Commentary
1/25/2007
01:37 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary

Metaphorical Cold Water In Virtual Worlds

John Kusters is an enthusiastic World of Warcraft player. Nonetheless, he poured cold water on one of the main theses of my article: That virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft and Second Life, are becoming mainstream. He says they're inherently solitary pursuits, and therefore appeal to solitary people, who are comfortable spending hours at a time alone in front of their computers.



John Kusters is an enthusiastic World of Warcraft player. Nonetheless, he poured cold water on one of the main theses of my article: That virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft and Second Life, are becoming mainstream. He says they're inherently solitary pursuits, and therefore appeal to solitary people, who are comfortable spending hours at a time alone in front of their computers.

John's a friend. And, when I say that, I mean an actual friend, in the real world, or at least an acquaintance. I interviewed him in my home, at the dining room table -- and when I say that, I mean my actual home, at the actual dining-room table, which my wife's father kept in his office until he died recently at age 90.

I feel the need to make these distinctions. Immersion in virtual worlds for the past week has been fun, but it's also left me thirsty for real life.

Another bucket of cold water was tossed by Clay Shirky. He's a well-known Internet pundit, a consultant on peer-to-peer technology, wireless networks, Web services, and other decentralized technologies, and also an adjunct professor at New York University. He wrote a controversial column debunking some of the hype surrounding Second Life. It's a really good essay, and I urge you to read it.

In an e-mail exchange, Clay said that World of Warcraft and Second Life are not two examples of a single phenomenon, called "virtual worlds," they're both very different things and have been lumped together by hype-generating PR people. I'm curious as to where he's going with that, and I'll give him a call soon.

This does not jeopardize the project I'm working on. Quite the contrary. That's why journalists do research, to get alternate perspectives.

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