I frequently get letters to the editor in which people say things like “my Escapist.” When talking to people outside of the office about the magazine, I often say “my writers” or “my readers.” When I play World of Warcraft, I talk about “my server.” And I admire MySpace.com, a whole business built on “my.” In short, there’s a whole lot of ownership floating around. Where does this ownership come from?
Some people feel the internet is impersonal. But that’s only if you let it be. If you want community you can find it everywhere and on everything – whether on a social network like MySpace, a massively multiplayer game like World of Warcraft, or even a Yahoo! Group on gardening. The ability to reach people all over the world increases the chance of meeting others who think, believe and act similarly to yourself. Many people would not find others with whom they share so much commonality were it not for the internet. Is it any wonder that those who do find such a group of people with such similar interests become tight-knit communities? And when these communities do become so important, is it a surprise that people feel a sense of ownership over them?
The internet is still young and finding its way – often compared to the Old West in the United States. We aren’t really sure how to govern it and we aren’t really sure of the amazing potential this medium holds. But we are seeing the internet has an amazing ability to support communities, whether they are one club in one school, or international organizations. This ability will continue to be one of the major functions of the internet, even as our “real lives” become more hectic and distant from each other.
This issue of The Escapist focuses on communities, both real life and internet. In “Wanna Be My Friendster?” my writers speak about those communities related to games. After a short vacation from us, Allen Varney returns to tell us about casual games portals and the communities (or lack thereof) that surround them. Mark Wallace shares some new avenues of exploration in the world of internet security and personal identification. Bonnie Ruberg discusses what happens in online communities “After Sex” becomes a common thing. Find these articles and more in this issue of The Escapist.