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A virtual world is a genre of online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment, through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects[1]. Virtual worlds are intended for its users to inhabit and interact, and the term today has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others graphically[2]. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible[3] (auditory[4] and touch sensations for example). Some, 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.[5] 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, voice command, 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. Players create a character to travel between buildings, towns, and even worlds to carry out business or leisure activities. Communication is usually textual, with real-time voice communication using VOIP also possible.[clarification needed]

Virtual worlds are not limited to games but, depending on the degree of immediacy presented, can encompass computer conferencing and text based chatrooms. Sometimes, emoticons or ‘smilies’ are available, to show feeling or facial expression. Emoticons often have a keyboard shortcut.[6] Edward Castronova is an economist who has argued that “synthetic worlds” is a better term for these cyberspaces, but this term has not been widely adopted.

 

/Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world

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