Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is it just “playing pretend”?

The 2 articles on MUD’s brought up a lot of questions in my mind concerning people’s involvement with them. The biggest question I had was if I consider the people who are addicted to these sites as social people or not? Does talking online under a different identity count as being social? For me, it does not. People might be able to meet a ton of new people but most if not all of their identities are questionable, just like the males who pretend to be females. My definition of being socially involved is when people meet RL people in personal settings as opposed to VR settings. Jenkins’ idea of invisible audiences comes into play here. In the rape article, Mr. Bungle, the rapist, was thought to be Al Gore’s mother-in-law and in another, Sue was a grown male in prison for breaking the law. This just shows you never know who you are talking to and this can be very dangerous. Even though some people have made romantic connections through these sites, it is not safe to meet these people in RL.
The motivation for people to take part in the MUD’s was not to escape reality but to form an alternate reality to their boring lives. In this way, people create a new sense of identity for themselves and live second lives in VR. This was paralleled to the childhood game of “playing pretend”, but isn’t this taking pretend a little too far? People become addicted to these sites and spend most of their time consumed with their alternate identities. At what point do people lose track of actual reality and start replacing it with this pretend world? 50 or 60 or 70 hours a week? And at this point, wouldn’t they lose track of who they are entirely? I would say yes.
One of the most interesting points made in these articles dealt with the issue of the First Amendment regarding people having the right to free speech. I agree that everyone has the right to create their own identity or avatar online and live a second life but when their words affect others’ emotional state of being, the right now longer applies. Yes people have the right to say what they want but people also have the right not to be verbally abused. With this said, people who take part in these sites have to know ahead of time what they are getting themselves into. They should not join the site if they are not comfortable with the possibility of being harassed because it is likely to happen. If they cannot handle this, then they should steer clear of these sites.

1 comment:

DKTa said...

I guess it depends on your perspective of playing pretend. For most of these people, MUDs are an entertainment. They offer the people who play them a quiet sanctuary from the real world. Whether or not it is socially healthy or looked down upon is an entirely different issue.

You raised a point that they should just avoid it if they feel threatened by the people in it. I must question this train of thought. Applying this to real life, should we just "avoid" uncomfortable situations because we would rather not deal with them? Or would it come to a certain point in which we must face our fears to conquer the issue at hand? Furthermore, to say that these people should avoid these sites entirely is a bit drastic. Harrassment is an unfortunate aspect of some of these games, and that is what moderators are for.

These people enjoy MUDs. While it is probably different than what most of us consider "fun" or "entertaining". I think it is important not to judge the people in the article, but to keep an open mind. Realizing this, asking individuals to avoid or completely give it up is to ask them to give up something they enjoy or aspect of their life and daily expression.