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Avatars at Play
The good ship Avatar is going into hyperdrive and entering a wormhole into a whole new quadrant of cyberspace: the gaming worlds. In this zone, the action is fast and furious. War bird ships come out and blast us, we beam down to planets full of medieval castles, lords and dragons and get lost forever in endless board gaming halls. These worlds are full of real people like you and me and they having fun at play in their avatars.
Your Guide to Gaming Worlds
- Social Gaming Worlds
- Action Adventure Worlds
- Multi-Player Sims
- Twitch and Shout: shoot em up at the old Avatar Corral
- Let's Deal! Boardgames Gone Virtual
- Hot Sites and Tools for Gaming Worlds
Until now, we have been adventuring inside virtual worlds where what goes on is almost all communication and creation. A world like AlphaWorld did not have a whole lot of structure to start with, it emerged as things got built and people became known as local heroes or villains. In gaming worlds, a great deal of structure is put there ahead of time by the developers of the world. The world may be fully built out complete with pre-designed quests, have defined roles like wizards, magicians, or warriors, and lots of rules to keep everyone in the game. Gaming worlds almost always have elements of risk: you can lose and get knocked out of the game or have to backtrack through levels. And gaming worlds which have gone on-line allowing you to play other real people often have a social life too. Whether it is the medieval avatar party scene in The Realm, Quake Clans or War Birds Squadrons, videogames have grown up and are hosting their own forms of virtual community.
A taxonomy of gaming worlds
What kinds of game planets are out there? There is a whole Darwinian natural selection going on with games competing to be the king of the jungle in their classes. The following table gives you an overview of the gaming worlds genre.
Type of Gaming World Description and some examples Social Gaming Worlds These games give you plenty of reason and time to communicate with your fellow players. Meridian 59, The Realm, are Ultima Online are just a few of these socially-oriented quest and action adventure games. Guilds are often formed in these worlds. Nonsocial Competitive Gaming Worlds Good representatives of these games like Quake or Duke Nukem 3D don't have a whole lot of room for social interaction during the game. Lets face it, if your goal is to kill your opponent's character, you are not going to stop and talk to them. On the other hand, users often form off-game associations, such as Clans. Multi-Player Sim Worlds These worlds, War Birds and race car driving games, being two examples, place you in a well crafted competitive simulation. In the cockpit of a World War II Spitfire or an Indy race car you can converse with your team or squadron members and race or battle other players. Constructivist Sim Worlds These worlds, like Active Worlds, allow you to create shared spaces and define rules about them. Sim City 2000 is a good example of this kind of world. Designing a whole city, with its economics Board, Card and Strategy Game Worlds Good old favorites like backgammon, bridge, scrabble, chess, Monopoly and Risk are easily transposed to the Internet and sites like Internet Gaming Zone give you plenty of choices.
Table 12.1: A Taxonomy of multi-user gaming worlds