The Idea Dude

CONNECTING THE DOTS ONE AT A TIME

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Is that really you, or just your avatar?

In July's Trendwatching.com brief, they focused on branding and in particular in-game advertising. In 2001, a couple of friends and I dreamt of serving ads in games. We would brand the buildings, cars, T-shirts of your hero etc. In those days, there were just a handful of companies, one of them was Massive. Potential investors said we were crazy, we believed them. Massive was acquired by Microsoft this April for an amount reportedly between 200-300 million. Note to self, VC's are not necessary technology visionaries, although to be fair, it has taken 5 years for in-game advertising to be financial attractive as a business.

More importantly, the early paradigms of Sims Online, World of Warcraft and Neopets are being replaced by sophisticated social models such as Second Life that can best be described as powering our virtual schizophrenia. We can now develop real estate empires, build multiple personalities and roam these virtual worlds with virtual identities. And now, adding real-world advertising in a virtual world serves to blur the virtual/reality distinction. It is only a matter of time, that you would take your avatar to see a virtual shrink to get a second opinion. We may wake up one day wondering whether we are really virtual beings that have technical evolved so much we start believing we are flesh and blood.

Perhaps in a couple of generations, we would all exist in mini-cocoons and live our lives in virtual worlds, choosing to kill our characters and adopt new identities as soon as we are bored with our mundane online lives. The question is, by spending disproportionate periods of time on-line, does evolution mean that over time, we develop a virtual online 'sense' that grows stronger while some of our other senses lose their importance. Perhaps, the Matrix is really a prophecy waiting to be revealed. Stranger things have happened.

It isn't all bad, for some, it probably provides some kind of outlet or stress relief, while for others it is a chance to explore other dimensions of their personalities without fear (and hopefully without consequences). Like any technology there is room for abuse.

It is incredibly exciting to witness the acceleration, mutation and integration of the on-line experience in all our lives. I guarantee anyone who dares to even predict the next 5 years will be woefully wrong.

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