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Virtual Lives for Real Money

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Developed countries of the west have always been known for their extremely high levels of mass consumerism. The consumption of an average household in the US was approximately $50000 USD. And this figure increases every year. People of these countries have always been known for their lavish lifestyles. It is almost fashionable among them to own more than 1 credit card each, and overspend the maximum amount every now and then. It is believed that this massive over spending on useless goods like FMCG products, electronics, cosmetics, etc is one of the root causes of the recent sub-prime crisis in the US.

Now, this consumption seems to taking a whole new level. A new game, based on virtual reality called “Home” has been launched by Sony. This game enables users to create their own identity in a virtual world, where each user is allocated a private space or “home”. The users can design and decorate the home as per he wishes, design his look in the virtual world or avatar, and can meet other friends who are also users of the game by connecting to the internet. The user can form groups, be part of other groups, meet people in the virtual world, and invite other people in the virtual world to his “Home”. Users can even but virtual products of real brands like Armani shirts, Gucci shoes, Versace Jeans, Snicker Bars etc using real money to pay for them. He can then wear the products himself, or offer them to people who come to visit him in his “Home”.

This game is the new rage in the west. People are spending up to $300USD to buy Armani jackets in the virtual world and dress their avatars in, and actually consider it a good bargain, as in the real world they will have to spend $3000 USD. The good part – This game is giving people unlimited freedom to experiment with their personalities in a virtual world. For example, a woman who is shy to wear expensive clothes due to a slightly plump figure would feel more confident in a virtual world, where she can give her avatar a size-zero figure and then try on all the outfits of the designers she only dreamt of. Brands can increase their presence and target newer markets by putting up their latest products on the virtual world. It will also help them analyse and predict the response of consumers to a particular design or product before even launching the product. It will enable them know the consumer requirements and cater to those.

On the flip side, it gives people a false identity, and there is always the danger that in the obsession to be someone else, they will lose themselves completely in the virtual world, and forget the difference between real life and illusions. People are spending thousands of dollars on products they don’t even need, or can even use, or that are even real, forget anything else. This could lead to newer, more dangerous levels of addictions. And there is no guarantee that just because they are spending their dollars in a virtual world, they will stop doing so in the real world.

Which direction will this new trend go in? Will it become a full-blown out obsession of the neo-world, where appearances are more important than realities? Or will people eventually get tired and just move away into the next game? Will it spread to other countries like India? Will people here too, respond similarly? Only time can tell.

About Anindita Chatterjee

Career and Education: I am currently PGDM 2nd year student (operations) from K J Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and research, Mumbai. I had a prior work experience of almost 2 years at Verizon Data Services India, Hyderabad, where I served as a server administrator. My work involved troubleshooting all kinds of OS and Hardware problems with Windows 2003 servers. My graduation consists of BE in IT from CBIT, Hyderabad. Social: Born in Mumbai to Bengali parents, raised in Hyderabad, studying now in Mumbai, I am pretty much the PAN Indian. I love making friends and meeting new people, although I wouldn’t really call myself a social butterfly. I love writing, and am a voracious reader – be it fiction or non-fiction. I think that one of the biggest comforts in life is being able to curl up on the couch with a great, exciting new book after a day’s work. I also enjoy all kinds of music, and I am a complete movie buff. I realise that there are grey areas in most issues, but I do call a spade a spade, when it’s glaringly obvious. I believe in God, but I’m not religious. I feel that it’s important to focus on the purpose rather than the medium used to achieve the purpose.

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