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Appreciation For My First Life Through Second Life

May 7, 2010

Even today when I freely admit that while during high school I was an active participant of role playing games, primarily Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I get an awkward response. D&D which occurred more or less between the imagination of the players and their dice was a social outlet for not only the socially inept, but for some of the open-minded social butterflies, as well. It strikes me as interesting, humorous, silly, curious, with a sledgehammer, (insert word here)_________, that as our small band, as well as with many other players from around the world (the physical one, Earth, Terra Firma, etc.), of misfit characters (from the imaginary one, Middle Earth, Narnia, Never Never Land, La La Land, _________Land, etc.) of dwarfs, elves, magic users and clerics, as well as their familiars (if you don’t know what this is, consult a D&D Player’s Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide), were subjected to constant ridicule for the way that we socialized. To add insult to injury upon myself, throughout my undergraduate course work, when I should have been drawing, I spent more than a few hours that I shouldn’t have, playing collectible card games (CCG), Legend of the Five Rings to be exact. CCG’s still relied on socialization and the imagination, but more emphasis was placed on the physical aspect of the cards, their collectability, and what was printed on them. Although I never really got to experience the video game versions of role playing to the fullest extent, it seems that now only after the rise in popularity and general public acceptance of such real-life simulations such as The Sims, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and their video game counterparts, and now Second Life, that this type of behavior is now acceptable.

It took this, only my second experience, to see the correlation between role playing and Second Life. I must admit that I went apprehensively into this Second Life assignment. First, its bad enough to feel socially awkward in the real world, but now I have to feel equally strange in another environment as well. Second, from the encounters with the avatars of other participants, I noticed that image is everything in Second Life, maybe even more so than in the land of the living. It kind of feels like a massive drag party, where everyone is presented in over-the-top, or in some cases a not-much-of a-top, costuming. In the real world, although I have friends that dress in drag and others that are all about fashion and appearance, I, am not as concerned with the emphasis placed on the ‘ideal’ in either realms. I tend to find perfections in imperfections. Third, I understand and appreciate the fact that Second Life can benefit those with disabilities and obstacles in their physical lives to be able to socialize in an environment outside of their possible confined and lonely ones. However, for myself, it felt like a roach motel, or Reno, NV, where there is little concept of time and how long I was immersed in the virtual glory of it all; avatars check in, but they don’t check out. Fourth, I noticed that inhibitions tend to be lessened in Second Life, and this could be either a good or bad thing, depending on the participant. Even I found myself making my avatar dance, and I almost never dance in the real world, unless in the confines of my fortress of solitude, entertaining only the girlfriend (real not virtual), two cats and mutt (all real, all furry), and bugbear in the pantry (all too real, look it up in the D&D Monster Manual or the D&D wiki).

In conclusion, I do not plan on spending much time, if at all, in Second Life. I guess I will have to if another assignment is given in another class, or I don’t make it out of this one. I did finally see the potential for this virtual environment as a classroom learning environment when the group met Derek and his avatar. It allowed us the experience of a more social atmosphere, than only posting comments to Angel. Also, its been a while since I’ve taken a field trip with the class; the experience was actually refreshing.

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