Craig Sherman of Gaia Online

by francine Hardaway on December 6, 2007

Craig Sherman on social networks v. virtual worlds. A social network is a place where you connect with your friends and talk about the real world. World of Warcraft is a total fantasy.  And in between, there are "hangouts," like Gaia. the teen hangout that has 2.7 monthly unique visitors, and 100k simultaneous users. They spend 2 hours a day.

Craig Sherman’s short talk before the virtual worlds panel explains why virtual worlds will succeed. He went well beyond Second Life into the less complicated worlds for kids.

Three reasons they will succeed, according to Sherman:

They empower and connect people in ways that social networks can’t, and they engage people. Why? Because there’s a huge attraction to explore, experiment, and expand your identity. This is a core need for human beings. The core feeling that you get from a virtual space is to feel like you have made it. Avatars are very real to the people who express through them.

You can connect through entertainment. Movies shown on Gaia are watched in the virtual world for nothing, and you can watch with your friends. In Habbo, you can become your own disc jockey and make your own entertainment. Virtual worlds also take advantage of games, like in Club Penguin or Neopets.

In virtual worlds, you can get rich, you can enjoy your social status with other people.

The third core element is the sense of shared ownership. Because users create content, hangouts engender creativity, encourage teamwork and connections. Gaia users created a theatre company, chose a play and performed it. The company created the tools, but inside the space the users created a theatre district and a theatre company.

Core story is that virtual worlds are the end evolution of games, which are too hard to get into and require too much time.

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