Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm going to out myself as a complete nerd here, but oh well. I am an avid player of an MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing game for all you non-nerds) called World of Warcraft (or WoW for short). In WoW, and I am sure other MMOs as well, the issue of what is real already has started to come up, although not to the extreme that we discussed in reference to the Matrix. When talking in game or on forums and blogs that discuss WoW we use the term IRL (in real life) to indicated when we are talking about something that happens outside of game. For example a common use of this might be that a person's character is female but they tell you that they are male IRL (for some reason this usually doesn't happen the other way around though). However I often wonder how experiences in WoW are not "real." Now obviously the pictures on the screen are simulated and I did not actually just single handedly defeat 5 nefarious conspirators in the physical world. However the people I regularly have contact with either through text or voice chat are real people. I put real time, effort, and even research into playing the game and achieving the things that I want to achieve. I have both negative and positive experiences that produce real emotions. In that sense playing an MMO in a virtual space is real, just like playing a board game is real. However where I do think the line can get blurry at points is when people put too much importance on events that happen in game. People get genuinely outraged when something they don't like happens to them in game. They seem to think that this will somehow affect their everyday lives. That is where I think the danger lies in virtual reality. As we develop technology that enables us to experience these things in a more immersive manner I think that it will be harder and harder to distinguish between what really matters in the "real world" and what happens in the virtual one.

No comments: