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Controlling Mood in a Social World

Social worlds; multi-participant, shared persistent VR worlds.

Social worlds have always been deeply rooted in the moods of their visitors. As in any social situation, whether in the physical, or virtual worlds, social interaction will change your mood. It is near certain that if you are reading this; you have had your mood changed by someone in the past. Something someone has said, either directly to you, or to another person in range of you has made you mad, angry, upset or afraid. How you then feel, affects the next things you say to another, which might well change their mood. It continues so on and so forth.

However, this is simply reactive mood change. Impossible to control given the stubbornness of human nature - people just refuse to change who they are, just for the benefit of making your world a 'no drama' zone.

People of course enter the world in different moods. Griefers and energy creatures seek to make other's lives miserable just for the kicks. Some have had a hellish day at work; some are full of energy and enthusiasm. Then of course, there are the misinterpretations, different cultures colliding and all the other fun that goes into a social world.

All this mayhem is beyond your control, or is it? Might there be ways to use the VR of the social world to your advantage? If not control the mood of your visitors, at least modify it a bit?

Controlling the Emotions

With a smaller social world, hooking the visitor's emotions is relatively easy - providing you have a lot more space to fill than you have people coming in. Allow visitors to make their own creations - to add areas to your world, but not export those creations out. Do this, and you have already ensnared their emotions, creating a sense of pride in part of your world, the part they have created. These people will then tend to feel pride when showing others their parts of the world, and may even come to view it as a home.

Influencing Emotions

With larger worlds, and thus more users incoming, you do not have this luxury. Only a relatively small number can be content providers, the rest will be consumers of content. Therefore, you have to find other ways of influencing emotion.

It has long been known that physical environment affects someone's mental state, and mental state influences emotional state. Therefore, in order to influence emotion, the physical environment can be utilised. With a virtual world, this is the fabric of the virtual environment itself.

Take a look at the image below. How does it make you feel?

If you are like most people, right now, you probably feel cold, shivery. That's just from a still picture. Now, put yourself in the image. You can hear the wind blowing, see the trees visibly shaking, watch particulate matter leave the structures. If it's an advanced world, you can even feel the wind itself.

That is just one crude example of a location-influencing mood. Below are a few more examples, each stimulating different emotional states:

1. You stand on a wooden board, one of many on a low platform, raised above the ground. It is a clear, starry night, a new moon hanging above. The wind blows softly, gently against your skin. Poles along the edge of the platforms are strung with paper lanterns, emitting soft candlelight. A lake runs along the edge with most of the poles, half a dozen feet below. Its still water shrouded by reeds along the banks, reflecting the stars above, further out. Trees rise up the opposite side of the platform, sheltering you from the worst of the weather, illuminated softly from candles below.


2. You stand on a firm wooden bridge in bright daylight. The sun has journeyed more than halfway, and shines above and behind you. The bridge, upon which you stand, spans a river, which is gurgling swiftly beneath you. All about, on both banks, trees rise mightily up interspersed with large, moss-covered rocks. Behind you, the river flows gently round a majestic bend, whilst ahead of you, stands the edge of the valley, towering up, jagged and grey. A thundering waterfall spurting out from the top and cascading down the rocks to a swirling pool beneath. From this pool, the river emerges, to flow under your feet.


3. It is raining. The sky is overcast, and dark. Raindrops beat heavily down, turning the ground beneath you, to mud. Slipping and sliding as you search for firm footing, everything looks and feels damp and slimy. The sky lit up by occasional flashes of lightning.


Each of the above scenarios, even just reading it, and taking it in, creates an emotional response in your mind. This is the level textual world descriptions can reach. When the same is done visually, and done well, the effect is magnified. Adding in sound, smell, and maybe even touch, magnifies this beyond belief.

Once visitors are immersed in such a zone, their mood will be affected by it, even subconsciously. After the environment sets the baseline, your community does the rest.

If you manage to truly capture the heart in a build, you will actually find people coming to your world, just to enjoy the scenery. You can build your community from there.

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