friendships and other relationships wisely and carefully consider these relationships before meeting in person," Linden Lab said in a statement to ABCnews.com.
The relationship which Brinkley describes as "love at first site" became so serious that Pollard proposed to her online, and the couple is now engaged in real life, despite never meeting each other in person, the Daily Mail reported.
Brinkley, who has three children from her first marriage, aged 35, 33 and 30, in addition to a 15-year-old from her second marriage, told the Daily Mail that she was "in love with Dave," and added "I've been married in real life before but they weren't really good relationships and I haven't had much luck with men until now."
And apparently even Taylor has moved on from the broken marriage. Accordingly to Sky News, Taylor has already found a new man in her life whom she met playing the fantasy role-playing game World of Warcraft.