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Chapter 1. Introduction to Virtual Worlds > Influences on Virtual Worlds

Influences on Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds are not a self-contained phenomenon, insulated from the real world. Trivially, the hardware on which they run is part of the real world and therefore they themselves must be considered a part of it. However, there are other ways in which the real world can influence the virtual. From a designer's point of view, the most important of these are those that also involve the construction of imaginary—if not quite virtual—worlds. In practice, this means books, magazines, movies, television series, and (perhaps most importantly) role-playing games.

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The single most important influence on virtual worlds from fiction is J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings[72] trilogy. Although it would be of huge significance merely for having established the genre of High Fantasy, its ultimate worth lies in its depiction of an imagined world. It's not the particular world it describes that is momentous (although Middle Earth is indeed classic source material for people writing new text-based games); rather, it's that creating a fully realized, make-believe world was shown to be actually possible. Prior to The Lord of the Rings, worlds of such depth were practically unknown.

[72] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring. London, George Allen & Unwin, 1954.


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