Just stumbled upon that Blogpost of Alex Krotoski at the UK Guardian’s (digital) games stream entitled “Getting serious about virtual worlds”, where “Serious Virtual Worlds conference director David Wortley answers some serious questions about virtual worlds”. David Wortley ist also the director of the Serious Games Institute at Coventry University, and of course we listen up when guys like this give interviews. There also was a Serious Virtual Worlds Conference in Coventry just some days ago, by the way.
Wortley, as Krotoski reports, mentioned the meaning of Virtual Worlds as heralding the 3D Web – well they probably would, but worlds like Second Life are just about to become the the last places on earth where you don’t have access to the WWW …
Anyway; the idea that virtual worlds will/should more and more become platforms for serious games (while they will never be games themselves, in the strict sense of the word) is more than interesting to everyone who’s engaged into the educational impacts of both virtual worlds and digital games.
That of course depends on the technological and economical structure of such platforms, and in this context, the following sentences hit my eye:
“Environments like Second Life provide the ability to create your own space and explore new applications in a highly creative way. Virtual worlds are to traditional games what Web 2.0 is to the traditional web”.
Now that’s a surprisingly simple and really interesting thesis. Of course, it should not be assessed too closely. If “Web 2.0” is characterized by slogans like “web as platform”, “user generated content” and “participatory web”, then at least these structural similarities are apparently given. On the other hand, important Web 2.0-characteristics like open source, APIs and (really) open database access and so on are apparently not given. (I recognize LL made parts of their Browser OS, but that’s hardly comparable to OS technologies like MySQL, Apache, Java and Linux which today drive most parts of the the WWW).
Plus, there are still only very poor possibilities to build social networks in virtual worlds at this time. (As long as there’s no “Second Facebook”, you’ll hardly find me there as a private person).
Thus, while I understand that virtual worlds make a big difference to the pre-fabriced environments of classical digital games, to me it seems that virtual worlds like Second Life are everything but “Web 2.0” at the moment (or say, just its bad-capitalists crowdsourcing part).
Wortleys comparison is nonetheless very insightful in giving an idea of how virtual world technologies have to evolve: towards web-integrating, open-sourced platforms providing extended means for social networking and interaction (and by interaction, I don’t mean just dance scripts, stereotype gesture scripts and stuff).
And that’s a long way to go. They will do so, or they will stay (relatively) meaningless niche-applications in the long term, at least compared to the evolution of the world wide web.