From FAS Virtual Worlds Almanac
A "virtual world" is an on-line environment that generally includes these characteristics:
- Avatar-based: Users represent themselves in a unique, virtual individual that roughly approximates the functions of a human.
- Multiuser: Many users can be in the same online venue simultaneously.
- Immediate: Interaction with other users and the world takes place in real time. However, there may be slight delays from network latency (lag) or from other users.
- Interactive: Users can act on their environment to some degree, instead of being mere observers.
- Persistent The virtual world, as well as objects and characters within, exist independent of the users logged in. This means that most virtual worlds are hosted on a centralized server.
Our definition is derived from any other sources, including the other definitions below.
A Virtual World is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional representations, although other forms are possible (auditory and touch sensations for example). Most, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users. The computer accesses a computer-simulated world and presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experiences telepresence to a certain degree. Such modeled worlds may appear similar to the real world or instead depict fantasy worlds. The model world may simulate rules based on the real world or some hybrid fantasy world. Example rules are gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Communication between users has ranged from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and rarely, forms using touch and balance senses. Massively multiplayer online games commonly depict a world very similar to the real world, with real world rules and real-time actions, and communication. Communication is usually textual, with real-time voice communication using VOIP also possible.
Virtual Worlds Review
A virtual world is an interactive simulated environment accessed by multiple users through an online interface. Virtual worlds are also called "digital worlds," "simulated worlds" and "MMOG's." There are many different types of virtual worlds, however there are six features all of them have in common:
- Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once.
- Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually, ranging in style from 2D "cartoon" imagery to more immersive 3D environments.
- Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time.
- Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized content.
- Persistence: the world's existence continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in.
- Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups like teams, guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, neighborhoods, etc.
Edward Castronova, Associate Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University, has defined a synthetic world as "an expansive, world-like, large-group environment made by humans, for humans, and which is maintained, recorded, and rendered by a computer"