By Wesley Regenbogen
To Game or Not to Game? That’s the question …
Some players confuse a virtual world with a game, simply because they often have a game history and play games offline and online. Although games have become very mainstream, nowadays there are many MMOs that are playable online and mostly for free.
Virtual worlds versus Games
Role-playing and creation of objects in-world
In a normal game you play a “role” in the game. In virtual worlds you can also “play” a character but most users are themselves in most cases at least. The lack of the need to fullfill objectives, makes room for other capabilities and other functionalities within the virtual world. For instance, the ability to create objects.
Most virtual worlds are almost entirely created by it’s residents. This means that many people have devoted their time to making content for the virtual world in question. Thus, all that you see is made by residents. There are no companies involved to create all what has been made in-world. Many companies only “offered the land” for creative minds to create objects and let other residents explore the world created.
Virtual Money vs Real Economy
Another huge difference between games and virtual worlds is the fact that there is a virtual economy set inside the virtual environment. You can get a virtual job in-world and get paid virtual money. The amount of virtual money you receive for a virtual job can be different from one job to another.
There is a way to convert your virtual cash into real money, using a sort of exchange in-world or on a website. These exchange services are services created to allow residents of the virtual worlds to trade their virtual money into real US Dollars ( and maybe other currencies as well ). You are able to buy virtual money or sell your virtual money to trade into US Dollars or vice versa. As in real life exchange the exchange rates can fluxuate, so be aware.
When buying virtual money and you are logged in-world already it can take a few minutes for the database to be synchronized. So, this means that the virtual world and the real world economy are bonded together.
Within the virtual worlds it’s easy to get involved and a wide community of residents is ready to help you whenever they can. Either by creating objects or starting a business in-world or by helping newbies to get adapted to this environment.
Real Life versus Virtual Life
Obtaining Virtual Cash in the virtual world
Just like in real life you sometimes need (virtual) money in the virtual worlds. There are different ways to obtain money in the virtual world.
Firstly, in most virtual worlds you can take on a “job” and gain virtual money that way.
Second option is to buy virtual cash with real life money, which is the most likely option, in most cases.
Third option is making objects or trade objects with other residents and sell those for the best price on the virtual market.
Communicating through an avatar
In real life we communicate through face-to-face conversations and discussing with each other. In most virtual worlds this is also possible, but there is a different approach.
With your avatar, which is a virtual representation of yourself in cyberspace ( the virtual world ) you can interact with other avatars and discuss with them about various topics.
It’s often hard to find people that share the same idea or have the same opinion in the virtual world. Luckily, in many virtual worlds there is the ability to join groups or something similar. When joining a group, you can share ideas or discuss whatever topic the group has and connect with people that share the mutual ideas. Most groups are free to join, however, some may cost you some virtual money to join.
Moving around in the virtual world
Moving around in the different virtual worlds can be either by walking around, flying, or using a vehicle or flying object to transport your avatar around in the virtual reality. Although in most virtual worlds this aspect is different, depending on which virtual world you are in, the main goal is the same : getting around as quickly and smoothly as possible.
In some virtual worlds it could take a while to transport from one place to another. Teleporters and alike are also available in most virtual worlds, allowing avatars to quickly go from one place to another.
As we learn, it turns out that some virtual worlds have game aspects and some don't. Either way, it's not easy to name a virtual worlds as “game” or “not game” but virtual world. But on the other hand, the social and economic systems have similarities. We might conclude that a virtual world is often not a game and could be named “virtual world” instead. Although, personal opinions may vary and are open for discussion, my personal opinion is that I always refer to “virtual world” and not “game” as it comes to online virtual worlds.
Please feel free to comment on this topic and let me know what you think about this subject.