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Chapter 12. What’s Next? …Back to the Future > Role-Playing in a Virtual World

Role-Playing in a Virtual World

Games such as Ultima Online and Everquest are role-playing games that create entire virtual worlds. Unlike other games, when you leave the game, it goes on without you. When you come back, time has passed, and your character is still there where you left it. The plot of these games will be familiar to anyone who will admit to playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school (you know, go on a quest, find a sword, fight a dragon, that kind of thing). The end result is a world with a sense of purpose, a shared history, and complex social interactions.

So complex, in fact, that sometimes the virtual world and the real one become indistinct. These games have seen weddings (both real and virtual), friendships gained and lost, and even a number of scandals that spilled over into the real world. Recently, when a member of the Everquest community reportedly committed suicide, the virtual community started placing calls in the real world, only to discover that the suicide and the person were faked. While this may be the extreme, even the average user must log hundreds of hours in the game to progress to the highest levels. All the while, these people are forming relationships, making allegiances, joining communities.


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