The recent season premier of South Park took on World of Warcraft with a scathing episode in which the toilet-tongued gang do battle with a loin-clothed warrior who randomly kills people. The executives from Blizzard Interactive are terrified other users will give up in disgust and Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, et al go into serious training to rid the world of the evil user. I watched it with my 12-year old — who has a serious World of Warcraft disorder — and pointed out the line by the Blizzard exec, who when asked in a panic if he had an account to log in with, replied: “No. I have a life.”
Readers of this blog know my dislike for Second Life, another metaverse realm now being taken over by marketers determined to be on the bleeding edge, even if they exsanginuate their corporate reputations doing so. Hey, whatever floats your boat, but hanging around in Get-A-Life is not floating mine.
So, if virtual worlds are ultimately pointless — I wondered what virtual experiences I place a value on — and the answer comes down to RowPro and the opportunity to race other Concept2 ergometer users via a wireless connection to a ThinkPad running the RowPro software.
While most of my training is done against machine-generated pace boats who I pre-program to row at a specific stroke-per-minute rating and overall average split time, I have logged into a few virtual races against “live” rowers and find the experience much more random and stressful than the predictability of an AI opponent. The marriage of a virtual competition with actual physical activity automatically qualifies something like RowPro a valuable online activity as opposed to a virtually pointless one. Burning calories is a tangible benefit to me, versus the accumulation of Linden Dollars so I can buy a virtual nose ring.
I lust for one of these, a Tacx Fortius virtual reality bicycle trainer, which uses a flywheel and steering sensor to let a housebound cyclist tackle the virtual peloton. At the very least I would escape another near-death experience at the hands of a distracted motorist. The only problem is I lack a working bicycle other than the trusty SnotRocket which would not be a good idea on a powered trainer.
“The Fortius is an interactive trainer with unlimited capabilities; it is equipped with a revolutionary braking system enabling extra-hard training sessions to be carried out. The very powerful motor brake realistically simulates downhill and uphill runs. Running downhill the bike carries on rolling with the rear wheel being driven so you can stop pedalling. The uphill resistance formulas are virtually exact. The motor brake is a first from Tacx in the field of training.”