FutureVisions of Social Networking and Virtual Realities

Today I attended the FutureVisions Symposium at Colorado State University (CSU). There were 3 tracks to choose from, but I focused mainly on the Virtual Reality (Gaming)/Social Networking track, since this area is of particular interest to me – both from an analytics perspective, as well as personally. I spend a good portion of each day engaged in social networking of one form or another – whether it’s writing this blog, tweeting in Twitter, sharing my status on FaceBook, and even playing a bit of World of Warcraft.

The primary focus of the sessions I attended today were surrounding the social networks inside virtual reality environments like World of Warcraft and Second Life. The first session was an anthropological look at World of Warcraft (WoW).

According to the speaker, Dr. Jeff Snodgrass (Professor of Anthropology at CSU), you can be at one of 3 stages of involvement with a game like WoW:

  • Absorbtive – you find the game engaging but not so much so that you lose track of time.
  • Immersion – you begin to become immersed in the game and may lose track of time, but not to the point where it is detrimental to your real life.
  • Disassociative – at this stage you become so immersed that you literally disassociate yourself from the real world and this can seriously affect your real life interactions.

It is at the disassociative level that people are said to be “addicted” to the game. So what allows some people to play games like WoW without reaching a level of disassociation and addiction, while others easily fall prey to these negative effects?

  • A high level of success in the real world reduces the likelihood of addiction.
  • Playing with real world friends can also prevent the likelihood of disassociation and addiction.
  • A low level of success in the real world leads people to being vulnerable to disassociation and addiction because they feel more successful within the virtual environment.

His challenge to game designers: Create games that contribute and enhance real world activities. To that end I would like to share a video with you from a recent TED Talk: “Gaming Can Make a Better World”.

I will continue this topic in a separate post, when I go into the other session I attended that showed more games that are being used as tools to do just as Jane McGonigal suggests – to help make the world a better place.

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