Virtual Worlds, Ooh La La!

Virtual Worlds, Ooh La La!

Thanks to the lovely Tracy Kennedy for this one: What happens in the virtual world has real world impact.

People assume that, if anything, online activities emanate from offline lives. But Mr. Bailenson and his colleagues have shown the reverse. Their experiments demonstrate, for instance, that people who watch their avatars — cartoonlike versions of themselves — gain weight from overeating are more likely to adopt a weight-loss plan in real life.

As Jason noted, this isn’t actually a new finding, as amazed and awed as the academic world appears to be. I’m happy that people are finally paying attention to virtual worlds, because I find them rich and fascinating and full of potential. Reading this article reminds me of Richard Bartle‘s excellent reaction to virtual worlds media coverage from a few weeks ago:

Now I’m in a bit of a quandry here. On the one hand, I want more research on virtual worlds and don’t want to discourage people from doing it, but on the other hand, this is just slapdash and slipshod. The authors seem to believe they have stumbled across an unresearched area, ripe for consideration; actually, it’s a well-researched area, and their belief that it’s virgin territory merely exposes their ignorance.

Feels like we’re fighting a losing battle on that front; it looks like we’re just destined to reinvent the wheel on virtual worlds. Unless we want to get our act together and get a real book out there? I think we have an article in revision to get to work on, Jason!

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