08 March 2007

When I'm Virtual, I'm Ten Feet Tall

The bbc.co.uk has an interesting story about virtual reality today. They're talking about "massively multiplayer online" games, or MMOs, and a few game developers were making some predictions:
Daniel James, chief executive of Three Rings, said: "You are about to see, and this is happening already in Asia, many different kinds of games that are massively multiplayer and less based on role-playing games."
He added: "This medium is going to destroy TV - and it's going to happen in short term."

Destroy TV? Wow. A long time ago, like maybe a year or so ago, I wrote about virtual reality and how it's rapidly challenging our "reality." After all, why be the limited you that you are in real life when you can be the suave cosmopolitan virtual you? Get yourself an avatar that scores well on beauty and sophistication, and new worlds open up. Anyway, that rumination was based upon my brother-in-law's telling me about his friend who plays World of Warcraft and has dropped engagements with many of his real-life friends so he can attend "parties" with his Warcraft friends in the virtual world.

If you haven't read your Baudrillard, now is the time to do so. Jean Baudrillard died this week. I don't read French, but I wish I could read this. Baudrillard predicted the collapse of the "real" and the "virtual," although he argued forcefully that even what we call the "real" world has been virtualized by such forces as the mass media.

But getting back to the destroy TV bit: television, that great gaping hole in nearly everyone's living room, offers us one-way versions of virtual reality: we can get stuck inside someone else's plotlines. MMOs offer us two-way versions of virtual reality: we can create and interact within the rather vague limitations of the software. It's like those old-fashioned "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from a pre-internet youth...but now it's almost endlessly malleable. You create your own reality when you want to. Simply logout when you've had enough.

Perhaps most interesting for the bloggers and the myspacers and friendsters and facebookers out there is this little tidbit:
"It will be really hard to tell what is and what isn't an MMO. There will be a lot of experiments in convergence between social networking and MMOs.
"Five years from now a social networking site without a 3D universe will look like a
dinosaur."

So we will go from the flat experience of a webpage (think of the myspace experience now) to a more surrounding and "realistic" world of social networking, where your current myspace page becomes a house people can visit, can look around, can pick up objects, maybe make themselves a spot of tea, etc. Conversations won't be the bloop and blips of instant messenger, but the spoken dialogue between two avatars.

Honey, it's cold outside, but the sun's always shining in my computerworld...

5 comments:

Grad School Reject said...

Can you give me some good news, Cuff? Is there a point where this comes full circle and we end up back to a society where everyone wants to read books? Or will I have to settle for avatars with cat eye glasses and copies of Kafka, while at the same time brandishing a bad-ass ray gun?

cuff said...

Books don't come back until the power grid collapses.

Reya Mellicker said...

My head is spinning around, as it does when I hear "truth." Wow.

Momentary Academic said...

I'm going to read the le monde article now. I'll let you know if anything awesome occurs.

cuff said...

Reya: what a brave new world that has such people in it!

MA: I am exceedingly jealous of your Francophone abilities.