What is a Virtual World?

A virtual world is a persistent computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible.  Virtual worlds share many of the same elements and legal issues as MMOs and for the purposes of this site the terms will be used interchangeably.  Examples of some of these worlds include The Sims, Second Life, Entropia Universe, HiPiHi, Kaneva, Gaia Online.  These worlds and MMOs can run the gamut from psudo-Tolkein, Medieval-Arthurian, sex fetish or to more realistic depictions of the modern everyday experience.  What they all have in common is that they were designed and programmed to promote social interaction among various players.  The application and use of real world physical laws by game designers to create a three dimensional landscape which persists and develops whether or not any particular gamer is playing reinforces the sense that the virtual world is a dynamic real place.