Virtual Worlds: Life is not a Game

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to note that Second Life is vastly different from World of Warcraft. But Clay Shirky has stated the obvious — the one is a platform with fascinating in-world effects, the other is a multi-player game.

Clay believes that we shouldn’t be comparing the two. With this point I agree. Games are games, they involve quests, levelling, the magic circle metaphor and in some instances, the thing that has given rise to their popularity – guilds (the ability to work as a team). They also include a range of negatives – shards and lag.

Second Life is a 3D persistent environment – it does not per se have games or quests and is more focused on allowing its residents to achieve status through the acquisition of status symbols — land being the primary one, but stuff in general. It is very individualistic, but contains social elements – residents can communicate amongst each other, albeit currently on a rudimentary level, and they can collaborate on building items, again at a rudimentary level.

Similarly to games, Second Life has downsides such as lag and severe limitations on the number of residents that can visit an inworld place at any one time.

In terms of comparitors, Second Life should be compared to other forms of online social media such as MySpace and Cyworld. These social media plays have had massive adoption – why: they pander to our innate desire for CICS (Connect, Interact, Create and Share), they are easy to use, are extremely viral and, in particular in the case of MySpace, have an open architecture – I can visit your MySpace page and watch a YouTube video.

Second Life doesn’t rate as a social media play. Linden Labs may have open sourced the SL viewer, but their product is far from open or viral. It is not intuitive to navigate inworld and creating and sharing are hard things to do. Just as a newb user gets comfortable she starts to experience massive client/server induced lag and SL crashes. Oh well, she sighs, I tried that…now back to social networking.

I agree with Clay that games are not going away any time soon, in fact as a form of pure entertainment…they rock. 3D persistent spaces, however, are categorised in the virtual world arena for now, but should be compared to other forms of social media.

In fact, at Yoick we strongly believe that as social media the right combination will lead to massive Skype-like adoption. Stay tuned for our persistent 3D environment – we are on the cusp of emerging from stealth…

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