From early text-only games to deeply immersive manufactured universes, virtual worlds have characterized the digital space, and have drawn millions of users across the globe to participate and interact. Inhabiting virtual avatars or crafted profiles, users continue to explore and push the limits of digital social interaction and gaming, using the anonymity and idealization available online to meet friends to interact with offline or to establish completely new personas and reputations. Defining virtual worlds as specifically including anthropomorphic avatars inhabiting a digitally created space, such worlds have transitioned from purely for gaming and entertainment purposes to encompass a whole range of applications and use cases, and appealing to a much broader audience.
Virtual worlds, so often the focus of science fiction, are inexorably connected to the advent of the digital revolution, and have similarly transitioned as technology has grown and evolved. Much like the computer itself, virtual worlds, once only accessible and utilized by the technical elite and used primarily for the powerful ability to create imagined, often phantasmal alternate personas, have more recently gained much broader appeal, and are focused much more on socializing and creating relationships that will be continued offline. Though often taking on quirky, stylized appearances, virtual worlds have recently tended to acquire more characteristics of the real world and lessened the anonymity barrier, incorporating facebook profiles or using real-life pictures associated with avatars. Virtual worlds have become tailored for certain social interactions, such as specifically for dating, meeting other students within a university, for gaming while piggy-backing on existing social media platforms, or even for tracking and working on day-to-day tasks. Since the text console games of old, virtual worlds have tended to move away from pure entertainment to immersive social experiences with concrete ties to real life.