Sunday, 11 January 2009

Dusan Writer’s Metaverse » Avatars Going Mainstream in 2009: Globe and Mail

Dusan Writer’s Metaverse » Avatars Going Mainstream in 2009: Globe and Mail

Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, ran a front page “trends” column today in which they said that the age of the avatar is upon us, predicting that “avatars will enjoy greater mainstream acceptance in 2009, and although convergence is not likely to happen overnight, expect certain sites to begin thinking about partnering up to allow character crossovers the way social networks are trying to make profiles more portable.”

The Globe is the authoritative newspaper in Canada - a sort of New York Times of the north. Although, adding Canada to that sentence might seem like saying Delaware, or Rhode Island or something. But what strikes me about this, and I’ve had this conversation with several people, is that coverage up this side of the border is generally very positive, if not down right bullish, about the potential for virtual worlds.

In addition to personalized medicine, a “reality check” for social media (no kidding), and the 3-D revolution in entertainment, the Globe highlights the business potential of virtual worlds:

“Whether it’s Second Life, World of Warcraft or Sony’s PlayStation Home video game console service, businesses are starting to realize the value of emerging digital worlds and are looking for ways to use them to make real-world cash.”

The article is amazingly well-informed. It highlights Weblin and the ability to “port out” your avatar from Second Life:

“Until now, what happened in a virtual world stayed inside that virtual world, but recently a German company called Weblin created a system that allows Second Life users to transplant a copy of their character into other websites and transport it around the Web.”

While the article doesn’t neglect the stories that other media turn into sensationalism, it’s even-handed and articulate.

“In Japan, a woman is facing charges related to “murdering” her husband’s avatar in an online video game. A British couple is divorcing after a woman caught her partner “cheating” by using his Second Life character to knock boots with the avatar of another woman.

Second Life – an online world where users create characters to interact with other avatars – is just the beginning. Dozens of sites also allow users to create virtual representations of themselves.”

The dawn of the age of the avatar is upon us, they claim. Yet I’m still left with the question of why it seems that in Canada the coverage of virtual worlds is generally positive and even-handed, where elsewhere it can be sensational. Even the “virtual world divorce” story was followed-up by the Globe by a reporting going in to Second Life to try to find romance - but it was done in such a non-tongue-in-cheek way that I was quite astounded.

Regardless, up here north of the border, perhaps it’s cold enough that virtual worlds just make sense. Who wants to go outside in the winter anyways, right? Either that, or upon a cold-eyed appraisal of virtual worlds, the mainstream media in Canada recognizes them for what they are: about to go mainstream, and filled with potential.

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