De virtuelle verdener er fremtidens internet!!!

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Eller sådan lød det vanvittige gruppeskrig for blot tre år siden. Dengang voksne mennesker med realkreditlån, familie og fast arbejde i ramme alvor mente at brugerfjendsk proprietær 3D-teknologi var svaret. På alt.

Du kan godt huske 2007 ikke? Dengang danske dagblade etablerede redaktioner i den virtuelle verden Second Life, DR2 dedikerede en temalørdag til den tredimensionelle fremtid og virksomheder købte digitale øer som var de friskbagte blåbærmuffins. Ålborg Havn var sgu på Second Life.

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Loggede du nogensinde på? Var der en lille del af dig som tænkte at der jo kunne være noget om snakken? Jeg vovede mig faktisk indenfor og blev dermed udsat for en stærkt underlødig og meget undervældende brugeroplevelse. Jeg blev der desværre ikke længe nok til at vurdere den større sociale oplevelse. Da en tysktalende Iron Man-wannabe havde spærret min avatar inde i et digitalt bur dekoreret med pixelerede fotografier af de personer han påstod at have overfaldet i den fysiske verden, mistede jeg faktisk gejsten. Jeg var ret skeptisk, selvom jeg i dag ville ønske, at jeg havde formuleret min skepsis mere skarpt.

Anyways, interessen forsvandt og de virtuelle verdener dykkede ned under radaren (der til gengæld begyndte at bippe manisk ved synet af de sociale medier). Så hvordan står det til i dag? Forlod alt og alle de virtuelle verdener, som så i dag runger af digital tomhed? Ikke helt.

Selve Second Life har faktisk i dag (i følge egne tal) en million aktive brugere, dvs. personer som har logget ind i løbet af den seneste måned. I forhold til Facebooks mange 100 millioner aktive brugere er det jo ikke overvældende, men i forhold til andre 3D-verdener er det ikke helt ringe. Se graf nedenfor.

Virtuelle verdener - aktive brugere
Kilder: Bright Hub og Techcrunch (bemærk at “aktive brugere” er et ret vidt begreb og at de påståede brugertal ofte er svære at verificere)

Selvom Second Life angiveligt stadig indeholder liv, er det dog tydeligt at de såkaldte “social worlds”, altså virtuelle verdener uden et overordnet spilfokus ikke ligefrem blomstrer. There.com lukkede i marts i år, og alternativer som Active Worlds nyder stærkt begrænset succes. Til gengæld er det stadigvæk umådeligt profitabelt at stå bag World Of Warcraft – et spil som efterhånden begynder at udfordre mit gamle princip om at ingen forbliver på toppen i over fem år…

Foredrag om computerspil og virtuelle verdener

Jeg kan bestilles til foredrag om følgende emner:

  • Børn og computerspil: Hvad ved vi?
    Danske børn, ikke mindst drengene, bruger megen tid foran skærmen. Men hvilke typer spil spiller de, og hvad siger forskningen om effekten af disse spil? Er de lærerige? Eller måske skadelige? Og hvordan bør man forholde sig som ansvarlig voksen?
  • Virtuelle verdener: Deres form, funktion og fremtid
    Virtuelle verdener som World of Warcraft og Second Life får stor opmærksomhed og kan prale af et støt voksende antal brugere. Hvordan er forholdet mellem de virtuelle verdener og den traditionelle virkelighed? Er virtuelle 3D-verdener fremtidens internet?
  • Computerspillet som medie: Dets astetik, design og forhold til andre medier
    Computerspillet har 40 år på bagen. I denne periode har det gennemgået en voldsom udvikling i samspil – og nogle gange modspil – med andre medier som film og litteratur. Hvad kendetegner computerspillet som medie? Og hvad er et godt computerspil?

Alle foredrag indbefatter eksempler og grundlæggende introduktioner (tilpasset målgruppen).

Skriv til jonas@autofire.dk

Om Jonas Heide Smith
Jonas Heide SmithJonas Heide Smith (f. 1975) er cand.mag. i Medievidenskab og ph.d. i Spilforskning fra IT-Universitetet i København. Han er medforfatter til bogen Den Digitale Leg: Om Børn og Computerspil (Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2000), redaktør på websitet www.game-research.com og talsmand for foreningen af danske spilforskere spilforskning.dk. Han er en erfaren foredragsholder som har talt for pædagoger, skolelærere, bibliotekarer, forældre, multimediedesignere m.fl. siden år 2000.

Trouble in the off-world colonies

Rise of the clones
In the LA Times article Virtual loses its virtues, Alana Semuels makes interesting observations on social tension in Second Life. In particular she notes how old-timers feel a loss of control in the face of the massive influx of commercial interest. Early residents who have expressed their discomfort via virtual weaponry say that they

…don’t necessarily mind the new residents, but they want more influence in deciding the future of the virtual world. Most important, they want Linden Lab to allow voting on issues affecting their in-world experience.

Now, the tension between “original” inhabitants and new-comers is a common virtual world issue (and a first life one as well). It often results in an exodus of groups of discontents. But the tension is also interesting in terms of how future virtual world rivals will approach the issue of commercial use. Will SL competitors choose far less economically focused models or will they simply copy the SL format with improved features and graphics?

BTW, I reflected on social development in virtual worlds in my master thesis on The Architectures of Trust (chapter 2). Slightly dated in terms of virtual worlds, but perhaps not in terms of human nature :-)

Via Secondlife.dk

Second Life, some thoughts

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Recently, I’ve been talking to a good number of journalists about Second Life.
I know about virtual worlds, but I always try to point out that I have no particular SL expertise. I haven’t spent enough time in that world to fully grasp its mechanics and particular features. Anyway, that disclaimer rarely makes it into the articles, which may be fair enough.

The most common question I’m asked is this: Why are all these companies/institutions/libraries establishing themselves in Second Life? To this my reply is always: I don’t know, you should ask them, but if you want my guess a part of the reason is that many are eager to become experienced with a possibly important platform for marketing/interaction, are afraid to miss out on an important development and are attracted by the chance for publicity.

Now, this “answer” puts me in the “critical” camp. And indeed I am critical about the potential of SL (and 3D virtual worlds). But only in relation to widespread claims of their world-transforming effects. 3D virtual worlds have their uses but they are not, IMO, universally fantastic. An example: It makes sense to sell clothes and cars in such places but it makes no particular sense to sell books and CDs in there. Also, it makes immediate sense for an international company to use SL for conferences (if the alternative is developing one’s own expensive and inferior system) but it makes no immediate sense for a public library to establish an unstaffed house in SL offering visitors virtual ice cream.

In terms of revolutionary capabilities, I think that SL is comparable to chat rooms and MUDs of the nineties. For sure, it has potential but a large part of the enthusiasm can only be explained with reference to over-enthusiastic hype. To recycle an old cliché: The challenge is figuring out which part.

More
I’ve been quoted for saying that Second Life is unlikely to last for more than 5-7 years. What I mean, of course, is that while 3D worlds will prevail, Second Life itself is unlikely to. This is nothing but a historical observation, neither MUD1, Active Worlds, LambdaMoo, Ultima Online nor EverQuest are market leaders today. Second Life may last forever (depending to a large degree on specifics of its core design) but all I’m saying is, I’d be surprised.
The implications of this is that Second Life specific investments are unlikely to pay off forever – experience gained on use of virtual worlds, of course, will not be lost if SL loses steam one day.

Truth be told

Not often is the game scholar mailing list GAMESNETWORK the scene of passionate outbursts.
But in the proud tradition of this blog of posting digital snippets without commentary, here’s two interesting methodological recommendations for intrepid young scholars in the field:

Scholar 1:

And for that matter too many of you are studying WoW. Stop it. You’re boring the crap out of me.

Quickly followed by Scholar 2:

…nobody but academics and corporate marketers care about Second Life. This should be a sign to all involved. The only people I’ve met in there are researchers, academics trying to stalk other academics (me included), people selling their badly designed t-shirts, and corporate salesmen. Its my idea of hell, and research on it is my idea of a journey therein.