Researching Second Life

A position statement from:

Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE):
Patrice Chazerand – Secretary General
Catherine Geeroms – Games and Education

Response to discussion theme: Defining Second Life: what are the disciplinary, conceptual and methodological ramifications of this definition?

Is it right to see Second Life as an online video game?
Neither Linden Lab or the Interactive Software industry reckon Second Life as an online game. Nevertheless, this position statement is intended to emphasize that the virtual worlds concerned do confront common problematic.

1. Definitions
Linden Lab defines Second life like a “3D digital world imagined and created by its Residents” .
ISFE, within his PEGI Online tools, defined Online Gaming as “digital game that needs a live network connection in order to be played (including not only games played on the Internet, but also those played online through consoles, across mobile phones or via peer-to-peer networks)” .

2. Analyze
We can see in those definitions that the concept and aims of SL and online games are different. To go further, we think it should be interesting to analyze them under the six thematic of Media Literacy (L. Masterman, BFI). The table presented below tries, on a non exhaustive way of course, to show how SL and online games are different, but also similar thanks to this classification.

First, SL and online games use the same languages by means of multimedia technologies. However, online games are using more different technology supports. SL and online games are, by this way, confronted to the same problematic of online contents and behaviors addressed to minors and sensitive persons and they have to propose tools to all stakeholders in charge of education and new technologies. ISFE have set up PEGI Online: we think that SL’s Teens Island could pass muster for a PO license although it is not for us to apply or decide.

Secondly, if SL is the product of one operator, this virtual world touch a lot of people who are different regarding their age, social and professional conditions, country, and aspirations to evaluate inside SL . Quite the reverse, a lot of publishers and developers are working to build and create online games, but their major public is firmly gamers who want first have fun and play (1). Another difference is that residents own everything they create on SL.

Finally, in terms of representations and typologies, SL is more seen by users like a virtual world/social network than a game . Residents are freer to create their avatar (and their virtual identity), to organize meetings, events and lectures or educative training. Learning is there more formal than in online games. Online Games stay video games, with its more informal way of learning and characteristics.

3. Conclusion
In light of this analysis, we are convinced that Second Life and online games have a lot of common characteristics, but that users have vastly different roles respectively. The industry’s response should be to give parental control tools, but also educative tools. Those tools will aim to propose issues to users about how to be more responsible and aware of what they can share, learn or teach with other participants of their game/virtual society.

Appendix: Analyze of Second Life and Video Games through Media Literacy thematic:

1. SECOND LIFE

Languages
Multimedia tools, Interactivity and Interaction

Technologies
Web, online technologies, computer, Web 3.D

Editors
Unique (Linden Lab)

Publics
Residents. Divide in two categories of age (adults and minors), great diversity (gamers, housewives, artists, students, business owners, etc.)

Representations
Social network, virtual life with activities similar to real life, avatars, ownership. Creativity, innovation, Community, events, formal learning time, Need to protect minors

Typologies
Social network, Digital world

2. GAMES

Languages
Multimedia tools, Interactivity and Interaction

Technologies
Web, computer, consoles, CD/DVD support, P2P networks, mobile phones, Java, flash, web 2.0

Editors
Multiple (editors, retailers, developers, etc…)

Publics
Gamers. Different manner of age classification.

Representations
Game, pleasure, fun, competitiveness, informal learning, guilds, Heroic Fantasy world, young people, MMORPG, tool for minors protection (PEGI Online).

Typologies
Video games

Notes
1. “Video Games, research to improve understanding of what players enjoy about video games and to explain their preferences for particular games” – BBFC report

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