A virtual world is an interactive, computer-generated, three-dimensional (3-D) environment. It is provided by a client or software program and can be a static or dynamic virtual world.
In a static virtual world, the environment is pre-created and limited to the author’s original code. Though one can use an avatar to move about in a static virtual world and interact with monsters, other objects, and other characters, with enough experience, a static world can become predictable. This distinguishes it from a dynamic virtual world, which is always in change. In a dynamic virtual world, the environment is subject to continual development and expansion from user-intervention through built-in creation tools. The dynamic virtual world, used for virtual communities rather than gaming, is an ever-changing world that can never be completely known, because at any given moment, participants are forging new objects or landmasses within it.
One example of a dynamic virtual world experience is offered by SecondLife.com. In the Second Life environment, residents can buy a “land parcel,” build a home, and thus create a permanent fixture in the landscape. As other residents buy land parcels nearby to build their own homes, the landscape expands. There are also business districts, islands, and other interactive environments. Residents “own what they buy” in the dynamic virtual world, so private landscapes cannot be changed by another user.
It is this concept of private ownership in a dynamic virtual world that gives it a consistent core structure or base, which is constantly expanding outwards. Users are free to dynamically change aspects of the virtual world they own, while they can travel through parts of the landscape they do not own. The dynamic virtual world mimics a developing real-world city or country in this way.
The advantage of a dynamic virtual world is that it is always fresh. Gaming companies using static virtual worlds have found a way to offer a dynamic experience through expansion packs. These packs provide additional landscapes and challenges that one can download to augment existing games.
The appeal and success of virtual worlds - as measured by the popularity of gaming over past decades and membership in dynamic virtual communities more recently - is tremendous. Whether a static or dynamic virtual world, computer technology has created an astounding experience for gamers and virtual reality enthusiasts alike. Trends suggest that this popularity will lead to incorporation of real-world commerce, corporate training, and banking within dynamic virtual communities. From there, it seems anything is possible.