The L.A. Times Contemplates America’s Avatar Addiction

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As we discussed yesterday, the recent spate of virtual reality action flicks has Hollywood is gaga over gamers.

Between James Cameron's Avatar, the Bruce Willis vehicle Surrogates, Gerard Butler's Gamer, and anything else currently in the pipeline, more people are experiencing virtual worlds through old media than ever before.

The Los Angeles Times has a thoughtful report on the prevalence of virtual worlds movies and what this means about what our society is thinking:

"One life isn't enough for anyone anymore," said Mark Neveldine, who co-directed "Gamer" with Brian Taylor.
"Part of it is people get heavily isolated today and then they also
greedy, they want more than the life they have and what it can offer."

Read on to uncover why the Los Angeles Times thinks the trend of virtual worlds flicks will only increase as we move deeper into the Metaverse.

Continue reading The L.A. Times Contemplates America’s Avatar Addiction

Is Hollywood Finally Taking Virtual Worlds Seriously?

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Has Hollywood made up its mind on whether virtual worlds are important?

With the release of Bruce Willis's heavy action flick Surrogates, Hollywood finally seems to be moving virtual reality from the realm of Weird Science to John McClainville.

One of our early articles focused on popular perception of the Gerard Butler film Gamer, wherein Mr. Butler plays an avatar engaged in life-and-death combat while controlled by another person miles away. Despite only grossing $19 million domestically, the low-budget flick turned a profit and got people asking: Are virtual worlds cool?

Read on to find out why Hollywood is suddenly making the Metaverse the preferred realm of self-exploration for their flawed anti-heroes.

Continue reading Is Hollywood Finally Taking Virtual Worlds Seriously?

Gerard Butler’s “Gamer”: The Key to Mainstreaming Virtual Worlds?

Gameronesheet_a.0.0.0x0.400x625 I’ve been following the pending release of Gamer, the new film by Spartastic actor
Gerard Butler. As an urban hermit who hasn’t actually been to a movie theater
in months, I’m interested in the flick for reasons other than sating my popcorn
dependency.

Gamer is the latest
offering in an emergent genre of writing and film I call MMOReality – flicks
that cover the merging cultures of online games and real life.
 

If Pixels and Policy
can be accused of anything, it’s that we tend to take a rosy view on the
merging of virtual and real worlds. That said, there’s something viciously fun
about imagining all of the horrible ways the unity of web and world could go
awry.  

The genre has a proud history: Blade Runner. Minority Report. Ender’s Game. Tron. The slightly newer Tron with an overweight Jeff Bridges and
a new graphics card.
By all accounts Gamer
is good people, but that’s only half of what makes the film so compelling.
With a wide slated release and in-your-face marketing, Gamer could bring millions of new avatars to the welcoming shores
of online gaming. 

There’s nothing particularly special about Gamer. In many ways it’s a retread of The Running Man, but with Butler’s version we have average
Americans logging on to a virtual combat world as avatars. The twist? The
avatars are actually death row inmates engaged in a bloody battle royale. Any
inmate who survives 30 rounds wins his freedom. You can figure out the rest
from here.
 

Gamer is going to
provide a boost to the online gaming industry by acquainting millions in the
audience with a type of gaming experience that they may never have found
otherwise. This follows closely on the heels of a point I made in my earlier
post, Sleuths: Or How Interactive TV Makes You Smarter – the majority of consumers are introduced to new technology by
means of old technology. In this case, the theater introduces massively
multiplayer gaming.
 

Perhaps the spike in World
of Warcraft
or America’s Army
subscriptions will only be temporary, but as with all booms, a good portion may
well stick around past the initial phase of outsized expectation. Online games,
as Edward Castronova has shown, are inherently social. Once a new player is
connected, they will reach out to others in their real-world social group as a
means of augmenting and strengthening both real and virtual social networks.
 

Another recent sci-fi movie, District 9, grossed around $83 million to date. Assuming $10 per ticket
– the reason why I’m not included in any box office stats since maybe Titanic – that’s 8.3 million people. If
we figure around the same for a big-ticket name like Gerard Butler, and then
cut out a good half who may already play online games (a liberal sum to cut),
that’s still 4 million new exposures.
 

If only 10% of those go on to play an online game because of
their exposure to Gamer, that’s 400,000 new subscriptions. That’s only
slightly fewer than the current number of active accounts in Second Life. With an optimistic
prediction, we begin to see how Gamer
could bring virtual worlds and online gaming into the mainstream.
 

So, why does it matter? One big reason: If online gaming
goes mainstream, the number of innovative users and organizations with knowledge
of and access to virtual worlds spikes. As the population of players grows, so
does the potential for innovation in virtual worlds beyond entertainment.

Virtual
worlds will benefit from the economy of scale: You’re much more likely to get a
good idea for using virtual worlds in long-distance education when you have
400,000 teachers than when you only have 4,000. 

And they said we’d never learn anything from movies.