virtual worlds: a new reality?

most people like to get on their computers and surf the web after a long day at work or at class. It is a stress reliever and a way to escape reality, if only for a while. Virtual worlds, such as world of warcraft, second life and others can be that escape for many people. Massively multiplayer online role playing games have become increasingly popular with new innovations in 3D simulation and graphics. With so many people being active members in these online communities, people are investing time, energy and emotions into their avatars, and have a real emotional connection with their online persona. As with the articles by Dibbell and Gelder proves, the lines between “reality” and “virtual reality” become blurred when peoples emotions are invested. People begin to care just as much about their reputation and status within their online community as they do with any “real” social interactions (face to face). This brings up interesting questions of codes of conduct within virtual worlds, and has also brought up issues with how those forms of conduct translate from virtual worlds into real life (violence with video games). Do avatars have to conduct themselves in the same fashion as in real life? That depends on what type of virtual world you are participating in. In World of Warcraft, rules about violence and killing obviously don’t translate into that type of online atmosphere. This brings up the issue of violence in virtual games affecting violent tendencies in children who participate in those types of virtual worlds and bringing that into their real life relationships. Other types of communities, such as Sims, Second Life and LambdaMOO (from Dibbell), expect a certain level of “civility”. As with the case from Dibbell about online rape, the emotional trauma is real because the person is invested in their avatar emotionally and mentally. People in virtual worlds usually form a sort of community or group of people they associate with in that community, and can be a helpful type of support system for some, but for this relationship to be healthy and beneficial for all involved, people participating must have the same level of investment. As we discussed in class, when one person thinks of the virtual world as just a game or a joke, while another cares deeply about the community and their status in it, people can be hurt, which does translate to real emotional distress. Because by design there is no form of bureaucracy or government in virtual worlds, who is to say what is “right” behavior from wrong? Isn’t the point of a virtual world the escape from the constraints of society? For some however virtual worlds is just another type of society they live in.

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