Creators vs. Consumers

Helen Cheng of Seriosity has an interesting post contrasting Second Life and World of Warcraft:

“Open ended virtual worlds like Second Life are best suited for the types of people who love to create content…. On the other hand, if you prefer to be a consumer of entertainment content, as I am, and as I suspect much of the world is, then games are your nectar of the gods.”

There is so much excitement right now about user-generated content, that it’s easy to make blanket assumptions about what people want to do. Most people are neither strictly creators nor strictly consumers; they are users. A user is a little of both.

Most of the time, a user wants a nice, prepackaged experience, but unlike a pure consumer, a user wants the ability to shape that experience when he or she feels like it. World of Warcraft does a magnificent job of creating the illusion of freedom within a fully-determined world, by giving users just enough room to manipulate things.

There’s a need for the greater flexibility that something like Second Life offers, but most people don’t want that flexibility most of the time. The minority who want it all the time just happen to be very vocal and visible, which is why we get stories about Digg being worth hundreds of millions of dollars and Wikisari challenging Google.

Second Life itself offers prepackaged experiences within the user-created world. With the growth of virtual worlds services companies like Electric Sheep and Millions of Us, I suspect we’ll see more “consumer” experiences inside supposedly “user-created” worlds, even as next-generation massively multiplayer online games offer greater user freeom than World of Warcraft.