Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Here or there
Sherry Turkle quotes one of her interviewees:
Finally, Thomas took a job as a bellhop in the hotel where I had just given my lecture. "I thought that working evening hours would let me continue looking for something that would get me back into the middle class," Thomas says. "I haven't found that job yet. But MUDs got me back into the middle class."
Thomas sees himself as someone who should be headed for a desk job, a nice car and life in the suburbs. "My family is like that," he says, "and they spent a lot of money sending me to college. It wasn't to see me bellhop, I can promise you that." during the day Thomas carries luggage, but at night on MUDs he feels that he is with and recognized by his own kind. (Turkle 1995:240)

The new game for women called There takes the consequences of this desire to be middle class. In There players can go shopping and design items. The items you design can be worn by your avatar or sold to others in the game. This sale of designed items happens with "There-bucks". The difference from MUDs is that there-bucks have to be bought. In this manner There inc. try to avoid Sony's "problem" with EverQuest, as described by Edward Castranova in his by now well-known article Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand account of Market and Society in the Cyberian Frontier. In EverQuest people sell the items their avatars gain in the game for real-world money, on e-bay. In There not only is There inc. planning to keep the profit of their products (or rather, the products of Nike and Levi Strauss), but also a profit of the designs you make and might want to re-sell. And to keep complete control, you can't just design any old sweater to wear in There, it has to be approved. After all, the game has an image to uphold:

"It's more like Club Med than the real world," said Darla Marcomb, 38, a controller with a health care company in Fremont, Calif. "Hunger and death don't exist in There. But shopping does. The start-up last week announced partnerships with Levi Strauss and Nike to make their apparel available in the game, so players can dress their avatars in the latest styles." (Chris Gaiter)

An easier online life, more chatting and shopping, less effort and less life-like qualities than Sims Online is supposed to be the way to success. Personally, this game makes me want to sign up for Sims Online out of solidarity.

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