(i just posted this to a mailing list type thing that i belong to, and i’m reposting it here because…well because so much of my writing seems to be occurring on forums and mailing lists these days, and not enough over here on the blog. there is a lot of talk right now about the overhype surrounding second life, and these are my thoughts.)
it is the emergence and growth of the worlds themselves that deserve the hype. focusing on second life or world of warcraft and looking for clues to their popularity in the specifics of the worlds misses the most compelling aspect of what is going on here. i guess it is unavoidable given that the companies themselves are cranking the PR as vigorously as possible to give the impression that the phenomenon is all about *their* innovations, or the uniqueness of their take on virtual worlds. it’s not. while i get really excited when i log into second life sometimes, it is primarily a vision of the future that generates the feeling, and not the clunky app that i am using to be in that world. warcraft seems too lewt-centric and quest-oriented to be the future of MMO.
it is about better hardware and greater broadband penetration to some extent, but what is really going on is that a large and growing number of people are ready and excited to enter and hang out in online 3D spaces. we are on the cusp of something bigger, and online virtual worlds are rapidly becoming mainstream. second life and warcraft are both at their cores social networks, and we all lived through the last wave of those. my guess is that second life is the friendster of the genre: by the time they rebuild the thing from the ground up, some myspace-type app will have leapfrogged them, pulled away a lot of their membership and appealed to a broader community. snide advice for SLers? learn portuguese (oh wait, that was orkut….)
check out this slide show from amy jo kim . i think the next gen MMOs will tie together more and more of the functions of currently disparate web 2.0 apps in a more compelling and cohesive 3D universe. (hat tip to fellow we know guildie susan for the slide show).