Sex, Lies, and Reality

Proximity was thus encouraged to get a snapshot of the reality inside virtual worlds, and quickly most of the media-propagated myths started to crumble to dust — they are nothing but fabricated theories that do not endure the researcher’s scalpel when dissecting the truth. Through all those interviews, and the time spent analysing objectively the population of virtual worlds (the paper only mentions Second Life and World of Warcraft), the first conclusion is that people do behave in virtual worlds mostly like they do in real life, but — and this was the important part! — they’re more inclined to explore. This open-minded approach is fundamental for brands who wish to encourage their potential customers to become faithful to them: unlike the mass media, where awareness can certainly be raised with multiple exposure to ads, inside virtual worlds, people are more open-minded to try new things, to apply these things to their selves (who are indeed also open to exploration), and to discuss and talk about their experiences. For marketeers and advertising agencies, it means targeting the audience with a quite different message.

Myth: Busted!

Urpeth analyses six popular myths and concludes that they are all false:

1. Everybody is a freak or geek

There is a huge difference between the early adopter — who might indeed master technology above average — and the mainstream user. Virtual worlds are way too huge to be “all freaks and geeks” — there are millions upon millions of virtual world users (estimated: around 50 millions in 2008), and it’s impossible to tag them all as “borderliners”. Thus, while at a very early stage of development, virtual worlds (or any new technology) will attract first the “early adopters” (who are familiar with exploring a new technology), when they hit the “millions of users” stage, they have long left the “geekishness” of the environment.

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