A theme strand has developed in how I view virtual worlds and metaverses. It has formed from online and multiplayer gaming but been flavoured by my work environment (As with all these posts these are merely my opinions not those of the IBM). That theme is about performing, about the nature of the live performance as opposed to the crafted and edited kind.
What are the opportunities to benefit from live expressions of knowledge, talent and ideas? How does this change the perception of a metaverse environment when it is regarded as a performance medium as much as a canvas for fixed assets to be displayed?
I think there are two main ways people express themselves through their actions. The first is the product of their actions, something manufactured, crafted and delivered for other people to use. The other is through live performance actions of some kind.
Metaverses and virtual worlds are as much about live performance as they are about manufacturing and creating content.
Manufacturing is one where varying amounts of time and work together with others leads to an end result. This is a business sense is product or piece of software. It is also the same pattern that we can apply to many authoring processes. This blog post is a product of some thought, time and effort to formulate an idea, as is a book, a newspaper or a television report.
I believe that to many people Metaverses are looked at in this respect. Can we build a place in a virtual world? Can we initiate a project? Can we make/sell some things? This is very much the way the web has worked up to now. This is the web as a publishing medium. It is the product of someone or some group actions that is delivered and then consumed or purchased.
Gamers may well take a different perspective on performance. When you engage with a game and with people online you are becoming a live performer. Whether you are engaging in a first person shooter as part of a squad or in a deathmatch or performing a quest in a MMO, much of what you do is live. It requires a combination of mental and physical actions at the right point in time. The environment and its restrictions help guide that performance. The amount of skill, talent and practice required varies depending on the mechanics of the game. You are performing, if you don’t perform well or if those around you perform better you loose. This is encapsulated in the few seconds of a virtua fighter/tekken/Dead or alive head to head as much as a long running mission or quest. The performance may be against others or against a system. Its still live in most cases.
It has occurred to me over the past year that much of what I end up doing is live performance. Having a software development background I still have my roots in the production of things, in the crafting of a solution to a problem. I also appreciate the balance of pure logical science and designing by the numbers with that of a creative flair and the art of programming. In live performance it is the latter that has to come to the fore. Having something to tell people, but delivering that in a way that helps them, adjusting to live questions, hecklers and technical problems is all a live performance set of skills.
So is performing live really any different in concept whether on stage presenting in real life, selling a product face to face, presenting in a virtual world, aiming a sniper rifle in an FPS, playing in a band onstage or having a tv interview?
I am not suggesting that being a live performer is either better or worse than being a manufacturer. I am suggesting that a large part of both work and play involve the human aspects of live performance. Live performance offers adrenalin and a real time creative expression. This expression has been hidden away in games yet is accepted in sport, theatre, music and speaking engagements . The current Web revolution has let more and more people explore both their manufacturing capability (blogs, flickr and any user generated content.). It has also unleashed more performers willing to interact with a live audience in some way. The number of streaming media services and live web based TV programmes as well as the raw footage pumped to youtube are all flavours of this.
Non game virtual worlds or metaverses cross both ideas. When approached with only one or other of those ideas much of the benefit of these environments it lost.
I can represent an idea by both collaboratively building a place and by being in that place to discuss things live with others. It is neither pure manufacturing nor pure performance, but a blend of both. The performance may be 100% manufactured in having a message to get across, or a more free flowing improvisation, but its communicating live withe an people.
e.g. I attended the metaversed geek meet in Second Life as a speaker. I talked about our internal metaverse work and answered questions. I shared the bill with some other speakers. It was not a live performance as much as any other. The risks of saying the wrong thing, or not going down well, or being heckled where all the same as if I was addressing the same group live in real life.
A guitar allows a performer to recreate published content created by another. The instrument has some restrictions, some expected uses. It is able to be used for both a performance that is later edited and crafted and for a live performance with risk of error. It is also able to be used to create new content, either live or for manufacturing a result.
Replace guitar with 3d virtual world/Metaverse in the paragraph above. Replace it with product brochure or marketing message that a salesperson may use and it still holds true.
I maintain that Web 2 is Web Do, and in a Metaverse people are the content. There is room in all these social and technology platfroms for both business and play. There is also room for people who only want to perform and who only want to manufacture. I do think that the boundary between the two is an interesting place. Where these boundaries form there is often creativity, innovation and business opportunities.
Eric Rice recently referred to a much used non-game public Metaverse as MMOP, Massively Multiplayer Online Photoshop. I think I may borrow the MMOP though and make that Massively Multiplayer Online Performance Platform (MMOPP)
So good luck to all those live performers out there, break a virtual leg. I will be in my trailer if you need me.