Living in Game Space

Second Life transcends a lot of social barriers that we have in real life. … There are so many immediate social stigmas that we have with each other that just sort of disappear in Second Life, because everybody is sort of on a level playing field. … We’re talking about all the things in real life that, whether we like to admit it or not, separate us, that are barriers to friendships.

Cristiano Diaz on Open Source

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

My Second Life avatar in the water

Strangely, when I got back out my jeans were immediately dry again. [Brendan Greeley]

This is me, in Second Life. I have excellent hair, nice lats and I have fallen into the water. There are people on the other side of the bridge, there. I did not talk to them. I was busy trying to get out of the water.

Luckily, in Second Life, you can fly. You can also don the body of your choice; mine happens to be the default, but I’m rather fond of it and thinking of keeping it. More in keeping with the laws of physics, you can buy property, go to a club and make your own clothing.

Second Life is not a game; it’s a world. You log in and then you see a representation of yourself — your “avatar” — moving around in a representation of physical space. You can see other avatars moving around, too, each controlled by some other real person sitting at a computer in Los Angeles or Qatar or Seoul or anywhere in the world with a broadband Internet connection.

There is no point or, rather, that there is no point is the point. Your avatar is free to wander around or go to parties with other avatars. You can purchase real estate from Linden Labs, the company that designed Second Life; on your property you can build a club, hire an avatar to play music and collect admission in Linden dollars. You can spend those dollars on more real estate, or you can exchange them — at a free-floating rate, depending on the size of the Second Life economy — for US dollars.

The avatar you see above — me, in Second Life — marks me immediately as a newbie. I haven’t take the time to customize him yet; I haven’t spent any money on clothing. I cannot move with ease. I do not own property. I am an immigrant; my uncomfortably tight jeans and t-shirt mark me as surely as a pair of peat-blackened hands would have a century ago stepping onto a dock in New York. From Linden Labs CEO Philip Rosedale:

Standing at the welcome area and watching newbies I am struck by the image of an traveller emerging from Grand Central Station with no more than a compass, a frayed subway map, and $1 in their pocket – tasked with discovering what is out there.

Philip’s Blog, Country or Platform or Both?

Once you have your bearings, you can leap into complications possibly familiar to you from first life, that is, of the real world. You can take part in a mass wedding. You can engage an escort service. You can show up on the police blotter. You can found a socialist mini-state. Or perhaps — less familiar from first life — you can see how people react when you change your race.

Second Life boasts 150,000 avatars, more residents than the US Virgin Islands. What’s the appeal of online worlds like Second Life or World of Warcraft? These worlds are an economist’s or sociologist’s dream; what are we learning from them about first life? To quote Second Life’s CEO, are they countries or platforms or both?

And do any of you live in Second Life? Want to give me a tour?

Update, 2/28/06 6:29 pm

Ok, so David and Mary were concerned that it might not be clear that this is a show, not a blog-only feature. It is a show. And while we’re at it, should these people be going to real bars? If people are making friends and money through their avatars, what’s going missing?

Extra Credit Reading

New World Notes, the blog of Second Life embedded reporter Wagner James Au.

Second Life Herald, a blog about the legal, economic and social implications of life in the virtual world.

TheStoryofDigitalIdentity, a podcast about virtual-world identity.

Second Life Monday, an academic collective blog about game space

Gitr’s WoW Blog, maintained by “a human warrior on the Kargath server.”

Tobold’s MMORPG Blog

Neal Stephenson Snow Crash, a 1992 novel, often used as reference, that predicted much of the structure of online worlds

Cory Doctorow’s Anda’s Game, a short story — set in game space — published in Best American Short Stories of 2005.

Joi Ito, Joi Ito’s Web Funeral in World of Warcraft

Jane Pinckard, 1UP.com, Is World of Warcraft the New Golf?, February 8, 2006

Daniel Terdiman, Wired News, Second Life Teaches Life Lessons, April 06, 2005

Aleks Krotoski, Gamesblog, Second Life and the virtual property boom, June 14, 2005

Anders Blyund, Ars Technica, Massively Multiplayer Orgies? Online Role Playing Bacchanals?, January 4, 2006

Betsy Book, Virtual Worlds Review, Moving Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds, October, 2004

MSNBC, ‘World of Warcraft’ copes with gay rights fallout, February 15, 2006

Simon Carless, Gaming Hacks, Understand MMORPG Lingo, 2005


Comments

65 thoughts on “Living in Game Space

  1. Good stuff! There are some fascinating aspects about this type of virtual world, especially the online economies that emerge and how value is translated out of the game. I am aware of folks that will build up large amounts of assets in online games and then sell the character or assets for real dollars.

    See:

    http://games.slashdot.org/games/04/12/14/1759253.shtml?tid=209&tid=187

    I’d also like to point out the communities that arise outside of the “Game Space.” Although I avoid this type of online gaming(?), as a grad student I have little time for the MMORG (masively multiplayer online role-playing games), I have developed some RL (real life) relationships that started out on-line in communities based around the games (Battlefield 1942, Neverwinter Nights, and BF2). I’m sure this happens with with MMORGs.

    -Rico

  2. I personally had two friends that allowed these MMORGs to take over their lives. It seems like it may be too easy of an escape for people who are having a problem in their ‘first lives,’ since, after all you can do everything in the games that you can do in real life. Could addiction to one of these games be compared to a gambling addiction?

  3. Fascinating territory to explore. From your entry, Brendan, you seem to have captured the essence of Second Life in just a few minutes: not a “game” (in the usual, stereotypical sense that anything with pretty 3D graphics on a computer screen has to be a game!) but a virtual reality — what some call the “Web 3.0″, one that is completely detached from the 2D paradigm of dragging coloured rectangles over a screen and clicking on them with a mouse.

    Naturally, paradigm shifts attract suspicion, skepticism, and wrinkling of noses. It was not so long ago that computers migrated from text-only (remember Wordstar and Lotus 1-2-3) to graphical GUIs. The first skeptics also labeled anything that was graphical as a “game” and feared the “addiction” to GUIs, which were a novelty. From 2D GUIs we’re moving towards 3D GUIs — from online communities on the so-called “social Web” or the Web 2.0, we’re quickly moving towards the 3D Web. It’s hardly surprising that new adopters of virtual realities and 3D interfaces are seen as “addicts” or “escapists”. But then again — how many of you, spending hours on the Web in 1994, were labeled as “addicts” or “escapists”, when “serious use” of computers was thought to be word processing and working with spreadsheets?

    We now use the 2D Web professionally, several hours a day, as a workplace platform. We use it for information retrieval; we get news from it; we also spend our leisure time browsing on our favourite sites; we participate in blogs and other social, online networks like Friendster, Orkut or so many others. The 2D Web is part of our culture and our society; it’s totally accepted in 2006, whereas it was just a few borderliners, “lunatics”, academics, and mostly kids in search of porn who used it in 1994 (or at least that was what the media told us repeatedly: “The Internet Is Evil”…).

    It will perhaps take us another ten years to go from the 2D Web to virtual realities which will become commonplace on our desktops in 2015 or so. Even right now, people are using virtual realities for attending seminars and workshops, for teaching and getting an education, for honing their skills, for self-expression and artistic use, for establishing their social networks, and, obviously, also to play games and to have entertainment. Seminars and workshops look and feel natural — they mimic the real world, a classroom in a virtual reality has a teacher, a blackboard, and students sitting on chairs. Compare that to e-Learning sites, where the whole “classroom” concept is so abstracted as to not resemble a classroom at all — it’s mostly text & pretty graphics on a Web page and perhaps textual chat to get in touch with your teacher and your colleagues. How poor and limited that seems to the richness of a virtual reality!

    Also, people in Second Life, unlike the Web — which has an abstract paradigm — use their leisure time in similar ways than they use it in “real life”, however. In real life, we go to each other’s homes and watch TV and discuss together, or play a game of cards, or listen to music together, or whatever fancies us. In things like Second Life, we do the same — we can watch movies together, we can hear music together and comment it, we can join games, or simply discuss a topic we enjoy. Imagine how you replicate that on the 2D Web — a mix of people trying to sync a video/audio stream, while chatting on IRC or some webchat program, and eventually launching a Yahoo/MSN game to play together. Again, see how limited and cumbersome the whole concept is — still, visionaries and opinion-makers sell the “social Web” as the “next big thing”!

    The “social Internet” is definitely the way to go. But forget the 2D interface; it was useful while it was the only thing available. But we should keep up with the times and the possibilities given to us by 3D technology. In 2006, we just have pretty cartoons (not yet convincing, but definitely a step in the right direction). In 2015 we’ll have photorealism on the common desktop. And then the 3D Web will be solidly established, and the skeptics of 2006 will adopt this paradigm shift as easily as anyone today accepts that the 2D Web is not “escapism”, “addiction”, a “borderline activity”, but a tool for communication, information retrieval, and, obviously, for leisure as well.

  4. Nicely said Gwyneth. Got me thinking a bit broader.

    Many folks look scared or confused if I use the old DOS terminal window when interacting with my computer. I’d look the same way in someone pulled out a punch card. I find it fascinating how the digital world, or more specifically our interface with it, is changing to match our intuitive and “natural” interactions with the phsyical. Right now we are limited to sight and sound. But with advances in neural implants, this could eventually become full emersion. Replacing functionality of the nervous system with hardware has already occured with cochlear implants and the frontiers of digitally interfacing with the nervous system and the brain are exanding rapidly.

    See:

    http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp

    See the following for current research at one USC institute:

    http://bmes-erc.usc.edu/research_programs.htm

    Yes. “Snowcrash” is coming, IMHO.

    I think it points to how fundamentally we are tied to our physical senses and the millions of generations of evolution that have developed our “interface” with the physical world. Our brains our wired, so to speak, to more easily interact with a digital world that resembles the physical world. In the end, will we end up in a digital copy of where we started?

    -Rico

  5. Great stuff, everyone. It is hard to believe that people are attending workshops or classes in cyberspace. I am sure that there are plenty of social skills workshops on-line, too. However, it seems kind of ironic that someone would go on-line to learn how to interact with others in the real world.

    Since Brendan posted this topic this afternoon I’ve thought a bit about living a virtual life. Are we all going to live double lives – or even more since we can assume different avatars (thus, different appearances and personalities) in various cyberspace venues?

    Also, a few minutes ago I began reading about Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam’s (Bowling Alone and Better Together; All Things Considered interview in which he said people watch Friends instead of having friends) work in social capital. He emphasizes how important social bonds are to the smooth flow of our communities. I think having him on the show to chime in on how he feels about the outcome of “cyberspace capital� potentially overtaking social capital. Is this a good thing? Is this a dangerous development? Can cyberspace and social capital truly coexist?

    Brendan, hint hint.. This is a listener’s request for a specific guest.

  6. Long story and explanation (see my other comment on the Reality Bites thread), the links in this version of my last post should work. HTML uses “â€?s, and when I copied my posting from MS Word, different “â€?s were pasted then what this website uses correctly for HTML function… Sorry! If you copy and past text with HTML in it from MS Word, make sure you check your “”s!

    Great stuff, everyone. It is hard to believe that people are attending workshops or classes in cyberspace. I am sure that there are plenty of social skills workshops on-line, too. However, it seems kind of ironic that someone would go on-line to learn how to interact with others in the real world.

    Since Brendan posted this topic this afternoon I’ve thought a bit about living a virtual life. Are we all going to live double lives – or even more since we can assume different avatars (thus, different appearances and personalities) in various cyberspace venues?

    Also, a few minutes ago I began reading about Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam’s (Bowling Alone and Better Together; All Things Considered interview in which he said people watch Friends instead of having friends) work in social capital. He emphasizes how important social bonds are to the smooth flow of our communities. I think having him on the show to chime in on how he feels about the outcome of “cyberspace capital� potentially overtaking social capital. Is this a good thing? Is this a dangerous development? Can cyberspace and social capital truly coexist?

    Brendan, hint hint.. This is a listener’s request for a specific guest.

    Also, I wanted to mention an experience that a friend of mine once had. When she was across the country in DC, she was in a car with some of her roommates. However, they were all on their cell phones text messaging people in different parts of the country. My friend said that it was so weird that they were all together but so far apart (socially) at the same time. Kind of an interesting vignette, eh? Virtual reality is weird at times.

    Oh yeah, perhaps Jamiroquai‘s song “Virtual Reality” is appropriate to play in the background during the show…

  7. In my last post, I meant the Jamiroquai song, “Virtual Insanity.” It is so late, and I have no one in the real world to edit my comments on people living in the virtual world (cry here). Where’s my virtual editor when I need her? FYI: I do have friends in the real world…

  8. I didn’t mean to suggest that all users are addicted, clearly many people enjoy the web without any problem. However there are some people who use the 2D or the 3D web to an extent that interferes with their school, work, and relationships.

  9. And, it is a particularly attractive way to do so. After all, poker or chatrooms are only going to get you so far. In these multi-player worlds you can build a whole life that you do like.

  10. As I watch my children become self sufficient and adopt, without effort or thought, various new technologies, I enjoy speculating what technology I will be unwilling or unable to adopt, perhaps because of age or habit.

    A simple example might be instant messaging. It took me some time to see the value of IM at work, and I find many colleagues simply do not see any value in the technology. To follow along with Rico, perhaps a more extreme example might be the human machine interface. I can imagine a more intimate interface than fingers to keyboard and eyes to screen. Rico suggests a neural implant, and it does not strike me as far-fetched. I doubt I would be willing to adopt such a technology.

    So, as virtual experiences like Second Life become more real in appearance and more real in social and economic effect, both possibilities entirely plausible, I doubt I would be able to adopt such a technology. I imagine myself perpetually a newbie, aimlessly wondering in the environment, never even partially getting it, not even understanding why I should make the attempt.

    So perhaps that is a question that could be explored this hour. Are these games simply one of many forms of entertainment that one chooses based solely on preference? Or, will their social reality become sufficient that to not participate is to make a decision to be left out of the new reality?

  11. What will be a big deal in the long term is likely to be the application of game-like virtual reality technology to areas other than pure entertainment, such as education. I imagine we’ll be using virtual reality from our couches to learn plumbing, engine repair, saxophone, Chinese, etc.

    and lots of folks have already pointed out the merging of movies and gaming expected to happen. It won’t be long before one could make a new George Clooney movie without George Clooney; all you have to do is scan the heck out of him to get a model and then apply computer juice to make the model follow an arbitrary script.

    I believe on the multiplayer game front, we’ll see the community aspects of MMRPGs grow to the point where we’ll have meetup-like virtual get-togethers. People will meet fighting Orcs in some dungeon somewhere, then enter into an online dating relationship outside of the game, then meet in meatspace.

  12. The dialogue just gets better and better…

    What about the chaos of the physical world? Would folks create an unpredictable virtual life where disasters are as common as miracles? I think its reasonable to say that tragedies are as important as miracles to the human experience.

    And what about the loneliness our “real” life sometimes imposes? Would people willingly create a lonely virtual life?

    Speaking as a field biologist I have been to VERY remote places for extended periods of time with a small group of people. I was totally unconnected and off the grid and off the net. My perspectives, life choices, and the “social capital” I built during those times are invaluable. I have a hard time imagining my life without them. I wonder how we could incorporate those types of experiences into a digital life?

    -Rico

  13. Rico has a fascinating angle here. Up to now, virtual worlds have evolved as entertainment, and as a way for designers to make money. But will they “grow up” and be designed to serve people instead or in addition? Will a virtual world be designed to help people with specific mental disorders treat themselves? Or in an attempt to help a citizenship restore a feeling of civic responsibility? Will some PBS-kids-like entity design an immersive Sesame Street? How about a community-designed world (Wiki-world) that evolves in response to community needs?

  14. 450 pounds. All 450 pounds (at least) of my cousin sits on the couch and plays games like “second life.� For hours upon hours he immerses himself in this parallel reality.

    Wait! Something interrupts his escape from the first world. He has to pee. He gets up off the couch goes to the bathroom and confronts the reality of his first life in the mirror. In that mirror there is no “excellent hair� and “great lats.� He tries not to look in the mirror. He hates what he sees from the corner of his eye. He resents himself for letting himself get to this point. He resents himself for not having those “great lats.� He quickly returns to the couch. He quickly returns to his “great lats,� and his nice car in his second life.

    Time passes and eventually he must get off the couch, he must venture outside to work and fulfill the needs of his first life. As he walks among these first life “avatars� he is repulsed at the way they look at him. Don’t they know what he is capable of? Don’t these girls know the body he can confidently possess; don’t they know of his quick wit and smooth charm he displays in his second life. If they only knew of the respect that he commands in his second life. If they only knew. If they only knew.

    When my cousin must deal with first life, he immerses himself in something he can control, food. I’ve see him standing in that uncomfortable position, holding that plate close to his mouth, shoveling the food right past his tongue and taste buds, pushing that food to a place that fills some void that I don’t see. Filling some void that grows bigger as he grows bigger.

    I relay this story to you from my second life as “nother.� In my second life as “nother,� I’ve found a new voice. I’ve found friendly avatars like Allison, Nikos, Potter, Peggysue, Brendon, and Chris. I’ve found a common, a pub, a community, that I like to frequent. The best part about this second life is that you don’t care if I have nice lats and excellent hair. The ROSecond life is about enriching our fist life. It’s about us all bringing logs to the fire of wonder. It’s about curious people being curious together.

  15. My final $0.02 as mid-terms our upon me:

    And I see two boundary conditions (I’m such a geek):

    We fully embrace the digital, leaving our bodies and the rest of the physcial layer to be cared for by autonomous mahcines.

    We set aside the allure of a 2nd life and focus on improving the physical world, setting as a goal the ideal world we would create in the digital.

    And of course every thing in between.

    Cheers,

    Rico

  16. Hi. Sorry if I missed it, but is the 2nd Life show already scheduled? If so, when’s it gonna be? Thanks.

  17. I agree with Cindy. I think that the people who play these games are sad. Brendan, you say that 2nd life isn’t a game it’s a world. I think you need to get help if you really believe that. These games should be monitored as well as those who play them. If you had a first life you probably wouldn’t be playing this silly game.

  18. Brendan, you asked, “And do any of you live in Second Life? Want to give me a tour?”

    Do you really want one? I think that that can be arranged.

    And,

    for anyone here who wants to jump in feet first and hear what serious MMPOG heads have to say (Massively Multi-Player Online Games) there’s this -

    MASSIVE:

    Research Summit on the Future of Networked Multiplayer Games

    April 20, 2006, 8:30am-7:30pm

    Calit2 Building

    University of California, Irvine

    Presented by the University of California Irvine

    Institute for Software Research

    California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology

    UC Game Culture & Technology Lab

    with support from UC Discovery Grants

    http://www.isr.uci.edu/events/massive/

    Also see related events taking place April 21:

    http://www.isr.uci.edu/events/massive/other_events/

  19. I hope this discussion doesn’t get side-lined into addictiveness of the online world. I think the other aspectd of 2nd Life are much more intersting

    “serious lee Says:

    March 15th, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    I agree with Cindy. I think that the people who play these games are sad. Brendan, you say that 2nd life isn’t a game it’s a world. I think you need to get help if you really believe that. These games should be monitored as well as those who play them. If you had a first life you probably wouldn’t be playing this silly game.”

    I would like to humbly point out to serious lee a few things:

    1) A “virtual workplace” or “2nd office” will be far more than a game, especially for multinational companies. I think 2nd Life is just a “doable” first step. It’s what current consumer technology.

    2) Although 2nd Life may have been inspired by games, it seems more like an interface. People within the virtual space can create a plethora of games. Or they can build a house. Or they can create art. Or interact with friends. It’s so much more organic than a game.

    3) And when assets in a “game” can be sold for dollars or yen or euros, well, that gets pretty real-world.

    4) I would not be so quick to pass a judgement as “sad” on folks who are deep into 2nd Life or MMORGs. What about a surfer who has tailored his life around catching waves, and I mean his LIFE. What about professional athletes? It’s only a game, right? What about work-aholics who have let there job rule there life? Seems theres a bit of a cultural bias there.

    5) Similar to one of Cindy’s later postings, addictive peronalities in general could be more safely called “sad,” or better yest desercving of help, but not all 2nd Lifers or MMORGers are addicted. Most find balance in their life. I have a couple friends who enjoy MMORGs and find time for family, firends, bike rides, surfing, etc.

    Perhaps a show on computer game addiction and addictions that fall in the “other” category would be more appropriate?

    IMHO the coolest thing about 2nd Life is what it hints about the future of the digital age.

    Cheers,

    Rico

    PS. I bet some of the speakers at the conference Cervus mentioned would be great guests. The keynote speaker, Raph Koste from Sony, would probably have a good business slant for the discussion.

  20. I dunno…I’m still contimplating the ‘validity’ of a second life experience. We read fiction…is that so different…even history is fantasy, if you didn’t experience it personally…

    I think I like 2nd life, but I like 1st life, too. Its possible, you know. Not everyone who gambles or buys a lottery ticket si an addict. If you drink modeerately and infrequently in the evening, are you an alcoholic? You may be, but I am not. And placing some moral judgement on my behavior becuse of your fears, well thats just wrong…isn’t it?

  21. When I was a kid in the fifties growing up in a row-house neighborhood where everyone watched everyone else’s kids, all the doors were unlocked and we ran around after school in age-related groups from house to house as we pleased. At one house we stored our game of Clue and all the costumes we had put together for the characters. When you got your character you put on the costume and we played the game by acting in character. It evolved into elabotate dress-up ad-lib riffs. We loved it and so did our parents ’cause it was harmless, safe, absorbing, creative. Sometimes we did spontaneous ‘performance games’ where the moms would come over too to watch and then have their own visit. Another house had our re-designed Monopoly game. We upped the money amounts and somebody’s dad substituted neat miniature buildings he made in his shop so the game was a little richer than the straight box version. Some monopoly games went on all summer, usually when it rained. Imaginary play is the work of childhood.

    I don’t do them but is this the same as 2nd life games?

  22. Nicely said babu! Lots of room for discussion about 2nd Life and kids playing it. Also perhaps the pluses (and minuses?) of role playing/acting.

    Wrt to the latter, does anyone recall a cheesy made-for-TV movie from the 80s about a kid who lost touch with reality because of his fantasy role playing games? Wandered around the sewers and tought he was in a dungeon? I think it was loosely based on the book “The Dungeon Master.” Silly movie. An outcome of media/public hysteria regarding fantasy games.

    Anyway, this is just a caution to be careful about attributing dangers or poor “real world” behavior to 2nd Life. Much of the hype about fantasy and role playing games in the 70s and 80s, trying to link them to dangerous teenage behavior, was overblown and has blown over long ago.

    And perhaps there are some lessons to be gleened from those early, analog attempts at a 2nd Life. I gave RPGs a brief try bet never got hooked. Perhaps an avid D&D fan could add something here. I do recall that building the character from scratch was one of the funnest parts of the games.

    -Rico

  23. What a wonderful topic and array of posts.

    I think many of us can look back over the last 10 years and see not only how much of our ‘real’ lives have borrowed or operated with the help of

    (lo-fi) virtual landscapes, but also how in today’s wide world of message boards, blogs, etc. people are devoting more of their time to participating in the virtual reality of that particular message board/community.

    Thinking of the gradual implementation/improvement of 3D worlds in gaming and beyond begs the question, which life is more real? For some people I would assume real life is overly stressful, quite repetitive, and utterly depressing. To me this is the template for a person who would revel in the virtual world that best fits their needs. The idea of VR from the early days of cyber-punk culture will eventually be common place.

    As Rico said,

    “We fully embrace the digital, leaving our bodies and the rest of the physical layer to be cared for by autonomous machines.

    We set aside the allure of a 2nd life and focus on improving the physical world, setting as a goal the ideal world we would create in the digital.

    And of course every thing in between.”

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out across economic and cultural lines. It will also be interesting to see how the virtual and real intermingle to create a ‘hybrid-reality’ that bridges the two. I don’t see it as being very discreet.

    Right now there are people playing MMRPG’s full or part time for a wage to raise the level of a characters that is owned by someone else. There have also been cases of people selling virtual goods earned in a MMRPG to other players in the real world. Is that taxable?

    Personally, I look at the gaming side as a self-indulgent sort of disconnect or escape from the daily grind. You have to wonder, will anyone care about global warming, poverty, war etc. if they are pacified in their virtual blanket? And if the physical world has in fact let them down or alienated them, should they even care about it?

    The matrix may end up being more appealing to me if current trends continue…

    looking forward to this show.

  24. Good stuff green glass. Thanks for the quote. Just a quick thought:

    Until we can upload our consciousness/soul (I’ll leave this undefined!) to some impregnable, ultra-safe data haven, we will HAVE to be tied to te physical world in some way.

    I picture 1000′s of cocooned people plugged into a human-run-matrix and one guy with an axe and a grudge… Or another planet-killing asteroid headed for earth… Or rising sea levels from global warming float your physical self out to sea… Or another nation that shunned the virtual world marches its very real armies to the physcal borders of a heavily immersed country…

    My suspicion is that the physcal layer of our lives will be with us for a long time to come. Perhaps robot avatars in the physcal world for cocooned fully imersed virtual people?

    In any case, we ignore the physical nature of existence at our peril.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  25. Some guest suggestions:

    And for a good future-world perspective, some cyberpunk authors:

    William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, or Bruce Sterling

    (please! any one or three of them would be great!)

    A non-fiction author:

    Edward Castronova

    “Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games,” University of Chicago Press, 2005. And “On Virtual Economies,” The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 2003. http://www.gamestudies.org/0302/castronova/

    Hear a podcast from March 17 on “To the Best of Our Knowledge”: http://www.wpr.org/book/060319b.html

    Cheers,

    Rico

  26. I guess this movie coming out “Stay Alive” is a horror movie about the dark side of gaming. About being addicted, about the game playing you, about the lines between 1st and 2nd life blurring. Looks interesting.

  27. I remember the TV series Oliver Stone produced back in the 90s dealt with this subject. Themes of withdrawing into a fantasy world, seeking relationships online, losing touch with real human contact. etc etc. Very interesting subject. I’m looking forward to hearing this show.

  28. This virtual life game sounds absolutely horrible. Is it really a “game” or just a fanasy-creation program?

    Our family plays Go. Although you can play Go online through services like KGS, one big reason our family plays is because we enjoy the face to face community. Almost every Tuesday evening (which is kids and beginner’s night) we physically travel to our local Go club, the Seattle Go Center. On Tuesdays, everyone there chips in for pizza. Our family spend sa couple hours playing Go (aka baduk and weichii) and generally mulling over the problems of the world. Sometimes we travel further to play in a Go tournament or attend to the US “Go Congress.” In this way we get to participate in a fascinating international community.

    Except for our 12 year old, we aren’t particularly good or talented at Go. We get to participate just because we are willing to put a modicum of effort into sincerely trying to learn the game and improve.

    Go does seem to attract people who are good at using computers and even good at developing software. But I notice that a significant minority of the people we meet (in person!) through Go have tried “online gaming” and have mostly or entirely given it up (or so they say.) With in-person game communities like the international one centered on Go, it’s hard for me to understand why people would turn to their computers for games or for community.

    The popularity of these solitary passtimes based on what I believe to be fundamentally ersatz relationships makes me worry about how they will affect friendship and community as our son grows up.

  29. I’m fascinated by the topic on MMORG’s. I have younger friends who are very involved in them. They mostly seem fairly balanced and their other friends game, too, so this is something they talk about when they get together.

    One strange thing, when they invite me over, they will sit at the computer and have me watch them game. I don’t know what’s going on – they try to inform me, but what can I learn in one session? It feels a bit disconnected.

    That said, i can fully appreicate babu’s comments about board game/fantasy play. I could have written his post. Just add in Risk and some very rowdy raising of armies and building alliances. ANd there were the laugh-riot card games. And Kick The Can. So much dress up – I have a vivid memory of being Elton John and Kidi Dee at the same time! In front of other people!

    I do think the one huge difference is pointed out in DeborahN’s posts. When we play these games face to face, IRL, we are in contact with other human beings. We share things well beyond the game at hand. There is a richness to the interaction that cannot be replaced by virtual contact. You can see if someone is sad, or not feeling well. You banter about the day’s news while you wait your turn. You can rest your head on someone’s shoulder. Have thumb battles with the kids. Get a shoulder rub. Tossle someone’s hair. And at the end of the evening, hugs all around as people head off in different directions. Call me crazy, but I treasure the physical human contact.

    You can’t replace the experience of being embarrassed, and surviving it, in front of others. Of being sad, and surviving it, in front of others. Spreading your joy directly to others. There is physical energy exchange that nurtures us. The alchemy of human interaction is, I think, irreplaceable. It is the sine qua non of life.

    I don’t see anything inherently bad with online games. Its how people use them that I would watch. Like anything else, we get people concernec that this new thing will be socially apocalyptic. I’m not sure about that. I think, ultimately, people crave human contact. I guess, we’ll see.

  30. Ok, as a therapist, I find it disturbing that people in abusive environments are escaping into a virtual world. Even if they are creating themselves as stronger, this is not going to help them get out of their destructive real life – where they could die or hurt someone else. These people need professional assistance and, likely, intervention.

    I get that its great to exercise the imagination. But using this as a substitute for real life interactions is not healthy.

  31. A lot of discussion on Second Life in the blogging community as to whether or not this is the next generation Operating System. I was arguing that it was until corrected and came to the same conclusion it is not the next OS it is the next desktop or the UI into the Metaverse see http://www.multimediame.net/?p=165 for more on this.

  32. As an frequent ‘good citizen’ of the Second Life world I was intrigued to hear on my ride home from work this show’s focus. Like Cristiano, my draw to this virtual world was being able to use it as a further artistic medium. In the course of my travels in this brave new world I have seen it used as a gathering place for those with certain disabilities and a way to live beyond them, from stroke survivors to a way for Aspbergers sufferers a way to learn to socialize on their own rules. I have been part of creating amazing collaborative art, such as an in-world version of Burning Man entitled Burning Life and a full recreation of the French Quarter of New Orleans was built to help generate donations for Katrina victims. I own a good portion of land just outside of the very main area that new residents logon and I get to see the overwhelming awe of these eyes new to the possibilities. In that space I own a cathedral and have also been witness to the cycle of people falling in love and going through rituals like marriage. My experiences there have even jumped the gap by working with Global Kids (www.globalkids.org) who recently opened up an teen outreach sim for their programs. The medium/platform/world is expanding exponentially in how it is able to effect people

  33. ////// as to the technology limitations… they’re sort of real limitations as well; limitations either built in or not supported by Second Life. i was wondering if there was a way to introduce new technologies into the world. sort of a feature request; you can’t teleport – but can you make things shrink?

    what got me thinking about that was the idea that people make money designing things in Second Life. i wanted to design a backpack that could fit a lot more stuff in it due to its shrinking technology. is that supported? you could put your house in it and go walk around different places.

  34. Rats, got home too late to take part while the show was on. But the PS to the main entry…

    “And while we’re at it, should these people be going to real bars? If people are making friends and money through their avatars, what’s going missing?”

    …echoed one of my thoughts while listening to the segment where people were talking about how idylic and liberating Second Life is: *what can we be doing to make first life more like second?* Why is second so liberating, why are there so few incidents of racisim, etc.

    Perhaps the biggest difference is: unlike first life, you can log off any time you want.

  35. Ooops, accidentally lost a sentence in the comment above, so I’ll post it again:

    Rats, got home too late to take part while the show was on. But the PS to the main entry…

    “And while we’re at it, should these people be going to real bars? If people are making friends and money through their avatars, what’s going missing?�

    …echoed one of my thoughts while listening to the segment where people were talking about how idylic and liberating Second Life is: *what can we be doing to make first life more like second?* Why is second so liberating, why are there so few incidents of racisim, etc. If we can achive such things in second, why not first?

    Perhaps the biggest difference is: unlike first life, you can log off any time you want.

  36. RhiannonChatnoir: I get to see the overwhelming awe of these eyes new to the possibilities.

    OK, this is where I get concerned. You aren’t seeing the actual of a person. The avatar has some computer generated expressions that you are seeing. But these cannot reflect the complexity of human facial expressions. The program could have just as easily had all avatars entering the world crying. Couldn’t it?

    The artistic creations I get. The use of the forum to generate donations for people in real life – awesome.

    But I don’t see how it is helping a disabled person learn to interact in the real world. The other players in Second Life are operating in an abnormal mode. These very same people would not necessarily respond to the woman with the prosthesis leg – mentioned during the program – as they would in real life. I posit that it might even be more difficult to face real people if you’ve had this great practice run in Second Life and are then very hurt by the coldness or rejection you find in the real world.

    The only way to learn to be with people, is to be with people. You can do some role playing, i suppose, but it won’t be the same when its face to face.

    I love imaginitive play. Am considering trying this Second Life experience. But I am very concerned when I hear people talking about it as though it is preparing them for or is a replacement for real life interactions with people.

  37. what difference does it make if people watch tv or listen to music or spend all their time immersed in some fantasy world? some lady on the show said that hopefully, the time spent online complements your first life. i agree with that and think that’s what it does for some number of people, and maybe that’s what it could do for everyone in a future replete with digital brainstems.. i’m going to sign up tonight!

  38. I just cruised through a bunch of SL sites and links for the first time, thanks to ROS putting the subject up. It’s pretty bent and pretty big. There are obviously some full-on creative windows.

    But you know, I’ve been wondering what Gaia was going to do about human over-population. For a while I’ve been thinking HIV Aids was from her toolbox. Now I’m thinking she’s into a good cop / bad cop routine with SL playing good cop and HIV playing bad. This will definitely lower birth rates all over the place……

  39. There seem to be a lot of people attaching a lot of undue signifigance to this whole virtual reality thing. I was spinning the radio dial and came upon a public radio program where the host was hopelessly extolling the wonder and psychological implications of this DnD-I mean SL thing. Fantasy has been a part of the human condition right from the start and technology is always going to come up with better and more realistic ways to allow people to indulge themselves. But that’s about where it ends. Please don’t wax philisophical about the inner meaning behind avatarian sexual activity. Lets face it – this is

    e-harmony meets the Sims. Hey- I know that lots of people love this stuff; I’m not trying to take anything away from that. But lets not exaggerate things too much shall we? Lets utilize valuable air-time to address REAL WORLD problems that actually IMPACT people’s lives FOR REAL…

  40. Fascinating discussion– I’m the author of New World Notes and one of the panelists from yesterday’s show. Just to make a slight correction, the URL above is my old blog. The new New World Notes is at:

    nwn.blogs.com

    I wrote the original NWN for Linden Lab from 2003 to early 2006, and now do it independently on a commercial basis in conjunction with Federated Media, the blog network of Boing Boing, Fark.com, etc.

  41. I suspect Emerson is spinning in his grave. He did not, as I understand him, preach ‘creating your own world’ in anything like the escapist sense you suggest. Quite the opposite. Just take that one quote on its face. He is encouraging people to act on their own lives — their cobbler’s trade or scholar’s garret(?) — the way Ceasar acted on Rome. That cannot possibly mean rushing home from work to play an electronic dress-up game. I understand that the real world can often be a very painful place, especially for people who, as some have said here, suffer from disabilities that make social interraction difficult. We all know life hurts often enough when there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. But learning to be engaged in the real world with all its pains as the person you actually are is, I think, a big part of being an adult human being. I do not see how anyone can get there from your fantasyland. And to say Emerson, of all people, would approve of it is unforgivable. The man who felt compelled to open his wife’s casket to look at her decaying body? The man who announced Jesus was not divine to the assembled teachers and students of Harvard Divinity School? That’s the man you think would approve retreating from ife into an interactive fantasy? The man who wrote “Self-Reliance” would applaud a grown man living half his life in a computer as a seven-foot elf?

    You better remove that quotation before Harold Bloom sees it.

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