One of the most popular concepts of online gaming involves virtual worlds. So what are virtual worlds? A simple answer is that they are environments where people can use avatars to interact with the virtual environment. In fact, the origins of the word ‘Avatar’ give us a clue.
Interacting in online virtual worlds
It is an ancient Hindu word for the occurrence of a deity appearing in physical form. Using that definition, it is easy to see why avatars in popular online virtual reality games can take the form of animals, fantasy characters or humans with super powers. The entertainment and adventures in these online games come when the characters interact with their environment, either by building it (as in
or by facing and overcoming threats and challenges that are written into the storyline of the game.
Some virtual worlds are rather free-form in terms of how their residents can interact. For example, the world of
is populated by animals who talk and walk upright on 2 legs. Rather than having a pre-set storyline, users can chat about real life current events while in the guise of their animal avatars, or role play by creating their own ‘dreams’ – including the setting and the script – which other players can visit and interact with. There is also an ‘adults-only’ section where residents can role-play, which is off-limits to everyone under age 18.
What are virtual worlds with storylines?
Some online virtual worlds offer various built-in storylines that players follow depending on their level of accomplishment. In
-- a free MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) -- players interact with other players and with NPCs (non-player characters) to overcome magic and monsters. In
City of Heroes,
players can choose to be either a hero with super powers who saves other citizens from perils, or a super-powered villain who harasses the citizens and tries to thwart the heroes.
What are virtual worlds for kids?
Many parents are justifiably concerned about the adult content and violence that is found in many online virtual reality games. But there are plenty of websites that have sprung up to take care of their needs. Wiglington and Wenks was based on a popular children’s book series about traveling and learning about different places and cultures, unfortunately is nowadays closed.
is an animated dinosaurs-meet-space-aliens game that appeals to younger kids.
is based on a popular trading card series about magical horses. It is a big hit with young girls who long to have a horse of their own, and a big hit with parents who find it less expensive and time-consuming than caring and feeding for a real horse!