A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in the public beta of There, a piece of software that allows you to enter a virtual 3D world somewhat along the lines of “massive multi-user games” such as EverQuest and Ultima Online. Unlike those games, There is more about participating in group activities and interacting with other people. I remember almost ten years ago IBM pioneered the same kind of thing with their Virtual World software though not much became of it at the time.
The idea of living an alternate existence within a virtual reality has long held some appeal and fascination with me, and from what I’ve seen There is quite interesting in the way it allows you to personalize your character (“avatar”) in appearance, clothing, even vehicles and pets. And they seem to hold a number of frequent virtual events such as gatherings, parties, and other group events.
As promising as it may sound my experience was somewhat more mixed. First of all, I inadvertently created a female avatar. If this were, say, some fantasy role-playing game such as Neverwinter Nights this wouldn’t be a problem at all, as I don’t have any quibbles about playing characters of different genders or species in such an environment. But in There I think your avatar is supposed to be somewhat more representative and I wouldn’t want to misrepresent myself in that way—especially since one aspect of There is to meet people one might want to meet in real life.
Anyway, much to my annoyance it’s not possible to re-make my avatar, and furthermore I can’t create a new avatar since the public beta requires that I sign on with a specific E-mail address, and that address is bound to an account that allows me only one avatar. As a result, since my initial foray into There a couple weeks ago I haven’t been back. I tried to log on last night but after discovering these limitations and running into server problems I got fed up and uninstalled the software.
Long story short, to date I’ve found that my real life—as humdrum or mundane as it may be at times—keeps me busy and interested enough that I barely have enough time for my one real life, much less an alternate, virtual one.