Virtual Worlds in 1996: The More Things Change…

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I came across this 1996 review published in Entertainment Weekly of The Palace, Worldsaway, and Worlds Chat. These were the first graphical chat programs, a genre which became virtual worlds a half-decade later. The entire article is fascinating from a historical perspective, but the last paragraph in particular shows us how some things really do stay the same:

You may also notice that nobody’s talking, at least out loud. Like all chat software, WC lets you send private messages, but it also enables you to talk in private groups, so there’s no real impetus for public discourse. Besides, most here have one thing on their minds, and it ain’t badminton. The typical experience is stumbling into a room, seeing two avatars nose to nose over in the corner, and realizing — just as at any cocktail party — that three’s a crowd. Bizarre? Sure. Sick? Maybe. A sign of modern alienation? Unquestionably. Yet in a way it’s a relief to know that even in this newest of mediums, there’s a place for the oldest of urges.