A virtual world is just a depiction of something in real life on a computer screen. There are various uses for virtual worlds, some which are helpful and others which may cause individuals to isolate themselves from reality completely.
On one hand, virtual worlds foster creativity. They allow users to create and alter their “world” as they see fit. Although this might sound like people who do this are anti-social, it is actually more innovative than surfing through pictures on Facebook. A NYtimes article, In Room 100, It’s Sid and Nancy All Over Again, talks about the recreation of Hotel Chelsea on SecondLife. The hotel reflects the imaginations of individuals who grew up in the late 1970s, when a famous rockstar at the time, Sid Vicious, stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Sungen in Room 100 after they got high on dope. Although the Chelsea turned this infamous room into two separate rooms to avoid it becoming a “shrine”, on SecondLife it remains the same crime scene it was over 40 years ago.
In addition to offering ways of letting peoples’ imaginations sprout, SecondLife is used by companies such as IBM to train employees. The vice president of IBM stated, “New IBM employees separated by thousands of miles will be able to mingle, interact and share ideas in the virtual world before their first day on the job.” This type of virtual training may help eliminate nervousness, mistakes, and other issues associated with new employees that occur in real life. Thanks to this benefit of comfort, virtual worlds are also used to help people with various disabilities to interact with others without feeling the pressure of a real-life situation.
On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that some people let virtual worlds take over their real lives. I think this happens most commonly among online gamers. MMORPGs seem to be as addictive to some as coffee and cigarettes are to others. There have been numerous television shows that documented people obsessed with online gaming to the point that it interfered with their schoolwork, jobs, and even relationships. It’s ok to play around on the computer sometimes, whether its a game or a virtual world where you are the president, but if it causes losing sight of reality, it may be a good idea to shut off the computer.
In the future I’m sure there will be even more ways in which virtual worlds will be used to foresee, plan, train, manage, and build the real worlds they represent. My guess is that every big company in every industry will find a use for virtual worlds, whether it be for employees, executives, or the public. As far as we know, virtual worlds will be beneficial to society in the future, as long as society doesn’t get sucked in.