Jason Fry has an insightful post on the role MMOGs and online communities can play in our lives.
Your first place is your home. Your second place is your work. Then there’s the more-elusive third place — somewhere you feel comfortable, hang out with friends and acquaintances and catch up on the latest news. Whether it’s a good bar, the neighborhood post office or a beloved diner, it’s the kind of place that keeps neighborhoods strong and vibrant. Maybe you’ve got one in your town. Or maybe you don’t, or you don’t go there because you’re too busy ping-ponging between your office and your house. In which case you probably yearn for a third place.
The unspoken assumption is that most of the time spent in the third place is when you’re physically at home. Creating a third place that feels your own would require a new approach to space & relationship management at home. Perhaps this is why I’ve seen so many new products targeting personal media/computer experience such as The Ultimate Game Chair. Some interesting startup opportunities here, no doubt.
Other cultures have approached the problem differently. In many countries, the customized third place is the Net/gamer cafe.