I get it intellectually — these sorts of services can do for gaming and virtual worlds what YouTube has done for video. But I just haven’t found myself feeling excited. I don’t even have enough time to run all the WoW dailies I want to run, much less putz around through a dozen new MMO’s every month. Give me my WoW expansions and give me Warhammer Online, but Metaplace? Yawn.
And I was trying to like them, I really was. I’m a big admirer of Raph (who’s responsible for Metaplace), and I spent an hour or two poking around the Whirled beta last week. The concept seemed neat, but I found the experience underwhelming. Boring.
‘Till this afternoon.
I was going through my RSS feeds and clicked through to MMOG Nation, and suddenly a virtual world was in front of me. In my web browser. An avatar next to me said hi, we chatted, and it turned out to be Michael, the site’s author, who had just embedded his virtual Whirled in his blog and was sticking around to see who would show up. We got to chat for a minute or two.
How cool is that?!
Suddenly, I get it. It took a personally meaningful experience for it to click for me. It was only a tiny bit meaningful, and perhaps not very exciting sounding to anyone else — but it was personally relevant to me.
We’ve all heard some version of the following story: Hardcore MMO’er has a non-gamer girlfriend. She’s never really understood “that World of Warcraft thing he is so into.” She’s tried… she’s watched him play, even created a character once and killed a couple wolves, but she got confused and some 14-year old twerp laughed at her and called her a stupid noob, and she quit with a yucky taste in her mouth. Until one day her boyfriend convinces her to give it another shot, and when she finally makes it Stormwind, she finds out she can buy a green dress for her character. She’s got this weird thing about green dresses; she loves green dresses. She’s surprised to find herself thinking of being able to walk around in a green dress, and have other people say “wow, where did you get that green dress?” and “why are you fighting kobolds wearing a green dress?”, and trying to find out where she can get the right shade of green gloves to match. But most importantly, she’s surprised to find herself excited. Maybe in a year she’ll find herself raiding Karazhan or maybe she’ll stop playing in a week, but she suddenly gets it a little more, in a way that all of her boyfriend’s explanations didn’t convey.
That’s kind of where I’m at. :-/