You may not have time to play Second Life if you’re already busy with your first one, but technology experts suggest the two may eventually blur into the same thing.
Second Life, where people create online versions of themselves called avatars and explore a digital world that mimics this one, has had a lot of interest from the business community. The idea is to use these games as a platform for doing useful work. Some have begun referring to these worlds as “multiuser virtual environments,” or MUVEs. Although much of the interest in MUVEs has come from educational institutions, here are a few resources to help you think about an approach for your own organization.
Don’t mimic your website: On placeofsocialmedia.com, Eric Gordon published a post titled The Geography of Virtual Worlds, in which he contrasts MUVEs with a regular, two-dimensional website.
“Many of the companies and services that initially rushed to build virtual stores and offices have failed to bring people to their sites,” he said, noting the difference between surfing a Web page and managing an avatar. “Instead of searching for a product, clicking on it, reading reviews and then purchasing, my avatar has to first walk through a space and find the product. … MUVEs reintroduce space into digitally mediated communication.” You’d best live in these worlds a while before you move in.
Focus on relationships: “Organizations [using MUVEs] will be able to achieve the fastest return on investment by focusing initially on interpersonal skills development and social interactions, which are multiuser in nature,” writes Kaye Vivian on Dove-Lane.com, who cited Caterpillar’s use of virtual mining sites to train dump truck drivers in operational hazards and vehicle controls.
“Virtual worlds provide excellent opportunities to recreate a historical period or travel virtually to places they have never seen, making them come alive to learners.”
Spare us the pitches: On the social networking site LinkedIn, Dave Elchoness, founder of a consulting firm called VRWorkplace, suggested it’s important to recognize where MUVEs are not appropriate as well as where they’re useful.
“To be frank, I do not think marketing is best achieved in Second Life because the medium is (1) not populated enough to make marketing valuable, and (2) much more like a telephone than a billboard,” he wrote.
Consider long-term MUVEs: Victor Rozek, writing on ITJungle.com, said we may have to wait for the next generation of knowledge workers to bring their Second Life expertise with them.
“Regardless, virtual worlds are guaranteed to have widespread business impacts, if for no other reason than that U.S. video game sales soared to $17.9-billion (U.S.) last year,” he said. “That’s a lot of kids spending a lot of time kung-fuing and shooting each other’s avatars. When they eventually enter the business world, the only unusual thing about a virtual trade conference will be the lack of gunfire.”