Virtual Worlds



A virtual world or massively multiplayer online world (MMOW) is a computer-based simulated environment.[1] The term has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others.[2] These avatars can be textual, two or three-dimensional graphical representations, or live video avatars with auditory and touch sensations.[3][4] In general, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.[5]

The user accesses a computer-simulated world which presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experience a degree of telepresence.[6] Such modeled worlds and their rules may draw from the reality or fantasy worlds. Example rules are gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Communication between users can range from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and rarely, forms using touch, voice command, and balance senses.

Massively multiplayer online games depict a wide range of worlds, including those based on science fiction, the real world, super heroes, sports, horror, and historical milieus. The most common form of such games are fantasy worlds, whereas those based on the real world are relatively rare.[original research?] [7] Most MMORPGs have real-time actions and communication. Players create a character who travels between buildings, towns, and worlds to carry out business or leisure activities. Communication is usually textual, but real-time voice communication is also possible. The form of communication used can substantially affect the experience of players in the game.[8]

Virtual worlds are not limited to games but, depending on the degree of immediacy presented, can encompass computer conferencing and text based chatrooms. Sometimes, emoticons or ‘smilies’ are available to show feeling or facial expression. Emoticons often have a keyboard shortcut.[9] Edward Castronova is an economist who has argued that “synthetic worlds” is a better term for these cyberspaces, but this term has not been widely adopted.