Naughty America, one of the new MMOs coming out this Spring, has taken the precautionary step of adding opt-in background checking to their virtual world. Sentry is usually thought of as an online identification verifer for corperations and financial services, and this will be their first foray into the world of pixel sex.
While searching around the web for information on this new feature, we actually found a comment from some of the staff at Safe Escape, the company behind Naughty America.
"Cheers mates, my name is Dusty from Naughty America! I just wanted to comment a little on what I am seeing. Basically, I get the sense that y'all feel this will be some sort of on-line orgy. Not the case. We have taken some serious steps to ensure user safety w/credit card age verification and background checks thru Sentry. You have to understand that this is a dating and networking realm, not unlike those w/o any "game-like" features that we have implemented. The "sex" is optional and must be agreed upon by both parties. There will be a sense of realism here unlike the 'without remorse or consequences' sentiment of some of the other games out there."
After seeing this, I think it's safe to take Naughty America out of the MMOVSG list, since they don't actually seem to be concentrating on it. It seems like they're trying to take over the market currently held by places like Match, or, more likely, OkCupid. I see NA as trying to approach real dating through a virtual environment, meaning that it'll be the sims with hook up features.
How well this will work is questionable. On one end, it does provide an interesting environment that will be a little more friendly than a non-real-time-interactive webpage. People will be able to talk in av form before they talk in webcam/audio, but the world will have both ready and available for whatever people want.
This is where the Sentry issue comes in, though. If someone has a Sentry gold star on their profile, does that make them a star-bellied Sneech? Will this become something of an unwritten social rule within the world? What about all the plain-bellied Sneeches, cast into the same caste as criminals, rapists, and everyone else in the world that Sentry hasn't sniffed the privates of?
So, congratulations, Safe Escape, you beat the rest of the development community to the first implementation of Gattaca. A dating service where customers will be
(possibly unwittingly) concentrating on what they don't know about a set of people that are missing a piece of flare doesn't seem like a good idea.
I'm interested in hearing other people's views on this, since I'm rather biased. Would having this feature make you want to use the world? Is this the end of anonymity in mainstream worlds? Please tell us what you think.