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Why Second Life belongs at Massively

Barb Dybwad

Or: Why gamers and virtual worlders should care about each other.

We're shy of a month in to Massively's existence, and one of the more persistent bits of feedback we continue to receive regards the inclusion of Second Life content on a site about MMOs. There are really two questions to answer here:

  1. Does Second Life coverage belong on Massively at all?
  2. Is the amount of Second Life content disproportionate to its mindshare?
I will herein state a claim for a definitive yes on point 1, and readily admit that point 2 is arguably a matter of taste. Maintaining editorial balance surrounding all of the many, varied games we cover is an ongoing process, and we've selected a suite of "core games" based on many factors including subscriber/member numbers, overall buzz and mindshare in the industry, and input from a secret algorithm I would love to call "interestingness" if it weren't already taken. We are proud to offer in-depth Second Life coverage as one of those core current titles.

Overall, we're taking a broad definition of the concept of MMO here at Massively. While the majority of our coverage concerns traditionally "gamer"-oriented titles like City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings Online et al, we're also providing both news and feature content surrounding more casual, often browser-based titles like Dofus, Runescape, and Flyff. Despite popular perception as niche titles, some of these games are rivaling the big dogs in terms of membership and hours played. In an industry toying with the idea of whether or not Facebook is an MMO and witnessing Google almost surely building one, we see projects like MetaPlace further blurring the lines between web-based social networking and Gaming with a capital G. In the middle of those two trends -- hardcore and casual games getting mashed up, and MMOs and the web getting mashed up -- sits Massively; and we're excited to be covering it all as it happens.

At the intersection of both of those trends as well are virtual worlds. Second Life is arguably more virtual world than game (... or is it?), but then so is Blue Mars, and so is There, and so is Habbo Hotel -- we're covering them all at Massively, so why would Second Life be excluded? MMO gamers and virtual worlders have a lot more in common than some may realize, and similar issues affect all of us inhabiting immersive online worlds:

  • Economy -- is the in-game economy fair? Is it a useful system for distributing goods and services? Is inflation running rampant? Does the currency have reasonable meaning? Can you cash out? Can you buy shares? Can you run a profitable secondary industry?
  • Politics -- who gets to make decisions about what happens in the game world?
  • Law -- what happens to real people who steal virtual things? Who protects content you've created?
  • Customer/citizen rights -- are we just customers as in any other business, or do we as citizens of these communities have a right to have a say in what decisions get made about them?
  • Identity -- how do inhabitants of virtual spaces present themselves? What choices do they make regarding gender, appearance and behavior that they may not make in meatspace? What impact does a digital identity have on a physical identity, and vice versa?
  • Sociology -- how do people behave in virtual worlds? How do cultures and communities form in online games? How do they look similar and how are they different from "real world" communities?
  • Technology -- what kinds of new opportunities are created by virtual worlds and online games? What new forms of communication, collaboration, and competition emerge from new technologies? How do these new abilities impact our work and our lives?
  • Media -- the internets are changing the dynamics of most facets of media. The next generation of audiences has grown up in a world where interactivity is taken for granted. Consumers are gravitating towards more complex, more engaging, more interactive media, and MMO games and virtual worlds alike are compelling models of the future of entertainment.
  • Business -- massively multiplayer worlds are a multi-billion dollar industry. Anyone interested in the future of the game industry, the virtual worlds industry, or the entertainment industry at large would do well to pay attention to this sector.
You may not be interested in Second Life, or you may not be interested in World of Warcraft, or Irth Worlds, and that's okay. We certainly don't expect everyone to read every post on the site. If you have a particular game or games you'd like to follow, we offer individual game RSS feeds you can add to your feed reader. We also encourage you to use the drop-down games menu in the upper left of the top navigation section, to take you directly to any of the core games we're covering:

Rest assured that we're also working on features that will help you customize your Massively news even more granularly, including special "SL-free" and "WoW-free" RSS feeds, and more. For the sizeable audience who chooses to come to Massively for top-notch, in-depth Second Life coverage, we are proud to offer insider coverage of news and views affecting members of that community -- and we ask all of our readers to afford the same respect for "someone else's game" that you would like shown to your own personal favorite virtual world. At first glance some might seem like strange bedfellows, but the virtual online spaces we're talking about here share quite a bit of common DNA. We feel the diversity of the virtual worlds already out there, as well as the strange and unusual worlds not yet seen, is a unique landscape to explore -- we hope you'll continue to join us on the journey!

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