Gary Gigax, RPG and the Web
In a recent blogpost, Charlie Stross - the american sci-fi writer - described the main thread of his next novel. Supposed to be set in 12 years ahead, the story will deal with how "existing technological trends (pervasive wireless networking, ubiquitous location services, and the uptake of virtual reality technologies derived from today's gaming scene) coalesce into a new medium". Even though the whole post and the comments are worthwile (the underlying process of finding the story thread, a quick and personal summary of the Internet as seen by the author...), what I found more curious was the part about how Role Playing Games (and one of its very well known proponent) shape today's virtual reality:
Sad to say, the political landscape of the early to mid 21st century has already been designed -- by Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons and Dragons.
Gary didn't realize it (D&D predates personal computing) but his somewhat addictive game transferred onto computers quite early (see also: Nethack). And then gamers demanded -- and got, as graphics horsepower arrived -- graphical versions of same. And then multi-user graphical versions of same. And then the likes of World of Warcraft, with over a million users, auction houses, the whole spectrum of social interaction, and so on.
Which leads me to the key insight that: our first commercially viable multi-user virtual reality environments have been designed (and implicitly legislated) to emulate pencil-and-paper high fantasy role playing games.
The gamers have given rise to a monster that is ultimately going to embrace and extend the web, to the same extent that TV subsumed and replaced motion pictures. (The web will still be there -- some things are intrinsically easier to do using a two dimensional user interface and a page-based metaphor -- but the VR/AR systems will be more visible.)
And given the fact that Stross envisions VR as being the new metaphor for Web evolution, he thinks that paper based RPG prefigured the future of the coming technosphere.