This book has thus far made the case that something new and of more than passing interest is happening in the area of video games. The bizarre behaviors and experiences that have become typical within online games are somewhat worthy of note, but they seem to deserve more serious attention when we realize that, by 2004, they’ve become part of the normal lives of at least 10 million people around the world. Analysts expect that number to rise rapidly for at least the next few years, and it may go on growing after that. One possible limitation on growth might be that the demand for these spaces might dry up at some point. But what if, as discussed toward the end of the last chapter, the synthetic world can really be seen as a substitute for the real world, one that might well have superior features, in some cases, and for some people? We don’t know how many people might find the synthetic world to be better, but it might be quite a few; the historical pattern has been that each new innovation in immersive quality has led to a leap in its population. And so we cannot rely with any confidence on a prediction of slackening demand. Put simply, if we could all live in a world that came closer to our fantasies than this world, how many would resist the temptation to do it?
The last chapter also assumed that those worlds of fantasy would eventually come online, brought to us by the new technologies that are the subject of this chapter. That claim needs to be examined very carefully. It seems likely in the short term that the makers of virtual worlds will become established as a substantial global industry. And that industry will certainly attempt to meet whatever the demand may be for more and different and better worlds. Whatever is the palette of experiences that people request, one can be fairly confident that a competitive industry will be able to provide it. One might conclude from this that