Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds


Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds
Moving Beyond the Game: Social Virtual Worlds
Betsy Book
State of Play 2 Conference, October 2004
Cultures of Play Panel
In “Virtual Liberty: Freedom to Design and Freedom to Play in Virtual Worlds,” Jack M.
Balkin predicted that MMORPG technologies will soon be adopted for non-gaming
enterprises, leading to a more diverse future for virtual worlds:
As multiplayer game platforms become increasingly powerful and lifelike, they will
inevitably be used for more than storytelling and entertainment. In the future, virtual
worlds platforms will be adopted for commerce, for education, for professional, military,
and vocational training, for medical consultation and psychotherapy, and even for social
and economic experimentation to test how social norms develop. Although most virtual
worlds today are currently an outgrowth of the gaming industry, they will become much
more than that in time.
Many virtual worlds already defy strict categorization as games, serving more as
extensions of reality than escapes from it. Edward Castronova has defined two memes at
work within virtual worlds: virtual worlds as play spaces and virtual worlds as extensions
of the Earth.2 He posited that official acknowledgement of each world’s status as “open”
or “closed” could help closed worlds guarantee their users’ right to play by protecting
them from the intervention of Earth law. While it may be a useful exercise to define the
open or closed qualities of MMORPGs, the worlds known as “social virtual worlds”
actively resist this type of binary classification system by maintaining deep ties to the
offline world while still functioning as play spaces. In this paper, I will discuss the ways
in which the cultures of play in social worlds differ from those found in gaming worlds
and provide several examples of how these cultures of play rely specifically on constant
references to the offline world.
Examples of popular social worlds that cater to users of both sexes from a wide variety of
geographical and age groups include There, Habbo Hotel, Active Worlds, VZones,
Moove, and Coke Studios. The Sims Online and Second Life are hybrid worlds which
fuse both gaming and social elements but will be referenced here primarily in terms of
their “social” characteristics.3 Categories like “gaming” and “social” are meant to serve
as general guidelines that illustrate a diversity of worlds existing along the same
continuum rather than limiting any individual world or set of worlds within a rigid
Balkin, Jack. "Virtual Liberty: Freedom to Design and Freedom to Play in Virtual Worlds." Virginia Law
Review, 2005
Castronova, Edward. “The Right to Play” (2003)
For a basic guide to social virtual worlds, visit my web site Virtual Worlds Review:
taxonomic system. Some differences between gaming and social worlds are strikingly
obvious but most are fairly subtle, involving a shift in emphasis more than anything.
With that in mind, before discussing the differences between gaming worlds and social
worlds I’ll begin by outlining several features they all have in common:4
Six Features of Virtual Worlds
1. Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once.
2. Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually, ranging in style from 2D
“cartoon” imagery to more immersive 3D environments.
3. Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time.
4. Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized
5. Persistence: the world’s existence continues regardless of whether individual users
are logged in.
6. Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of inworld social groups like guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, neighborhoods, etc.
These six characteristics differentiate virtual worlds from related but separate online
spaces including MUDs (which contain 5 of the 6 characteristics, all but the GUI) and
chat rooms (which only contain Shared Space, Immediacy, Persistence and Socialization
but lack Interactivity and GUI).
Now on to the specific features of social worlds. First, social worlds distinguish
themselves by presenting a more open-ended experience. Visitors are not necessarily
there to win or play a game, but rather to socialize with other users. While gaming
worlds focus on a singular fictional theme with common conventions such as characterfocused avatars, progression through an interactive narrative storyline, and a series of
competitive events,5 social worlds tend to be much less structured, providing a realitybased thematic setting, some basic building tools, and the ability to host activities and
events that revolve around a wide variety of topics. Social worlds really function more as
large-scale online community centers that use elements of gaming in the service of a
larger goal of developing a community.
In contrast to the popular medieval, literary, fantasy genre, or science fiction settings of
MMORPGs, the settings of social worlds are based on modern-day realistic environments
Definitions of the term “virtual world” are often debated on the Terra Nova weblog, eg. this discussion:
Richard Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds (2003) is the most comprehensive guide to gaming virtual
like tropical islands, gardens, suburbia, hotels, and tourist attractions. Travel and tourism
references are particularly abundant, and many social worlds are actually marketed to
potential visitors as exotic online travel destinations.6 The “tropical island” theme is by
far the most common, appearing in some form in nearly every social world. Real nations
and cultures are commonly referenced by recognizable landmarks, from the Statue of
Liberty to the Egyptian pyramids. National landmarks serve the practical function of
indicating meeting places for new visitors to meet others from the same geographical
region. One example of a virtual collection of nations is the Active Worlds "International
Teleport" area which includes links to "England," "Greece," "Russia," and "America.”
Each virtual nation contains replicas of that country's most popular and recognizable
national landmarks. Sometimes landmarks also serve as expressions of patriotism that
pointedly reference residents’ offline national citizenship, as was the case with Second
Life’s Americana project in which users painstakingly recreated national American
landmarks like the Washington monument and Route 66.
Fig. 1: There uses a tropical island theme to position
Fig. 2: The Active Worlds international teleport leads virtual
its world as an “online getaway”
tourists to different “countries” represented by recognizable
national landmarks. (
The customization of virtual homes is an immensely popular activity in social worlds.
These structures can take the form of anything from small domestic spaces that serve as
personal home design projects to large estates and neighborhoods that establish a user’s
place in the social hierarchy of the community. On the smaller end of the scale, Habbo
Hotel’s members are automatically given a personal “hotel room” upon sign-up and
invited to personalize it with a variety of furniture and accessories like rugs, lamps,
posters and plants. Members of the Moove community receive several rooms modeled
on domestic interior spaces (including a living room, bathroom, and kitchen) that can
then be customized with a variety of decorative items. In worlds like Active Worlds and
Second Life in which the building of fully 3D architectural structures is possible, new
members are encouraged to rent or purchase a plot of land and construct a home from
scratch. The building-focused social worlds present virtual property not just as spaces for
For more information about themes of travel and tourism in virtual worlds, see my paper “Tourism and
Photography in Virtual Worlds,” (2003) available at
entertaining groups of friends (although they certainly perform that function as well) but
as actual day-to-day living and working quarters.
Social virtual worlds have a blatantly commercial feel. Many residents own and run
business ventures that generate virtual or, in some cases, even real income for them. The
high demand for virtual land, houses, furniture clothing and avatar accessories results in a
brisk trade of objects along with a plethora of in-world stores, malls, and flea markets.
This can be a significant turn-off for gamers visiting social worlds, who often deride
them as “online shopping malls.” Indeed, many social worlds do feel like shopping
centers as both virtual and offline goods are constantly being promoted. Many social
worlds also host business ventures7 and advertising campaigns8 that actively bring realworld products and services into the virtual space. Corporate advertising campaigns have
ranged from contextual ad placements in which the objects used every day in the virtual
world are branded with a company’s logo9 to entire worlds created to promote a single
brand.10 Because social worlds are typically based on real-world environments, the
issues related to in-world ads breaking a “magic circle” are not quite as problematic.
Many proponents of in-world advertising even argue that the ads only serve to further the
world’s realism. The advertising related problems that occur in social worlds usually
relate to the over saturation or inappropriate placement of advertisements. World
residents become understandably upset when signs and billboards are spammed
throughout the virtual landscape, or worse, in front of their homes. But as long as
advertisements are not overused and do not interfere with their daily activities or a muchloved scenic view, they are usually not seen as inherently problematic.
Some of the most interesting examples of offline/online crossover commercial projects are taking place in
Second Life, including the SL Visions ( which offers customized virtual t-shirts
for customers’ avatars along with matching real t-shirts for their offline bodies and the Mrs. Jones clothing
project sponsored by Rivers Run Red (, in which a fashion industry
designer’s real world designs have been re-created in the virtual space for purchase by avatars in the virtual
For more details about recent advertising and branding projects within social virtual worlds, see my paper
“These bodies are FREE, so get one NOW!: Advertising and Branding in Social Virtual Worlds,” (April
Recent examples include the McDonald’s kiosks and Intel-branded computers in The Sims Online, and
the shopping pavilions in There that allowed avatars to purchase Nike branded clothes.
One example is Coke Studios, launched in 2002 by the Coca-Cola company in partnership with Sulake.
This world is full of Coke imagery in the form of signs, virtual coke machines, furniture with the CocaCola colors, and avatars walking around holding little sodas.
Fig. 3: Nike clothing pavilion in There, February 2003
Fig. 4: The “Club Coke” room in Coke Studios, August 2003
While social worlds may not emphasize games or gaming, this does not mean they are
devoid of play. On the contrary, they are incredibly playful spaces, with a wide range of
play facilitated by their “open-endedness” and diversity of participants. But unlike a
typical MMORPG, the cultures of play emerging in social worlds tend to be more
directly influenced and inspired by cultures of everyday offline life. Pop culture and
consumer culture are particularly strong influences. Social world residents constantly
draw from the imagery and conventions of other entertainment media like television and
film as inspiration for their play. The re-creation of cultural forms within virtual worlds
allows them to explore and interact as participants rather than passive consumers and the
products/performances that result are transformed in the process. Although much work
has been done in the fields of media studies and cultural studies proving that media
audiences are not quite as passive as one might assume,11 virtual worlds one-up all other
forms of interactive media by allowing participants to take complete control of cultural
forms of production. Predictably, this often results in virtual/cultural artifacts that
challenge or subvert traditional hierarchies of “high” and “low.”
For example, Second Life’s Starfish Art Gallery is an in-world construction that closely
resembles a real-world art gallery, complete with hardwood floors and white walls used
for showing images in the traditional modernist style of the display of fine art. However,
a recent show contained a selection of artwork that included both the canonical works of
Claude Monet and an adjacent section with images of popular cartoon characters like
Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny. This display visually challenges traditional values of
high and low art by contextually framing pop culture images as fine art and giving them
equally prominent visual placement within the gallery space. By offering all of these
images for sale as decorations in virtual homes, the Starfish Gallery also reduces all of
the images to the status of commercial objects.12
The analyses of fan cultures by Henry Jenkins, Camille Bacon-Smith, Constance Penley, and John Fiske
are particularly notable in this regard.
And one does not have to be a lawyer to recognize the potential legal issues involved in the selling of
potentially copyrighted images.
Social world residents also enjoy taking control over familiar cultural productions by reenacting them, reinserting themselves into storylines as actors rather than viewers, and
changing the storylines to suit their own whims. I came across a unique instance of this
in June of 2004, when I suddenly found myself taking part in a spontaneous performance
of “The Jerry Springer Show” in The Sims Online. The host of this event took on the
persona of a daytime television talk show host, calling upon visitors to take on roles of
guests and audience members.13 There was an initial discussion among participants
about the episode’s theme, with everyone agreeing that a love triangle drama would be
the most fun to perform. One male guest and two female guests promptly changed into
the smuttiest clothing they could find and proceeded to engage in mock-fighting and
“trash talking” based on common scenarios they had seen previously on daytime talk
shows. Audience members cheered and egged them on, and an impromptu appearance
by avatars taking on the roles of pop icons Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey added to the
spectacle. All of the participants were familiar enough with the conventions of daytime
TV talk show episodes to easily reproduce its basic format and loved being able to do so
in a “no holds barred” environment that gave them complete command over the direction
of play. Many times the play became chaotic, as various audience members rushed the
stage and “Jessica Simpson” attempted to steal the spotlight by grabbing a microphone
and spontaneously performing a musical number. The episode was unfortunately cut
short by the need to “green up” our avatars (TSO avatars are over-embodied with the
need to occasionally eat, sleep, use the bathroom, and shower) but as I sat down to eat a
virtual salad with “Nick Lachey” we agreed it had been a night to remember.
Fig. 5: Second Life’s Starfish Art Gallery, featuring works by
Fig. 6: Players spontaneously perform an episode of
Claude Monet and various animation studios, February 2004
The Jerry Springer Show in The Sims Online, June 2004
( )
While one-off reenactments of trashy television talk shows allow residents to deconstruct
and reconstruct discrete artifacts of popular culture, they also enjoy using social worlds to
explore slightly more serious job-related roles. Sometimes the roles are suggested by
The host also informed us that he had previous experience running re-creations of the Oprah Winfrey
show in another TSO city.
developers as a way of encouraging the creation of specific types of content, but it is
more common for users to find their own niches, both enabling and responding to the
growth of a world’s economy and social community structure. This theme plays out in an
endless variety of ways, from schoolgirls in Habbo Hotel pretending to be fashion models
to aspiring entrepreneurs of virtual businesses in Second Life. The practice of using
virtual worlds to explore reality-based job roles allows users to “try out” various career
identities that are a bit closer to home than the fantasy-based roles found in MMORPGs.
Some career-based roles may even relate to specific goals the players wish to achieve one
day in their offline lives. Once job roles are assigned, workers band together to form
clubs that host events to provide entertainment to friends and, at the same time, establish
themselves as part of a social group. It is important to note that while most social worlds
do not actually require residents to hold jobs, job-related play has become a huge part of
social world culture over the past year. Slowly but surely the emphasis is shifting away
from social worlds as vacation “getaways” to social worlds as living and working spaces.
Job-related role play is particularly popular among children and teens, who constantly use
social virtual worlds as experimental playgrounds to try out various adult roles in a 21st
century version of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The list of membercreated rooms in Habbo Hotel or Coke Studios typically contains at least one
“employment agency” room in which kids dole out pretend job roles like “waiter,”
“manager,” “security guard,” “soldier,” or the ever-popular “model.” This type of play is
no different than kids playing adult roles offline, except in virtual worlds the size of the
playground and sheer number of participants has significantly increased.
Fig. 7: Applicants line up for virtual jobs being doled out by an “employment agency” in
Coke Studios (
Any overview of social virtual worlds would not be complete without a discussion of the
importance of avatars. Many events and activities in social worlds revolve specifically
around avatars, in the form of avatar customization classes, clothing sales, costume
contests, modeling contests, and fashion shows, and avatars are obviously a crucial part
of socializing as well. Whether avatars mirror their creators’ offline physical appearance
or not, their creation engages users in the process of online identity formation and they
must decide how closely they want their virtual bodies to resemble their offline bodies.14
Where older worlds limit users to relatively simple choices between a selection of preformed bodies, recently launched worlds like Second Life and There allow every last
detail of an avatar’s look to be changed with elaborate menus and sliders, altering its
shape, size, gender, skin color, and other physical features in a nearly limitless number of
combinations. While many users choose to make avatars that are radically different from
their offline bodies, it is actually quite common for social world avatars to reference their
owners’ physical bodies in some way. Indeed, in social world communities there exists a
general expectation that avatars should remain at least somewhat faithful to their owners’
offline appearances because of the fact that many people are there specifically to initiate
friendships or even romantic relationships which may at some point extend to the offline
world. Because of this expectation, there is a constant tension in social worlds between
the desire to meet standards of attractiveness versus accuracy in portraying offline bodies.
While everyone recognizes that avatars are likely to be highly idealized, someone who
creates an avatar that is a significant variation from his or her offline body (particularly
gender) runs the risk of being perceived by others as a “fake” or worse, as someone who
is deliberately trying to deceive their friends. In this way, the stigma normally associated
with breaking the magic circle by bringing real-world elements of identity into an
MMORPG is interestingly reversed in social worlds. This does not mean that
performances of radically different identities don’t happen in social worlds. They do. The
difference is that there is greater risk of confusion and misunderstanding between those
who use avatars as vehicles of role play and those who presume the avatars are
extensions of real offline selves.15
If the general expectation in social worlds is that avatars should truthfully reference
participants’ offline bodies, why would anyone role-play at all? For some, taking on an
alternate role can serve as a way of freeing themselves from offline limitations of gender,
race, or class. For others who occupy a more privileged race/gender/class position in real
life, virtual worlds offer an opportunity to “try on” a different experience of
For greater insight into the specific ways in which avatars affected individual identity formation and a
virtual world’s social structure in Avaterra a precursor to VZones, see Taylor, T.L., “Living Digitally:
Embodiment in Virtual Worlds,” in R. Shroeder (Ed.), The Social Life of Avatars: Presence and Interaction
in Shared Virtual Environments: London: Springer-Verlag, 2002, pp. 40 – 62. John Suler’s, “The
Psychology of Avatars and Graphical Space in Multimedia Chat Communities,” available online at is an equally fascinating glimpse into the ways in which
Palace avatars are constructed to reflect various aspects of participants’ identities.
Some community members navigate this social issue by revealing their “real” identities to close friends
within the world while the general public remains unaware of the difference between their online and
offline appearances.
embodiment.16 Formulaic representations of race, class, and gender are all too often reinscribed in social worlds, and conventional Western notions of attractiveness are
reflected onto the bodies of avatars. The avatar bodies and clothing offered for sale in
social worlds typically reinforce the idea that certain types of bodies inherently have
more value than others. For example, VZones’ stereotypically masculine “Scott body” is
offered for a base price of $27.50, but for those who want an even “manlier” avatar, a
“SuperScott” body with bigger muscles and a black leather ensemble is offered for
$40.00 (for those who already own a Scott, an upgrade to SuperScott is available for
$12.50). SuperScott is an interesting example of a gender stereotype not only being
reinscribed online, but done so in a rather extreme way. SuperScott is hyper-masculine,
with muscles literally bulging out of his leather and denim clothing. This sort of hypermasculinity is typical of the visual exaggeration of gender found often in social virtual
Fig. 8: VZones members can purchase an upgrade
Fig. 9: “Cybertyped” bodies from the VZones AvatarWares
from the already-masculine Scott body to “SuperScott”
catalogue, August 2004 (
for $12.50 (
In terms of race, most avatars are noticeably white/Caucasian. When non-white avatars
do appear, they often conform to stereotypical visual representations, as in the “Geisha”
and “Jessica” bodies in Figure 6 above. Worlds like Habbo Hotel and Coke Studios,
which cater to a younger crowd appear to be more diverse; however it is difficult to tell
how many of the non-white avatars in the world accurately reflect the offline race or class
of their owners. Coke Studios even created a commercial that jokingly refers to the
common practice of identity tourism in its world.17 In the commercial, a white suburban
kid named Brian aka “Delux_247” gives the viewer a tour of his home while adopting a
“ghetto” accent and mannerisms. Brian’s performance is so convincing the viewer has no
reason to doubt his authenticity until the very end of the commercial when his mom
interrupts to tell him to take out the garbage. The illusion of a cool, smooth-talking,
urban Delux character is shattered, but the commercial then cuts to Delux_247’s avatar in
Coke Studios who carries on the character’s performance.
Lisa Nakamura has called this activity “identity tourism” in an insightful analysis of presentations of race
online in Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (2002) New York: Routledge.
The commercial is viewable on the Coke Studios site at:
Social worlds are increasingly serving as arenas for the promotion of offline political and
social agendas. Reactions to the war in Iraq ranged from a “Support the Troops”
promotion by that featured free VIP accounts for U.S. military members to
protest-related activities conducted by the anti-war group “Polygons for Peace” in There.
The use of social worlds as activist arenas has definitely ramped up in 2004, as the highly
charged political climate in the U.S. during an election year has inspired several citizens
to take real-world political campaigns online. Examples include in-world campaign
headquarters and voter registration booths for U.S. presidential candidates in Second
Life, the live streaming of the October 12, 2004 presidential debate between George W.
Bush and John Kerry from the Minna neighborhood in Second Life18 and an entire
“Virtual Votes” world launched in October 2004 by VZones as a forum for political
Fig. 10: Sign in support of the U.S.-Iraq War in
Fig. 11: The John Kerry campaign headquarters in Second
from May 2003 (
Life, September 2004 (
Religion became a hot topic in There during the summer of 2004, when a born-again
Christian member constructed an elaborate pavilion in order to evangelize to other
members of the community. The pavilion was strategically placed just outside of the
main entry point for new visitors, with glowing crosses and billboards proclaiming “Jesus
is Lord.” This caused such an uproar within the community that There’s customer service
team was prompted to release an official statement outlining specific rules for methods of
stating religious views, attempting to ensure a balance between freedom of speech and
griefing related to conflicts generated by in-world debate of real-world social issues.20
In spite of There’s “getaway” theme, this world in particular has consistently proven to
be a place in which residents import aspects of their offline identities in fairly detailed
ways. There has always had a fairly visible GLBT population, with many social clubs
and events created to foster a GLBT community within the world. In June 2003, There
Wagner James Au’s New World Notes write-up of this event is at:
Virtual Votes is located at
This event was discussed at length on Terra Nova:
was home to a virtual Gay Pride Parade. The event closely mimicked real-world Pride
parades, led by a contingent of “dykes on bikes” (or in this case, “dykes on hoverbikes”)
and groups of various clubs marching together in matching t-shirts, and culminating in
the online wedding of two same-sex couples who were identified as committed partners
in real life. The event has become an annual activity, with a repeat performance in There
this past June. A similar event was launched in Second Life this year as well.21 Virtual
Pride parades provide one of the clearest examples of the ways in which virtual worlds
can successfully include elements of offline identities, including sexuality.
For those who physically live in less tolerant geographical areas, a virtual world may be
the only place they can comfortably or safely express a GLBT identity. I am the
administrator of a small virtual world (a Palace) that caters to a mostly queer
membership. Many of them have told me that our palace is the only place they can truly
“be themselves” and express their identity without fear of being ostracized or bashed.
The ability to connect with others in an international GLBT community helps them feel
less isolated and their membership in this community has helped them in all facets of
their lives. To them, the virtual world is definitely not a game.
Fig. 12: GLBT citizens of There prepare for a virtual Pride
Fig. 13: The “Jesus is Lord” pavilion in There, June 2004
parade in June 2003 (
While social worlds stretch the limits of the definition of the word “game,” continued
conflation of social worlds with games is still likely to occur, in large part because most
of them are actually marketed as games. Because the online gaming model has thus far
proven to be the most commercially viable, social worlds are forced to position
themselves as games in order to generate a viable amount of traffic. While this makes
sense from a business perspective, positioning social worlds solely as games can be
problematic, particularly when those worlds are then judged according to the standards
and conventions of gaming. When gamers visit social worlds they are often disappointed
or confused when they find that many of the things they have come to expect from their
The New World Notes write-up is located at:
favorite gaming worlds either do not exist or exist in very changed or limited forms. At
this point they usually take one of two paths: they either leave to find another world that
better suits their expectations or they stay and carve out a niche for themselves by
recreating the conventions they are accustomed to within that world.22
Those who come to social virtual worlds with prior experiences in chat room
communities such as AOL and IRC or first generation social worlds like the Palace are
usually much more comfortable with the open-ended structure of today’s social virtual
worlds but may face initial usability challenges while getting up to speed with the
sophisticated navigational controls and full-featured building tools imported from
MMORPGs. Finding a middle ground between the structure craved by gamers and the
casual atmosphere preferred by socializers will continue to be a difficult balancing act for
social world developers.
As interest in virtual worlds continues to grow, it is important that the virtual world
development, academic, and legal communities become more aware of just how diverse
the universe of virtual worlds really is, as any legal regulation passed with the exclusive
interests of one type of world in mind risks compromising the rights of those who choose
to inhabit other types of worlds. By moving beyond gaming status and actively
deconstructing the line between the virtual and the real, social virtual worlds risk opening
themselves up as future battlegrounds of legal regulation. But the “openness” of social
worlds is a crucial component of the cultures of play formed within them. The challenge
of how to best to preserve their status as play spaces while accommodating openness is
essentially the same challenge faced by other types of virtual worlds, but for social
worlds the challenge is all the more difficult.
The colonization of Second Life by the “WWIIOLers” (players of World War II Online) is a great
example of gamers carving out their own niche in a social world, and the social conflicts that can arise
when gamers arrive in a social world. The ongoing saga has been chronicled in New World Notes:
Au, Wagner James. New World Notes weblog
Balkin, Jack. "Virtual Liberty: Freedom to Design and Freedom to Play in Virtual
Worlds." Virginia Law Review, 2005
Book, Betsy. “These bodies are FREE, so get one NOW!: Advertising and Branding in
Social Virtual Worlds,” (April 2004)
Book, Betsy. “Tourism and Photography in Virtual Worlds” (2003)
Bartle, Richard. Designing Virtual Worlds, New Riders Press, 2003.
Castronova, Edward. “The Right to Play” (2003)
Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (2002) New
York: Routledge.
Suler, John. “The Psychology of Avatars and Graphical Space in Multimedia Chat
Communities.” Available online at
Taylor, T.L. “Living Digitally: Embodiment in Virtual Worlds,” in R. Shroeder (Ed.),
The Social Life of Avatars: Presence and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments,
London: Springer-Verlag, 2002.
Active Worlds
Second Life
Coke Studios
The Sims Online
Habbo Hotel
The Palace
For a more comprehensive list of social worlds, visit