Hybrid virtual worlds

When I started with the Virtual Worlds Research Group at Roskilde University in Denmark back in the fall of 2008, the project had just begun producing its public blog on all things relating to virtual worlds.  Being somewhat new to what virtual worlds are, and could be, I started familiarizing myself with the varieties that are out there, and how people — designers and researchers — were defining them.

This initial foray into understanding virtual worlds has become a research trajectory I have been on since.  I have written about the idea of how researchers make sense of this new media product through the jargon, typologies, labels, definitions, categorizations, and so forth applied to it.

But it all starts back here, with my musings on what are hybrid worlds compared to gaming worlds and social worlds.  This conceptualization of hybrid worlds was later used to understand the virtual world Singapore created for promoting their position as the hosts of the first Youth Olympic Games: Singapore Odyssey 2010.

Singapore Odyssey 2010 is a virtual world created by the Singapore government, via their special department the Info-Communications Development Authority, to both market the country as the site of the upcoming Youth Olympics, as well as experiment with how to create a virtual world to do just that.

I have gone into the world briefly, and encourages others to do so, as it is an interesting hybrid world: it is a social world on par with Second Life and Twinity, but it also has a gaming aspect to it that rivals sports games for console systems.  As these series of screenshots will show, the world is designed for at least three functions that I have experienced: social interaction with other users, museum-like information displays, and games simulating the sports of the Olympics.

For the most part, the controls are similar to other social worlds, as the arrow keys control movement and the mouselook is utilized to move the camera.  For the gaming sessions, the keys are similar to other MMORPGs in the use of AWSD and SPACE bar — although the arrow keys work just as well.  The movement is a bit too quick, in that it can be hard to not overdo a movement when walking, and there does not appear to be any type of tutorial like Second Life, making this world more akin with Twinity (who also has a mirror Singapore in their world).

Overall, it is an interesting world, created for a particular purpose by a government, and perhaps indicates future such collaborations between designers, government, and special interests.  If anyone knows of other instances of governments being involved in the design of virtual worlds, then please let us know.

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