Getting serious
The Economist reports on how virtual worlds are being put to serious real-world uses—and are starting to encounter some real-world problems.

“With the popularity of virtual worlds such as Second Life and games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Sims Online”, companies, academics, health-care providers and the military are evaluating virtual environments for use in training, management and collaboration. Superficially, such uses look a lot like playing a video game. “The thing that distinguishes them from games is the outcome,” says David Wortley, the director of Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute. Rather than catering to virtual thrill-seekers, the aim is to find new ways for people to learn or work together. […]

As with any novel technology, virtual worlds bring new opportunities and new problems. The embrace of virtual worlds by companies for mundane uses on the one hand, and by scam artists to get up to no good on the other, points not to the shortcomings of such environments—but to their increasing maturity and potential.”

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