Posted by: Rob Hof on April 26, 2006
The one thing I heard from people who heard I was working on my recent story about virtual worlds was: Why would I do this when I have a real life? As always, readers have better answers than I. Here are a few of the many comments the story about Second Life elicited:
Simon voices a common attitude:
I personally feel pity for those people who could get trapped in these virtual worlds. It seems to be that having a virtual life may provide you with a new perspective of who you are, but, be careful, you may end up living a life that is not yours. You may end up failing to see that what really matters is what is "out there" in the real world, not in some fake computer-generated "world."
So do we just give up on making our real lives worthwhile and crawl into the box inside our homes? What happens when we have to interact with real people during the day? Do we know how? Is this enhancing our lives or are we rotting away? Entertainment is one thing but some people are choosing this as their life after work. How about building up the real community down the street instead some virtual amphitheater? I hate to sound like some old guy but I just don't get it.
To which Alias has an answer:
Well what do you expect people to do when all they hear about the real world is that it's full of rapists, murderers, kidnappers, and bad people in general. Why go drive out with your friends to a stinky bar when you can all meet in a place where you are in control. Hook up some voice chat and a 6-pack and you can go anywhere and do anything with your friends and never leave the house.
Anthony Asturias explains further (though I wonder if he's poking us in the ribs by the end of his explanation):
I fail to understand why the people here find socializing in virtual worlds to be inferior to socializing in the area around you. After all, the people you are talking to are real people, and SL allows you to meet many more people than real life. With teleportation and over 100,000 residents, you can talk with people you like, instead of being stuck with whoever you happen to live around. Setting and events are also much more varied, as I know that there's more to do in SL than in my town, which is incredibly boring. There are only two real disadvantages I see, and those are that you can't feel, taste, or smell anything in SL, and that you don't get any exercise while socializing in SL. The first problem is really smaller than most people are making it out to be, as how important are touch, smell, and taste during a conversation, really? The second is easily solved by taking an hour or two off to ride a bike or something.
Sharon tried Second Life but had second thoughts:
I tried SL two years ago. Was kinda fun for awhile, but then i thought, why the hell am I sitting at the PC, playing a character who goes shopping, dancing and hangs out with her friends when I can do so in the real world? If I had continued, today I'd probably be a potbellied nerd who eats only Snickers and guzzles Coke and have my behind stuck to the chair.
But then there are folks like Trevelian Petrichor who find SL enriches their RL:
I recently joined SL (after overcoming some skepticism) and now my son and I are building an institute for advanced studies, an art gallery, and a conference center. We listen to music and go to clubs. We fly throughout various SIMs together. Even though he lives 3,000 distant in this world, we have a new world in which to share and collaborate. This opportunity would never had happened if it weren't for SL. More than a "game" indeed.
Others, such as Janara (who inhabits There, a virtual world I should have mentioned in the story), find they can live a fuller life thanks to their virtual life:
I'm disabled, and unable to partake of many activities healthy people take for granted. Virtual life helps relieve the boredom, the frustration, of getting left behind. It's a way to stimulate my creativity, as well as to indulge myself in social interaction. Being a senior intensifies the experience, because in a society where older folk are cast off and trivialized after their health status fractures, this could become a valuable tool in restoring morale. I love my virtual life. Yes, I have a real life too, but have learned to balance with one foot in both dimensions.
And Netslave has a sobering thought:
Sounds like fun. BTW it also seems like more people heading to shrinks.