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There again

Continuing my post yesterday about There, I wanted to give an idea of my first impressions.

I’ve already made a lot of friends online which I’ve added to my There buddy list – interaction is very similar to any other IM buddy list, with the added features of being able to “summon” your buddies. This means that you can invite people to teleport from their current location to your location. This has several advantages – it means that you can easily find them in the There world, and share activities. It also allows for a much richer interaction than IM alone will allow. When talking to someones avatar which is colocated with your own, your interface goes into “conversation mode”. This allows a variety of avatar-based actions which can be used to supplement the conversation. Examples are showing facial expressions, or altering “body” language. This is generally a much richer para-conversational tool than, say, emoticons – and is widely used by the “players” of There. IMO, this is due to the enjoyment of watching the visual feedback the avatar provides when performing these actions. The actions vary from very blatant laughing to more subtle leaning away from or towards another avatar in conversation.

The avatars are also fairly flexible in their appearance, so much so that one character I spoke to had altered their avatar to match their physical appearance as much as possible. There appears to be no in-built advantage to this, other than as a means of self-representation. This occurs in fashion as well in that there appears to be an infinite supply of clothes (as well as the ability to design your own) to suit your needs. The flexibility in self-representation is huge, and I feel that since There is such a new enterprise that the people playing it have only scratched the surface in terms of the in-game uses of this.

It’s the first time that I’ve ever experienced something like this before and I’m impressed. There’s a real feeling of community in There, mainly realised by the hospitality of the players – they really bring about a feeling of pride that they’re a part of this. There is both a game and a community, although there doesn’t seem to be a purpose to the game, or rather the purpose is simply to be There.

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