This week I had the pleasure of reading an article for class outlining the different types of social media that we all use. Along with the usual suspects (Social Bookmarking, Blogs, Social Networking, etc.) there was a section about virtual game worlds and virtual social worlds. Virtual gaming involves large groups of people playing with/against each other under the guise of a character. One of the most popular virtual game worlds is World of Warcraft where people assume a mythical persona and explore the virtual world while fighting battles. Personally I have not played World of Warcraft or any other virtual games but I do have much experience with the bane of many girlfriend’s existences: Call of Duty for X-Box. Anyone who knows someone who is being held captive by this game knows that it is all consuming. Men will ignore you utterly and completely while playing that game. I think the thing that they find so fascinating about this game is that they are able to talk with their teammates and opponents and can therefore build strategies together on how to win. Watch this video for more info on gaming addictions.
Now virtual social worlds are a little different. Communities such as Second Life allow people to choose a persona/avatar and explore their virtual world, interact with other people/avatars, shop, sell virtual goods and more. Think ‘The Sims’ but every character is controlled by and actual living human being. Some people are even able to earn real money by creating virtual products and selling them to other Second Life residents. Many retail shops also have a Second Life presence including Dell Computers and Reebok athletic wear, to name a few. There are some other cool and educational aspects of this virtual social world. One can visit planetariums and learn more about the cosmos, visit zoos and more. in an article for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Robert Hof defends Second Life and other virtual social worlds as being just like any other form of entertainment, but one that you can manipulate and control as much as you want.
Is it just me, or is fashioning a virtual alter ego and living your life online kind of creepy? I even created an avatar on Second Life years ago after a friend introduced me to it. I didn’t last long however, because I was much more interested in exploring the real world than the virtual one. I am all for entertainment, but when it becomes a destructive addiction then one must reevaluate whether playing is really worth it. Maybe I am old fashioned, but there is something to be said for going outside and getting some fresh air and exercise.