Essay on Virtual Worlds Defined

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Virtual Worlds Defined
Modern virtual worlds are massive, simulated environments that can be accessed via the World Wide Web. Virtual worlds can be categorized into two distinct groups: “gaming” virtual worlds and “social” virtual worlds. As their names imply, these two categories of virtual worlds are distinguished by their overall purposes. The first type is designed primarily for game play, and the second type almost exclusively for communications.

Gaming virtual worlds also abbreviated as MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) and MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games)—have included well-known titles such as World of War craft, Ever Quest Online Adventures, and The Sims Online. Vast and complex online
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By using a standard computer mouse and the directional keys on a standard keyboard, a user of a social virtual world then directs his or her avatar to create virtual objects, socialize with other user-controlled avatars, and perform unstructured activities, such as independent exploration of the 3-D environment. In this last regard, the 3-D environment may contain anything that exists in real life: virtual roads, cities, trees, islands, streams, valleys, and even automobiles. All of these virtual objects are common to a virtual world such as Second Life and are easily encountered by simply exploring a virtual environment with an avatar (Littlejohn, 1983: 80).

Avatars Defined
In essence, an avatar is a 3-D character that a user creates to navigate a virtual environment. Avatars can possess male, female, or transgender aesthetic characteristics. Their hair, skin, eye colour, clothing, even their height and weight can be altered and manipulated to meet each user's exact specifications. However, a user's avatar does not have to be humanoid in the form at all. In fact, some users of virtual worlds create animalistic characters to represent their presence in virtual worlds (such as cats, dogs, or even mythical creatures) (Lin, 1973: 75).
Regardless of what an individual's avatar may look like animalistic or humanoid every avatar acts in the same way as an “embodied” extension of the