I was only able to attend the second day of Virtual Worlds 2008 and was even late for that day due to delays in the Chinatown bus (ah, the woes of a poor student). The conference was so exciting, I didn’t regret missing the Lawrence Lessig talk we had at Berkman.
I strongly believe that online games and virtual worlds function like Internet social networking sites, so I was most interested in the panel discussing the evolution of games and SN sites. Aside from discussions about Playstation Home (where Sony is basically going to add functions like Xbox Live), how virtual worlds and MMOs are becoming the same (no duh, really?) and how SNs are using games to hold on to their users, I was most interested in the concept of converging, or rather linking platforms, and about migration in general.
First of all, I don’t understand why so much effort is being made to “link” networks of one platform to those of others. For instance, an Xbox player will be able to maintain his “friends” not only through Xbox but also through MSN messenger, and facebook, and flickr, and blah blah. It may be a form of convenience, but I don’t WANT my MSN messenger friends and my facebook friends to be the same. Why do you think I have five blogs? I want to write about a crazy co-worker, but not on a platform where he will see it. I don’t want my mother deducing what I’m doing by compiling information written here and there. There are parts of our lives that are meant to be separate.
When I used to play WOW, none of my guild members knew in detail what I did in real life. They were very simple people, most of them high school grads, with great personalities and a simple way of life (go to work- play games). I didn’t want to expose them to photo albums of me going to Paris for a business trip, I didn’t want them to read about my personal rants. But we were great friends, not just online, but offline as well. They saw me as a very quiet healer elf and that was fine with me.
THEN there is the issue of migration. We’ve seen migration in many different areas: email (who uses aol now? but there used to be an era of the whole “you’ve got mail” thing), games, portals (does anyone even remember lycos?), etc. Migrating has become easier because sites now allow you to import archives from other sites (blog, for instance) but there’s the whole process of making new friends and building a new culture. Interestingly, I’ve found that in the process of these migrations (in my case), many friends “dropped out” and unlike the real world, the sense of lost friendship creates a more sudden, terrible blank feeling. Especially on blogs or games where people do not reveal their true identity, it is confusing because you’ve known this person for several years, and one morning, they’re gone.