I recently signed up for Second Life. It's basically a virtual world where people create their own characters from a list of available names that result in some oddball combinations. People like Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Bezos have invested.
The Game Inside the Game.
Inside, you have full creative license. You parachute into another dimension without rules - just those of the community. Some have even taken to writing software inside the virtual world to be used by the denizens of the virtual dimension just like they use tools in the real world. For example, I think we'll try to port our memory test/reaction test over to the virtual world. Train your brain inside the game? If you do train your brain inside the game, does that mean that your brain outside is also improved? This gets us into a matrix-like chicken or egg inflection point, or maybe, Mr. Spock's "logic is a little bird in a tree" line.
First, I don't know if it can be done since we haven't yet downloaded the client. In fact, they emailed me after 24 hours, saying "Hey, what's wrong, you haven't downloaded the client yet."
So, we'll just see. Virtual characters controlled by humans optimizing their memory and reaction time and game playing ability inside another world? We'll keep you posted. Does that mean we'll also buy Quicken to balance our checkbook in the virtual world, MS Office "Virtual" edition to do sales pitches with virtual powerpoint, or get an iPod? It could be a new market for these traditional vendors to test micropayments or use paypal. It's all not really much different from the practice of advergaming/putting ads inside games - promoted by groups like IGN (News Corp) Imagine, getting forced to upgrade by MS in a virtual world. Aargh.