At the Web 2.0 Summit this morning, Jane McGonigal, Lead Game Designer at the Institute for the Future explained to us the reasons why virtual life (in video games, MMORPG and virtual worlds) is more fun than real life.
- Better instructions. Videogames offer a clear path to achieving the main goals. People have tested out the ways to succeed and they share their experience with others.
- Better feedback. You have scores and various success metrics. You have a sense of how your actions are impacting the game and you can show off. Real life does not have the same kind of audience to your various successes.
- Better community. In a game, we all share the same mythology and we agree to the same narrative, the same roles. There is a heroic sense of purpose.
She forecast two directions in the future: keep making games that are more and more immersive and realistic or make reality feel more like a game. She thinks the second option is in the zeitgeist and listed some examples:
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Microsoft just announced a major improvement to their Live Local service (renaming it at the same time Live Search Maps): 3D building models in 15 US cities. These buildings will be photo-realistic and the site will allow the user to zoom in and fly over them. This screenshot shows the city of San Francisco. Amazing, isn’t it? According to PC World, “Microsoft will integrate ads into these 3D models in a way it considers organic, by displaying them on virtual billboards the users will encounter as they zip around the cities”. Microsoft hopes to deploy over 100 cities in the next year. CNET has a short video showing some of the highlights.
What it means: although this is a very early deployment of a new virtual 3D world, I believe this might eventually become a competitor to Second Life, one of the leading virtual world with a booming (and quite real) economy. I can easily imagine Microsoft leveraging the X-Box connection to make this a more interesting world. As for virtual billboard advertising, what I’ve seen in virtual San Francisco is not very impressive. I would actually try to leverage existing offline billboard inventory to make this a more seamless experience.
One of the topics we’ll occasionally be covering in the Praized blog is Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). Online video games such as Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft and Linden Labs’ Second Life have created virtual universes and economies that have critical mass from a user point of view. They are a new kind of social network, where people gather to meet, play and kill some bad (or good) guys. And they might represent a business opportunity as well. I was watching the latest episode of South Park on YouTube (warning: South Park is not for all tastes). It’s called “Make love, not Warcraft“. In it, a renegade player threatens the game World of Warcraft and the fate of the game lay in the hands of the South Park gang. It’s interesting to see how these MMORPGs are now entering the pop culture through TV shows. I wonder if Blizzard was involved in the development of the show.
What it means: in my opinion, this South Park episode is a good way to get introduced to the concept of MMORPGs (although some purists might disagree…)