One of the many places we can see design changing the norm is in virtual communities. Although these communities were thought of just as games, many designers have used these mediums as grounds to go outside the norm to create something and it is of value. These games are virtual universes that can sometimes blur the line between reality and virtual reality. Social networking has worked hard to build upon virtual reality to offer users intrinsic and extrinsic reasons to become more than addicted from the entertainment and exploration values, but also because of the real world incomes that can be made as well. As people begin to populate the virtual medium’s more and more, so is the amount of content that is being created and sold and purchased within the virtual worlds own economic system which produces a economy that may or may not mirror accurately the real world markets, but they can. To make matters interesting, many of these in-world currencies can be converted to real world currencies. Some residents are like me and just create virtual goods to be consumed by other residents. I just cashed-out about $200 in real world virtual world currencies to be deposited to my bank tax-free. Some residents rely on these virtual worlds as even their full-time real life incomes. A number of people playing Second Life have earned hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars selling real estate or providing services within the game (Communications of the ACM, 2011).
What designers and developers of virtual mediums have noticed is that the users are greatly influenced by virtual objects in the same way we are regarding real life objects. This may open the door to endless ways that our behavior can be altered and changed all depending on what objects are accessible to us. They are also realizing that virtual mediums are becoming more than just games to the users and in other endless possibilities to get the user to further attached to the virtual world. Meanwhile as social networking continues to feed the popularity of virtual worlds and their seemingly inability to be regulated for now, may become the new Wild West of designers, developers, users, and company that owns the virtual world servers, may be profiting immensely both financially and through unfettered innovations.
Communications of the ACM. (2011). “Social Games, Virtual Goods, 2011.
04/2011 Vol. 54 No. 4 pp(s): 19-21.