A Bestiary of Semi-Evolved Forms

I did not quite manage to turn the discussion on Virtual Worlds over the last few days around to my favourite topic: biological analogies. Now I can. Throughout the talks of “design”, “aesthetics”, “laws”, “rules” and “software” I kept hearing one refrain. I was sung in many voices and in different words, but it basically went like this:

'we keep making all this clever stuff with all these clever rules and deep stories and then the darned users go and chose to do something else'

Ladies and gentlemen, what you – the Virtual World Builders – are experiencing is called directed selective pressure. It should be telling you two things:

1 – prepare for change

2 – you have not yet reached a point where your environments are fitting the inhabitants optimally

It also tells me two more things – this is going to be fast and this is going to result in something really cool.

Now, it is stretching the Darwinian analogy just a bit far to claim that what we are seeing in Virtual Worlds is the inhabiting species putting selection pressure on the environment. Or is it? Because that is exactly what we are going to see in Little Big Planet (a Virtual World that is a game), and in Metaplace.

So, it is time for the ecologists to follow the anthropologists into the Virtual World. Their starter is a bestiary.
“The Federation of American Scientists unveiled an ambitious infrastructure for cataloging virtual environments called the Virtual Worlds Almanac . This wiki currently classifies 74 virtual worlds and includes extensive links to tools, news, and other useful online reference materials.”

I'd put that right up beside this very useful timeline of Virtual Worlds and the combined power of them wil both increase over time as more is added. Someone around here will mash them up soon enough (this one is the most complete, I think).

I look forward to the first PhD being published in evolutionary pressures in virtual world design. I'd like a credit on that one, please. 🙂

But, whatever you do, do not stand in front of such an evolutionary force and try to hold it back. Remember what happened to the dinosaur.