Is Facebook a virtual world?

I remember being absolutely gobsmacked when I first read about Edward Castronova and his economic analysis of the online game Everquest. And it all spiraled from there … do you remember? We all got caught up in the rights of the avatar. I remember being enthralled in discussions about what is real and what is not real and what rights avatars have in games such as Everquest. Because we  saw avatars as extensions of ourselves, therefore we should have the same human rights as we have in our own ‘real life’. Ownership issues and freedom of expression where things that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and debating.

An issue that kept being difficult was the fact that these were games we were talking about. Were we maybe spoiling the fun out of World of Warcraft because these issues became so popular? We were, after all, willingly entering a magic circle – how could we expect to have real world issues in there? It all became more real with Second Life. This is where I fell off the discussion because I never felt comfortable in Second Life. I enjoyed the philosophical discussions, but I just never really got over my noobiness in there – I really missed the gaming aspect.

A thought I’ve been having lately is that Facebook seems to be doing all of these things that were such hot topics while I was writing my Master’s Thesis – but very seemlessly. It’s almost unnoticed. But there are bits and pieces. Like when Dr. Jill Walker Rettberg was censored or that Facebook keeps growing its virtual currency. Personally I’m very freaked out by open graph, but I’ll save that to another post.

My point here is that most of what I tried to explore and analyse in my Master’s Thesis on Gameplay Politics – could just as easily have been focused on Facebook. We are creating an online avatar or online presence of self. We are feeling ownership to all we do on Facebook. I wonder when there will be a Facebook protest of some sort. When will we see our first Facebook millionaire?

Although … writing this now – I feel it’s still not the same. And I’m quite intrigued by the words that are coming into my head as I’m doubting myself. Like “Yeah – but it’s still not the same. Online games are much more open than Facebook.” – which is both cases is just an illusion. Games are made to feel open and free to explore, but in actuality are very limited and very restrictive – whilst Facebook is made to feel very private and restrictive, but in actuality is much too open and has very little privacy. That’s kinda funny.

So in conclusion I conclude nothing other than question what Facebook is. A social platform? A social world? A social app? Or is it a game just like World of Warcraft?

3 thoughts on “Is Facebook a virtual world?

  1. I think that it is one great difference between facebook and games. In games you create someone you want to be, and it does not have to be related to yourself. You can be anyone you like! But at facebook you are yourself, no way around it. Unless you create a false profile, of course.

  2. Thanks KataMaren!

    Thanks for your comment Emeral Raptor! Here’s a hasty response:

    I disagree. My theory is that Facebook starts out with the truth of who you really are – but what you broadcast on it is very much a perception game. Whilst in games you often create an avatar that is supposed to be someone else, but communication in-game becomes so real that the “real” you seeps through.

    For example:
    You would probably not have a hard time telling guild members that life is a bit depressing for a period – whilst you wouldn’t be broadcasting it on Facebook. Your friends there are often just perception of friends.

    But these are merely my own observations from my own use of them both. I tend to only broadcast happy news on Facebook – or brag about what a fantastic life I have (travel – friends a.s.o). But have no need for that in-game. I just find it interesting.

    I do believe Facebook is very much a game – and at the same time a social platform.

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