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Feb 10, 2007



I think you sum up the virtual world implications nicely, Nate. Although there's another generational difference, that being that young people are apparently less attached to their online identities and more willing to trade one for the next than are we oldsters. (Citation escapes me at the moment, but see recent danah boyd.) I'm not sure if this holds as true in virtual worlds, where you accumulate assets in a more substantial way than simply the reputation capital that accrues to a forum handle, for instance. But it's another thing to think about.

I did an article years ago that came to the same (not very originaly to me, nor surprising) conclusion: that those under a certain age have a different relationship to current technologies (specifically, dot-com technologies, in the article) because they were born into them. Those technologies are part of their cultural genetic code -- whereas those of us above a certain age had to learn these technologies, and will always relate to them at a slightly more distant remove.

The most important implication of this that I can see is that it means the coming generations will find uses for these technologies that we oldsters cannot even begin to imagine. Our minds are constrained (not completely, but to an extent) by our more-distant relationship to the technology. Mashups, for instance, may be exciting to us; however, that excitement somewhat limits our ability to see beyond them. To someone for whom mashups are simply another unremarkabale component of their technological world, broader realms of the imagination are available. That's why I always have to take it with a grain of salt when someone says, "Well, why are you interested in that, we already know all the things it can be used for, and anything else would be boring or useless." If it's a relatively new technology, my bet is that someone younger than the speaker will come along and find a useful, non-boring application for whatever it is.

In terms of virtual worlds: The shape of the metaverse will not be determined by those of us who are already old and established and expert; it will be determined by those of us who haven't even begun to get all those things, because they're still only about 12 years old.


Remove or redouce the anonimity and the " normal " goes back to " natural ". The inter-human relationship has the power of natural,and in the high/techno mediated environments it acts more powerfull by feedback. It applies to all last few threads. One could mistify the normal , but not the natural.


I'll bet these age cohort distinctions wash out, once you draw back and look at populations of developed countries versus populations of developing countries or failed states.


Mm. I have certainly noticed that young people these days are casual about releasing personal information to a degree that I find criminal, but then I look back at myself when I discovered these things and realise that I was very much like that myself. It is only through experience that I have learnt to be more careful, and many people of a similar age to me and older are ridiculously keen on posting pictures, telling everyone their phone numbers and so on.

Technology these days makes it far, far easier to do so - most everyone has a digital camera in their phone, sites make it very simple to reveal yourself to the world etc - but it take very little time to get accustomed to these things. The only age gap that I can see is just based on simple conservatism, people just not wanting to try new things after a while, and differing fads - 20-year-olds have Myspace pages like 30-year-olds have email addresses now, but in ten years a good slice of those 20-year-olds will be saying "oh I don't see the point in making an avatar in Eleventh Life, it's all just rubbish".

In other words, it's not necessary to have a grounding in technology to participate just as much as anyone else, it's more a question of attitude and access as to whether you participate at all.


I'm not very handy with mobile phones personally. I can use them, but I tend to be most comfortable with one which I have learned to use. This is the likely result of not having owned one until I was in my 20's.

My children will likely be able to use them easily from the time they can manipulate the buttons. Just as I was inherently able to operate a video game, whereas my parents are not particularly able to. (Or even interested in doing so.)

It's a natural progression, of course. The car advertisements are a forecast of things to come for the game industy: "Not your father's Oldsmobile . . ."

Indeed, I suspect in the future things will not be the same. Take for example the dumbing down which WoW represents. Fast, accessible, easy, silly . . . nothing compared to older games which people started on and still play.

I think that some newer gamers will respond well to newer versions of the "oldschool" type of VW, yet at the same time I think the WoW trend will continue on as a means for kids to continue gaming. Hard to really work for something when you're used to having it all handed to you for the taking like WoW does.


I'd have to disagree with the idea that WoW is "dumbed down". I played text MUDs when one still had to dial into them, and they were dumb - possibly more literate, but still dumb, they didn't understand much, they made things harder than they should have been, the grind was far more tedious. It was that that sent me to MUSHes where at least one could do things and communicate meaningfully without having to type "HIT RAT" a million times first.

If WoW had been around when I was 20, I doubt I would have even thought of that, as would have fulfilled my needs at the time.


Depends on which text MUD. I agree that there were many stock implementations which were quite stupid, however the bestter implementations were highly customized and offer more depth than the best graphical MMOs do.

Certainly MUSHes tended towards (in many cases) a higher standard of writing as they were the empassioned projects of creative users and admins.

I think that the seductive ease of WoW will prove to be a stagnation point for many of the 8 million users they have. I believe that it will be not only "enough" but the expected . . . the challenge for those of us involved in pushing the genre forward in the future is thus to try and give people a reason to play games which do offer more depth than WoW.


How much of this is really a generation gap and how much is simply that they are currently young? We'd have been like them in our teens if this technology was around then and they may well be like us when they're 10-20 years older. Not saying there won't be some differences, but it feels like much of what is being observed is simply callow youth and not a difference that they will carry into adulthood.


@ Nate -- Love Clive's quote that "Youth ... are making the best of it." That's the nature of youth, any new generations, human or other species -- to react to the environment presented and figure out how to best gain control, preserve life, have fun, maximize possibilities. What Ordinal Malaprop says is true, kids are far more reckless and that it's a basic generational dynamic, and yet the present rapid acceleration in technology, catalyzed by powerful ICTs such as the metaverse, is setting the conditions for different kids.

Here's a pertinent clip I posted:

Humans form their perception of life during critical learning windows, particularly when they are very young. As the pace of technology, communication and information increases exponentially, children who experience faster evolution of these domains during their critical learning periods develop different [life views].

This seems to include stuff like transparency, nationalism, attitude toward technology and interface, etc.

More of my thoughts on generational evolution and exponential technology can be found here.
or here.

@ Prok -- I think the leapfrogging possibilities for developing regions are massive. For example, South Korea and connectivity. The BRIC countries are bounding along. It will take a lot for African nations to be brought up to speed, so to speak, but super cheap comm tech and infrastructure is on the way.

@ Mark -- I too believe the Metaverse will be greatly influenced by the young, to an unprecedented extent. But evolving technology and interface also allows the preceding generations to participate in new, totally unforseen ways. Think about how many older non-metaverse-oriented minds will begin to contribute to the metaverse as technologies like multi-touch sensing, voice to computer interface, real-time translation tools, AI, etc x100, tap a great deal of currently unconnected (to VWs) creativity. As things blur, Granny too will have a say in the Metaverse.


I have to agree with some of the previous comments on WoW being dumbed down, but that does not mean that WoW does not have a place in the wide world of games. Instead of seeing this as a negative, WoW could simply be renamed “My First MMO” and then treated accordingly. It can be a great place to quickly learn about such things as game etiquette and writing macros for examples. Why could this be useful?

Let me tell you all a story about growing up in the U.S. to shed a different view on the generational gap discourse. I did not have access to a computer until I was 18 years old and went away to college. This was not unusual in my neighborhood, in fact I only knew two people who had computers in their home…forget about Internet access. What is significant about this story in regards to this conversation is that I still fall under the “under 26 years old” age group. I was at a huge disadvantage when I got to college. I didn’t even know how to get my new computer online, let alone set up email, or register for classes, or all the other things I needed to know. After playing WoW, however, I know my way around my computer inside and out. I know all about the hardware, how to set up mods, numerous methods of communication and how to manipulate my programs to make my computer do what I want it to do, all the things that now seem mundane. I can even type a short paper without it taking me all day long.

In short, I am a better student because I played WoW.

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