Friday, 17 June 2016

Why do virtual worlds seem so empty to new users?


Raspberry stands in deserted desert town
Eden's Lair Inworldz
 It is very common after entering a new world to pass through a phase of doubting whether other users actually exist. I shall call this the post nuclear fallout  phase. If you read back through my earlier blogs you will notice me panicking that everyone else in world is a bot.

 Virtual worlds have a great deal of freedom associated with them, especially places like Inworldz where most people leave their doors open to visitors, even when they are not at home. Most new residents will enjoy hopping from place to place looking at everything, but whereas in the real world those places available to visitors are all public spaces, like parks and shopping malls, most of the area in virtual space is given over to residential sims.

 So new users are effectively doing the real world equivalent of running around in people's gardens most of the time (don't panic, this is ok, residents like showing off their builds!) As you can imagine, a sim owned by one or two users will be empty much of the day.
Raspberry looks at shop empty of other people
Oak Harbour, JP Designs, Inworldz

 Ah yes Raspberry (I hear you say) but I went to a shop and nobody was there, and a shop isn't somebody's home! You are right, but unlike in real life, a commercial venue isn't really a social space. Avatars tend to dash in, get what they want and leave. You may see them, they will probably be friendly, but most likely you just missed them.

 So where do I find the people then?? I hear you ask. I don't see people walking about, there's no work commute here, so no traffic queues or transport stations, no schools, so I don't see parents at the gate, help!

Raspberry at bottom of tropical sea with tropical fish
Under the Black Powder Sea - Inworldz
 You are right! So many real life places where you would see crowds don't exist in virtual space, and whereas in your own town or city 'everybody's got to be somewhere' in IW, if residents are at work, or busy elsewhere they simply don't appear in world.

 So it's hopeless then, I'm doomed to wander alone like a lost spirit? Not at all, it's much better than that! Virtual space acts as a filter. How do you mean? Well do you talk to everyone who walks past in the main street of your town? Of course not, why would I do that? Exactly, the empty spaces are empty, because of all the people that aren't here. Wut? Consider the gas station attendants as an example. Pardon?

Large frog on beach with jetty and shoreline behind
Clare Island - Inworldz
 Well let's say there are 100,000 gas stations in the USA. I'm not sure where this is going. It's a Raspberry explanation, things can get a little tricky, hang in there. OK. Imagine if all the staff, from all those gas stations were in Inworldz right now. Hmm. What if you wanted to chat to somebody in IW, but 99% of the people you met were in the middle of taking visa transactions, or promoting some weird gambling scratch card, that would be annoying wouldn't it?

 It would be ridiculous! Yes it would. Hang on, so what you are saying is, there aren't as many people, but everyone I do meet is actually here! Now you've got me confused. They're here because they want to be here, in their leisure time. Virtual reality takes away all those people you don't really want to talk to , or who aren't actually available anyway so it's actually a time saver! Exactly, now you are getting it!

  ..and how do I meet them then? Aha, that's a whole new blog I think! Oh what??