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The Real Potential Of Virtual Worlds

Sep 12, 2008
Online games have been existent as long as the internet has been commercially available, from simple text based games to the first widely popular graphics led virtual world Ultima Online. Now as highspeed broadband is made more affordable and home PC's become more powerful, more and more people are retreating into the virtual world to escape the real one. MMORPG's (massively multiplayer online role playing games) such as the World of Warcraft are liberating environments where users function as a fictional character, undertake quests and join guilds. Taking on an alternative identity can be a cathartic experience and with the relative anonymity afforded by the virtual world and the common bond dictated by the nature of the game, users are less inhibited therefore socialising becomes a much easier occurrence.

But it's not all about fantastical orcs and demons. The MMORPG Second Life is less of a game and more of a world. There are no dragons to slay or experience points to gain there is simply an ever expanding environment where the users are encouraged to contribute to the game's surroundings. Residents can build items, architecture, furniture, fashion and accessories. With the exception of the land which is constructed by the developers Linden Lab, it is the players who are creating the content of the world they play in. In true Web 2.0 style the 3D modelling software available in world is open for the users to generate the substance of the world as they see fit.

E-games such as these also have their own thriving e-economies which have become so established they have large real world value. With Second Life's currency Linden dollars players are making more than a comfortable income from designing buildings, letting offices and creating clothes. But the free market is not limited to products, all range of services are provided as well, from business management and events organisers to massage parlours and adult entertainment. The most lucrative industry in Second Life is the real estate market where considerable amounts of Linden Dollars can be converted into even more significant real dollars by third party exchange services.

The effects that such online developments are having on our first life are increasing, from virtual marriages to sexually confused members discovering they're transsexual by experimenting with differently gendered avatars. The consequences of the virtual are being realised in the real world and although this is a positive aspect that should be embraced it is also an issue we need to be well aware of and educated on. As with any new phenomena there are those willing to exploit it, such as the virtual mafia and money laundering and the fact that many people, especially children are spending large amounts of time in these virtual worlds. Serious issues such as these must be tackled in the understanding that they do not reflect the majority of users involved in virtual worlds and the potential for education and emancipation is limitless, it just needs to be exploited effectively.
About the Author
John McE writes articles on a number of subjects including igaming and recruitment. For more about igaming recruitment Pentasia
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