Games are pretty hard to define. There are numerous games out there in the world and all of them differ in a huge manner from each other. Those different types of games would include sports games, video games, board games, role playing games and so on, with each of these category having their own traits about them. People like Roger Caillois, Chris Crawford, Kevin Maroney and many more have attempted to define what a game is, but none could give a uniformed, clear definition of it. According to Wikipedia however, there are a few basic principles of something being called a game. A game should have tools, which are components required to play them. It should also have rules to determine the rights and responsibilities of each player. A games’ tools and rules will then result in its requiring of skills, strategy and chance (Game, 2007).
One of the games that is taking the world by storm is World of Warcraft (WOW). The nature of the game is such that the players have to create an avatar for themselves, making it more like a role-playing game, allowing other users to interact, get to know each other and even making business deals through WOW. Furthermore, in WOW, the question of morality always comes into play. There are instances whereby a rival guild burst into a funeral affair of another guild, killing the mourners mercilessly. Aside from forging friendship and the question of morality, WOW even have their own economy. A thriving industry could make real money through the game (Levy. S., 2007)
Friendship, morality and of course the ever important issue, money reflects very closely to our own real life. The major difference of WOW which makes it more of a game, is the competition and goals that each player have to go through. There is always a level to complete and most players would work towards that to achieve the goal of finishing the whole game. Even with features such as competition and challenge present in WOW, people are already wondering whether WOW is really a game.
If WOW is already being questioned about its “game-ness”, what about Second Life (SL) then? SL also has role-playing, the question of morality and their own economy, and to top it all, it does not have points, scores, winners or losers, levels, an end-strategy, or most of the other characteristics of games (Second Life, 2007).
With the element of game play missing from SL, it could not then be a game as a lot of things that could be done in SL reflects closely to how we are in our real life, which makes SL what it is called. It is literally a second life for its users.
Made available to the public and with a population of about 5 million users in March 2007, there are a few features, (all quoted from Wikipedia) of SL which made it more of a person’s literal second life than a game that a person simply plays.
The first feature is its residents. The residents of SL could pick and choose the avatar that they wanted and then could easily change it accordingly in order for them to represent themselves to other users, much like in real life where we can change our hair, clothes and with plastic surgery, even facial features, although not as easily done in SL.
The second feature is its transportation and communication. In SL, users communicate with each other using instant messenging and they could choose whether to say it out loud, to shout it, or to whisper it. Residents could also have gestures such as blowing a kiss or smoking. In terms of transportation, the residents would mostly travel by foot, flying or by vehicles. All of these is very much like our real life, with our huge usage of instant messenging as our main communication. The only difference with transportation is that we certainly do not fly by ourselves and teleport, unless of course we are Hiro. Even he is fictitious, probably much more so than SL.
Much like our real life, SL also has their own economy where whatever money that users make or spend there is real money. The currency that they use is Linden Dollars (L$) and L$270 is equivalent to about US$1. Aside from money, any creation that is made in SL could be copyrighted and even have the Creative Common tag attached to it.
The last feature that I find interesting is that there is even education is SL. Schools such as Harvard, New York University and Elon University have already set foot in SL and this trend is not going to go away anytime soon. With numerous students taking distance learning, SL could bridge the gap that the students and teachers go through. (Second Life, 2007) Furthermore, with education in SL gaining more popularity, there could be a huge possibility that in future, students do not have to go through the hassle of going to school. Every class would be taught in SL. Wouldn’t that be fun?
In conclusion, because of the fact that SL has no features which could associate it being a game, SL is much more of a person’s virtual life than a game. Features such as education, money and relationships, are all present in our real lives as much as it is present in second life.
Games (2007). Retrieved April 8 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Games.
Levy, Steven (2007). World of Warcraft: Is It a Game?. Retrieved April 8 2007 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14757769/site/newsweek/page/3/print/1/displaymode/1098/.
Second Life (2007). Retrieved April 8 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_life.