Yes Travis, Virtual Worlds Are Still Relevant

This question from Travis Hines (designer of our This Mommy Gig blog) recently caught my eye in my twitterstream:
Twitter Question
I was too busy to respond at that moment, but retweeted it in the hopes it would spark a discussion. Only Pam Broviak responded directly, but with an excellent point:
Twitter Response
Game consoles such as Xbox360 and Playstation3 are indeed getting more social and creative with their use of immersive environments. In news coverage of the recent E3 conference it was noted that “videogames once designed as solo experiences are increasingly using Internet connections to link players and immerse them together in virtual worlds where multiple players can be allies or enemies.” So, they’re becomming MMOs; but, the debate on whether an MMOG is a virtual world is for another time.
The announcement of Project Natal at E3 had everyone talking, too. Including comments from Raph Koster and Philip Rosedale in the New World Notes blog post about this new technology that promises to let player control game play with their body movements.
An image from the Offworld blog’s post about the Microsoft press conference for Project Natal and other coming enhancements for Xbox360 certainly looks like something you would see in Second Life or OpenSim – a group of friends watching sports or movies together:
xbox image with opensim image
But, if attending the event in a console world’s space, can you walk away from that screen and go hear your friend playing live music or attend a political rally? Or, more importantly, could you be the one playing the music, organizing the rally, or building out the theatre where people gather? I think not. Yet, those are all things that happen today in virtual worlds.
As Ian Hughes/epredator pointed out on the EightBar blog back in 2007 when Sony was talking about creating a virtual world for Playstation3, that would be too much of a challenge to the game makers themselves. Their business is content creation. If they allow the users to not only create, but also own the rights to their creations within those environments, then they hurt their own business.
And that, Travis, is why I believe that independent virtual worlds such as Second Life or OpenSim are still relevant.

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