Vol. 1 No. 1 Sept./Oct. 2008: Virtual Worlds, Real World Perils
Virtual Worlds, Real World Issues
By Sean F. Kane and Benjamin T. Duranske
Today's virtual worlds—sometimes also called digital or synthetic worlds or 3D networked environments—evolved from text-based role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. The predecessors of the "massively multiplayer online role-playing games" (MMOs) of today began for the most in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when various individuals, like Richard A. Bartle, co-creator of MUD ( the first multiuser dungeon), engaged in online role-playing game behavior.
The online text-based commands and prompts allowed the players to act out various fantasies without the close proximity requirement that was inherent in the earlier written and oral role-playing gaming forms. As the online technology grew, so did the nature and complexity of the interactive games, including the addition of videogame graphics to the text-based game elements. In the 1990s, the current state of MMOs began offering a real-time socially interactive component that was not available on traditional offline console gaming. While the physical space and landscape are simulated in the virtual environment of today, the social interactions are for the most part real, since virtual characters or “avatars” in the digital world are generally controlled and operated by a real person and not just by strict computer code.