Tuesday, March 22, 2011

KnowledgeLand - My First Experience in Virtual Reality

While growing up I had the great fortune to be given the (now classic) JumpStart game series.  The games occupied a good deal of my time when I was younger... I think I played them out of order but I really enjoyed them.  Anyway, through this series I was introduced to KnowledgeLand -- an early online game that incorporated many of the JumpStart properties into a virtual world where you could interact with other players and collect trading cards to upgrade your 'character' -- or avatar.  Here's an image of the back of the cover:

Windows 95!?  Get lost, we don't serve your kind here.
Quite the throwback, isn't it!?  To my great dismay, I lost the KnowledgeLand disc when my family moved when I was 10 and I never recovered it.  A few years after I had discovered Active Worlds a few people I spoke with remembered the program, and I wanted to find it again.  A quick google search reveals that details about KnowledgeLand on the internet are pretty scarce -- as of this writing, it doesn't even have a Wikipedia article!

Frustrated, I gave up the search until very recently, when I found a lone YouTube video from another nostalgic user who -- by chance -- still had a copy of the game.  I've included it below:  it's a 10-minute long demo of some of the game's basic functions.  Mostly character creation, dealing with the trading cards, and some areas that I have very vivid memories of.

As far as I can tell, KnowledgeLand was released in 1996 and I was playing it when I was still in elementary school... which is about at that same time.  You may also note that this is contemporary with the early years of Active Worlds.  KnowledgeLand was quite different from Active Worlds -- or perhaps AlphaWorld if we're going back in time far enough.  There was no built environment, and the game is quite obviously marketed towards children, though I'm sure there was a fair mix of interested adults as well.

Though I was still a very young child, this was my first experience into the virtual world and I'm sure some of you may have had similar experiences in other such worlds.  As far as I can tell, the internet was wide open for these sorts of developments in the late 90's -- there's quite a comprehensive list in the book Avatars!, by Bruce Damer, which features Active Worlds and Alphaworld.  Some names that I recognize include WorldsChat and The Palace.

So I'll leave you all with a question: what was your first experience into virtual worlds, or maybe just online game environments in general?  Was it Active Worlds, or another virtual reality environment?  Was it an MMORPG?  Let me know by leaving a comment! :)

1 comment:

  1. My first virtual world--if we're counting QuickTime-driven ones--would be called 3D Dinosaur Adventure.