For those of you who avidly follow the various developments, scandals and achievements in Second Life, the web publication the Second Life Insider has been one of your regular sources for news (alongside other news sources like New World Notes, the Metaverse Messenger, and Reuters.) So you were probably as surprised as I was to find out that the Insider was being absorbed into a news site devoted to developments in various MMORPGs and virtual worlds entitled "Massively."
The announcement has been met by a goodly amount of confusion, derision and consternation felt by a number of SL residents. What would a steampunk raccoon have in common with a level-45 elf ranger? And for the first months I think there are likely to be struggles justifying having one aggregated news site for the many MMOGs and VWs out there. But in the long run, I think it’s a smart move to make, for a number of reasons.
Why the Massively merger makes sense:
- Second Life is Not the Only Game in Town. The coming year is likely to witness the introduction of various MMORPG and virtual world platforms — from Metaplace to Tabula Rasa — that are going to challenge Second Life’s and Warcraft’s dominance of the market. A news site that purely focuses on only one virtual world might seem as myopic and quaint as a small town newspaper that just covers the local barn-raising while the next city over is building skyscrapers and rapid transit systems. Just as a football fan goes to ESPN to see the latest baseball scores, online gamers want to have some casual knowledge of what’s going on in other MMOGs out there.
- Online Gamers and Other Virtual Worlders Are Our Neighbors. As much as we hate to admit it, there are more things that connect us to gamers than divide us. We’re engaged in various kinds of cooperative and competitive play. We create elaborate social networks, structures and heirarchies. We think of ourselves as not just playing but inhabiting these synthetic, digitally-created realms.
- We Face Similar Issues. Government taxation, gold farming, intellectual property, griefers, Net Neutrality, gender relations, scaling issues — these are only a handful of interesting cross-world subject matter that should concern us all.
- Walled Gardens Require People with Ladders. Because these games and virtual worlds require a higher hurdle for observation and entry than other forms of media, we need sites like Massively to unpack and describe what is going on within those spaces that we might find relevant. I can’t just jump into Kaneva and readily appreciate what is going on that I might care about without having someone explain it to me.
So I’ll be keeping a close eye on Massively. I’m sure the first months will be host to numerous clashes between WOWers, SL residents, THEREians, and random trolls — convinced that the "other" is pathetic or stupid because of the MMOG or VW they choose to play in. And I’m sure there will a few folks that loudly proclaim that they are removing Massively from their RSS readers. (Of course, if you really don’t want your peanut butter mixing with their chocolate, you can also just get the Second Life-related RSS feed.)
But at the same time, having common spaces like Massively creates possibilities for mutual understanding and appreciation for what makes our respective worlds so immersive, addicting and fun. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
(No, this was not a paid endorsement.)