When you think about how much MMOGs and virtual worlds have in common with Web 2.0 sites — a focus on user experience, a reliance on active communities, scaling and bandwidth management issues — it’s surprising how little overlap there seems to be in the discussions around them. Every time I’ve had to switch gears between working on web sites and working on games, it’s felt like I’ve had to purge my brain of one whole set of skills and knowledge in order to make room for another, completely disjoint set. It’s no fun having to induce a dissociative episode in yourself just because you’ve changed jobs, and it’s twice as frustrating when you know that it shouldn’t be necessary.

So even though Raph Koster’s new venture, Areae, hasn’t released any substantive information about what it’s going to be doing, it has sparked a lot of much-needed discussion about the potential intersections between games and the Web, which makes me happy, because Web Geek Josh and Game Geek Josh might finally be able to coexist peacefully in my brain.

While I’m not very good at predicting how just-announced startups are going to burn their venture capital (buy office furniture? That’s what I’d do first), I am good at coming up with ideas for things that I would like them to do. So in the spirit of the season, here’s a wishlist of things I’d like to see at “the intersection between Web 2.0 and MMOGs:”

Integrated community support. People seem to think that voice chat is the next great frontier in MMOG communication, which baffles me. What’s really needed is a better way to get to the reams of content that’s already being generated around virtual worlds into those worlds. If some of those message boards, wikis, databases, and blogs could be melded with the interface of the game itself, then we’d really be onto something big. If we could add in some of the community-building techniques that Web 2.0 has popularized — tagging, recommendations, trust networks — then we’d be onto something even bigger.

No elves. Feel free to skip the spaceships and pirates as well. Heavyweight fictions and roleplaying are highly immersive, but they also form a barrier to entry — some people don’t want to be an elf/alien/pirate, they just want to project themselves into an online space with as little fuss as possible. One of the more subtle strokes of genius in the virtual pet genre is in the way that they allow players to express alternate identities through their pets while allowing them to retain their “real” identity as the owner of those pets. There’s a lot of untapped potential in MMOGs for this sort of tricky play with projective identities, as opposed to the hardcore roleplaying model that we usually see.

Platform independence. My Windows machine finally died recently, and I don’t want to have to buy another one (or install Boot Camp on my Mac) just to play a game, especially when I already have about seven gazillion other gaming and entertainment options already competing for my time.

Browser independence. (Should I even have to ask for this in this day and age?) The easiest way to free yourself from the shackles of operating system dependence is to put the game in the browser (cf. Runescape, Neopets, etc.), but that’s only effective if the game/site works in all browsers. Flash and Java applets are popular solutions for a lot of casual games, but what I would really love to see is something done with AJAX. It might not be a good fit for a twitchy action game, but if Google Maps and Flickr Organizr can be as responsive (and fun to use!) as they are, there are undoubtedly a pile of interesting (and fun!) game mechanics that could be implemented using JavaScript+DOM+CSS+whatever.

Communication with the outside world. If you’re using the Web as the platform for your MMOG, then it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine linking your virtual world to the rest of the the online world. RSS feeds for in-game events, text messages between players inside and outside of the game world, mobile access to a subset of game features — all of these can give people outside the game a window onto the inside, which will help to build mindshare and strengthen the community, as well as being fun in their own right. If my Wii and my cell phone can e-mail each other, why shouldn’t my MMOG be able to get in on the action?

A virtual landscape that’s at least half as fun to explore as Wordie.org. Hoping for something that’s as much fun to get lost in as Flickr is probably too much to ask.