What do Farmville, Second Life and Wall Street have in common?

Today, I read that Zynga profits drop 90-percent, further threatening its IPO status. I was watching AVATAR on HBO and it occurred to me that both of these human endeavors are a form of our obsession with parallel universes.

Offering an escape from reality is big business. Its everywhere: sci-fi literature, comic books, movies, gaming platforms, social networks… you name it. Every new leap in technology is followed by some sort of attempt at creating virtual environments.

While James Cameron is good at telling stories and visualizing such environments, the sustainability of interactive platforms created so far, is very much in question.

Remember Second Life? The cool 3D world / social network that became famous in 2006-2007. Let’s look at its Google Trends curve. It’s pretty much dead as compared to where it was.

Now let’s look at the popularity of ZYNGA’s big social game, Farmville:

Similar, right? Pet Society is the same way. To Zynga’s defense, this could be just the typical life-cycle of its products. Overall idea may be more sustainable but… I don’t know. I guess, I’m not really feelin’ it!

I think we should look at technology differently. It definitely offers proven and sustainable business value when we try to make our “real” environments better. Virtual environments are just our little way to escape from the overall human condition. Some day we will ditch the Facebooks and match.coms to start over by introducing ourselves to our real neighbors!

For that matter, I think that the financial markets, with their crazy out-of-control algorithms, are a big fake virtual environment on their path to self destruction. I hope we, the humans, realize it early on and not destroy our “real” selves in this virtual game.