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Virtual Worlds: What’s so “virtual” about ’em?

2009 April 11
by Baibh Cathba

Okay, so this is some more stream of consciousness going on. I enjoyed discussing things in class today (Er, at the time it was Wednesday… yes it’s been sitting on my comp for a while…), especially when it started getting a little on the loopy side with the definition of self. Such a definition of self (especially in regards to identity) is especially important to me because I feel it ties in with the idea of “virtual” and “reality”.

When we discuss the “virtual” qualities of a world, I believe that it undermines the validity of the world. To give a virtual world the same value as a real world is often dismissed because of the whole “fantasy” thing. In a similar manner, I believe that Second Life is too “close to home” in some ways. I really dislike the interface (as others have mentioned and I really dislike the number of windows that open to obscure the view of where one is headed). I am not fond of this idea that Second Life is a literal second life to people on it. A lot of the same conventions as in the offline world are available for perusal and one can own a store, house or property. One can have relationships and talk to others in a manner similar to the offline world; however, since it is online there is a certain degree of anonymity which gives people the idea that they have free license to be dipshits. I prefer games that have little relation to the life offline, if I’m playing a game I expect it to be a game, not another versino of visual monopoly. I like SIMs, but that is mainly because I can play god with the creatures. In Second Life I can’t make people do stuff, like stand close to a stove and turn themselves into urns. Or stay up all the time drinking coffee or something.

… am I experiencing megalomania? Maybe, but I’m not fond of “real life” games like Second Life because if I wanted to experience something like life, then I’d go outside and hang out with friends here in the offline world. There’s no need to replace people and items from the offline world with a life that is so similar online. I like my family in the offline world, including pets and such. There’s no need for the whole Second Life experience in my mind. (Meh, and I sound like my stream of consciousness is running dry… guess I’ll stop that thought there).

I am not against all online games, mostly just Second Life. It was almost hate at first sight. Not sure if it’s a combination of all the above, or if it’s turning out to be just another pet peeve. (I found it wicked easy to install and use, but I deleted it after finishing the tutorial and finding Bryn Mawr online. It’s taking up valuable gaming space of games I actually give a damn about.) <= omg! my first dipshit moment! Totally didn’t censor that thought.

Oddly enough I find games like WOW to be amazingly addictive. Perhaps it’s because it’s nerdier or because it’s less mainstream? (I mean, I do pride myself on being a geek… full o’ random trivia and mythology ^_^) Something about WOW is actually incredibly intriguing. Two other studies done mention that women over 40 are actually the largest group of gamers online (perhaps because they have the time now that, presumably, their kids are leaving them “empty nesters”?). I also want to make the distinction between the first-person shooter games and puzzle games. The MMORPGs that are out online are definitely more social things. While there is the stereotypical population of 17 year old boys, in MMORPGs there seems to be an increasing number of women. It seems that there’s only stereotype holding the idea that women are gamers back (and perhaps the belief that MMORPGs aren’t “gaming” to some people). I know that I also play HALO and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (the screen’s so dark it almost isn’t worth it); however, I feel like unless I mention that it’s almost as if I’m not “a real gamer”. What’s the definition of a “real gamer”? I’m not sure, but it seems that common sentiment is that I’m not one.

I’m doing WOW for my thesis, which I think I mentioned before, so I tend to play a lot of World of Warcraft. I’m just fascinated by the culture Blizzard (the parent company) presents us with in the realm of Azeroth (the name of the world that World of Warcraft is set in). This is probably the main reason I enjoy WOW over Second Life. Second Life is literally a “second life”, which to me is not the point of gaming. Gaming is not meant to take over the functions of your actual life.

Okay, and even more rambling, I’d like to point out the “sex sells” idea in video games. Who wouldn’t want to be a blood elf, those skinny little waifs that look like a good breeze’ll take them into outer orbit? I mean, wouldn’t it be better than a troll?

I guess my main annoyance with WOW is the masculinization of many things. Take this image of King Wrynn (the human king of the human city Stormwind)
It’s like there’s penises everywhere! Why so many phallic objects? (Also… his codpiece, was anyone else shocked by the humongous penis it is?)


Also and image that I think is kind of interesting. How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

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