This week’s readings were very interesting and definitely re-framed the way I look at these virtual worlds. While thinking about IBM’s conference held in Second Life, I was both curious and skeptical. Personally, I think it would be a very weird feeling to be going to a multi-day business conference within a virtual world. There’s just something about face-to-face interaction that will always feel more natural to me yet the benefits to these conferences can be hard to ignore. Obviously it is a major money saver and still has the capability to connect hundreds of people across the globe, so why not try it? But even if I am able to “attend” the conference in sweatpants from my couch, I think there’s excitement that gets lost when it is done this way. The diverse crowds and sometimes extravagant venues are replaced with awkward moving avatars and sub-par graphics, yet it is still supposed to be taken as a serious conference.
Overall, I think the implications for the future are what worry me the most, especially after reading about gold-farming. Do we really want the employees of our largest corporations to be trapped in front of a computer all day doing business through an avatar? While with IBM the focus was more on social networking instead of solitary “grinding”, I feel that there is already potential for many other interpersonal business processes to be replaced by online interactions. If gamers on WoW are already able to exchange real money for virtual gold and necessary equipment through their avatars, what’s stopping major retailers from turning their online stores into online virtual worlds? It would sure save money on gas, and people are already willing to wait for their purchase to be shipped, so why not make it more of a “real life” experience in the mean time? Hopefully it is because the majority of people still appreciate face-to-face interaction enough to not allow stores to do that completely, but when the savings have the potential to be large, will they care? Anyway, I did want to mention that a friend of mine actually has an uncle who created one of the first WoW gold farming companies, and has since sold it off to China for well over a million dollars. This, coupled with the article, really opened my eyes to how serious and tedious the game and its processes can be to people who play. I guess the only thing to do now is to assess other markets and see if I can turn my play into work too.