Thursday, April 17, 2008

Virtual Self-Correction/Fulfillment/Moderation

As a final thought to the seminar juxtaposing last night's readings with our first experience in Second Life, it seems to me that whether it was the issue of cyber-rape or simply becoming too engrossed into the game and losing sense of reality, it boils down to this: When a virtual world is created, human nature dictates that people will explore and experiment with the boundaries and abilities they are given, in many situations to somehow gain a foothold over others in the virtual world. When this happens, there's bound to be a situation where someone does something later dictated as controversial or "out-of-bounds" to the people of the community. These first infractions get through, but eventually the community (and it's developers) correct the society for the greater good.

That's not to say that people can't find other ways to take advantage of the system or let the system take advantage of them. People become so engrossed in living vicariously through their character that they lose sight of the basic notion that NOTHING (except for maybe a few key communication skills) that they learn or gain in this virtual world will benefit them outside it in the real one. Whether it's a loss of confidence in public or even just a lack of human interaction, the possibilities are high that a person can lose sense of moderation and get enthralled in what they see as real fulfillment in a very virtual world. 

Unfortunately, with the technological advances that these worlds provide (i.e. seamless communication among individuals regardless of actual distance) or even the lesser pro's of being able to organize, lead, manage or make virtual decisions, people see this as a way to justify spending hours upon hours in front of a computer, engrossing themselves in what their virtual world has to offer and fully accepting that even if the virtual goals they reach are simply virtual, the skills and technological advances that they used justify this. 

On the up side, certain games do in fact give people a very real ability to do things they would never do in real life. Having a virtual dragon slain or even creating a virtual community and becoming a famous leader give these people otherwise inaccessible experiences, even if they are virtual. People understand that they are living virtually, but even so the feelings of joy, happiness, inclusion and fulfillment are real enough to keep them motivated to reach virtual goals. The line between casual and hardcore becomes blurred as people realize they must spend more time to reach the same goals, even if this means spending long hours in front of the computer.

 A very basic aspect of human nature (one that developers thrive on) is the idea that if you give someone a task that they have previously successfully completed, even if the task is harder this time around, players or simply members of the community will be extra motivated to complete the task, even if it takes longer. It is this impetus that overcomes moderation and for those who have little in real life to elicit the feelings the game generates, it's a simple decision: Play more, be happy more. This happiness becomes addictive as people substitute virtual success for real success, often to dire results.

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