Week 10: Gaming & Virtual Environments

About Games, Gamers and Virtual Environments:

(Apologies for the length of information. Please feel free to only read up on the type of game you think you might like to play. Please also don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of game links. We tried to provide as much of a variety as possible to appeal to as many of you as possible. Please feel free to try out other games and explore outside of the ones we’ve listed, if you wish, but just remember to blog about it.)



These are typically games which demand a certain level of quickness and hand-eye coordination, such as Mario Bros., Frogger and Pac-Man, to name a few from the past. These types of games typically need you to pay close attention in each level or you may lose ‘lives’ and eventually lose the game. Some puzzle games, such as Zuma (see Pop Cap Games below), can also fall under the arcade category because they also require hand-eye coordination combined with speed and strategy / problem-solving skills.


This one is pretty self-explanatory. Many of our favourite board games have been put into digital format of one kind or another and some aren’t even online (such as Scene It), but are designed to be a sit-down but interactive social experience. Monopoly, chess, checkers, backgammon and many others can usually all be found and available to play with others around the world.


This one is pretty easy to explain. Ever played Solitaire, Crazy 8s or Go Fish? How about Poker, Rummy or Yahtzee? These are card or dice games; so card & dice games online are just representations of these favourites. Easy, right?


Crosswords, sudoku, word find, jig-saw puzzles, trivia games, memory games, etc. all fall under this category. It also includes some arcade games (again, such as Zuma from Pop Cap or Tetris). Essentially, any game which makes you stop and truly think about your next move (even board games such as chess) falls into this category. Anything which tests your brain and really gets you thinking is a puzzle, brain-teaser or logic-game. You can likely test and compare your time/high-score with other players (if the web version still exists).


This stands for Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game. These are typically graphical adventure games in which many players can logon at once and either play at the same time or even play with each other or against each other. They integrate arcade style gaming with table-top role-playing, puzzles and games of logic and much more. Most revolve around a series of ‘quests’ which your character must accomplish to continue onto the next level, whether the ‘next level’ represents a new area on the game or simply new abilities and statistics for your character.

Some of them are set up like the older arcade style games, such as the Legend of Zelda and Mario Bros. with a miniaturized ‘imp’ or ‘avatar’ running around a relatively 2-D, cartoon-ish realm, slaying monsters, finishing quests, etc (e.g. Maple Story). And others are more 3-D and very realistic in their graphics, running in a third-person or first-person perspective, and even nearly resemble cinematic productions (in truth, some of their ‘teasers’ look like movie trailers). An example of this would be World of Warcraft.

MUSH (text-based environments)

A short-form for “Multi-User Shared Hallucination”. Simply put, a MUSH is an online, multi-user, text-based environment. Some are games. Some are social and technical support environments. And still others are research areas. Imagine a series of chat rooms strung together in which you can ‘move’ through and each ‘room’ has a description on it, telling you what kind of environment it represents (e.g. a cave, a living room, a forest, etc.). Now, for the gaming environments, toss in a game theme like Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire: the Masquerade, or even tv themes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly and movies such as the X-Men, and you have a text-based roleplaying environment based on those themes.

The non-gaming environments are slightly different and some do have ‘themes’ that are more for background colour than anything else. Some are used for research purposes (MIT’s MOO, LambdaMOO, etc.) and some are purely social. Some MU* game hosting services have MUSHes set up to provide on-hand, real-time support to game owners who are experiencing technical difficulties as well as to provide a social environment for the game owners to meet in and ‘network’.

Social Environments

These are graphical or text-based environments online where the primary function of visitors is to socialize. These are kind of akin to sites such as Facebook or MySpace, but are even more interactive because they are set in “real time”, like MUSHes or instant messengers. Instead of leaving messages for people (although this is often an option as well), you can stand around and chat with people while they are logged in.

The most popular of these types of environments is Second Life, which we’ve been hearing a lot of as of late. This is graphical and ‘3D’ in nature where visitors create ‘avatars’ (sometimes called ‘toons’) to represent themselves. These avatars are extremely customizable, allowing the user to ‘look’ how they wish online.

Another example of a graphical social environment is IMVU, a graphical instant messenger program. Avatars can be fully customized with a multitude of appearance options, just like in Second Life. (Check out Kelly’s avatar page: http://avatars.imvu.com/libzombie)

And finally, some MUSHes also offer social environments as well.

Benefits of Gaming & Virtual-Living:

  • relaxation / downtime
  • enjoyment
  • stress relief (there’s nothing quite like blowing off some steam while beating up a bunch of ogres!)
  • (depending on the game) exercise for your brain!
  • (depending on the game) encourages reading!
  • encourages quick thinking / decision making in a threat-free environment
  • meeting others you would never get the chance to meet otherwise —-> social benefits!
  • academic uses of virtual environments have huge possibilities, including addressing space issues, distance, and more!


  • Try out a few games/virtual worlds & blog about your experience. (Several game sites are listed below.)
  • Think about why gaming and virtual worlds are of interest to libraries. Post your thoughts to your blog!


Arcade, Puzzle, Word, Card Game Sites:

MUSH, MUX, MUD (text-based) Game Sites:

Pay-for-Play MMORPG Sites:

A note about pay-for-play MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) is that such games require that you buy the software (either online or from a store) and then pay a monthly fee (e.g. World of Warcraft is about $40 for the basic game and $15 USD per month after that for the online account). Some of these games have free trials, either by downloading the software and signing up for a temporary account or by buying a trial software CD for a couple of dollars. They are great fun, but just be aware of the monetary investment that these games require.


11 comments so far

  1. Derek on

    this validates a large portion of my misspent youth.. look ma, it wasn’t wasted time after all!

  2. penfold on

    Tell me about it. Same here, Derek. 😉 — Kel

  3. […] 10): Confessions of an Armchair “Gaming” Tourist I spent some time last week as a gaming “tourist” – attending the gaming session with Kelly and checking out some of the games (WoW, WWII, DDR, […]

  4. game-hacks on
  5. […] The McMaster University Learning 2.0 @ Mac week on Gaming and Virtual Environments […]

  6. Tara Marshall on

    Wow, this is a really interesting article. It explains gaming, and the technology that goes with it to non-gamers. It’s so mainstream now, it’s nice to be able to differentiate the technological and psychological benefits of gaming.

  7. Kelly on


    Thanks so much for that feedback! I was really aiming to bring gaming to the non-gamer or new gamer in this particular posting/session, since gaming is a passion of mine and since libraries are really beginning to embrace this technology.


  8. buy mesos on

    Interesting site, i have bookmarked your blog for future referrence 🙂

  9. webzombie: Webfolio on

    […] Gaming and Virtual Environments – Blog post written by me for Week 10: Gaming and Virtual Environments; used as accompanying documentation to Gaming Workshop – April 16, 2007 […]

  10. Nexus MUX: Vanth on

    […] Learning 2.0 @ Mac: Week 10: Gaming and Virtual Environments – Apr 2007 […]

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