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my life as a night elf priest

The Virtually Real World

Nardi discusses the following criteria for a virtual world in chapter one: creating an animated character, moving that character in 3-D space, having means of communicating with others, and having access to a variety of digital objects. These virtual world criteria can be easily translated into the real world—once again a representation of the fact that games mirror, and shape, society. The first real world example I thought of—however silly it may sound—to demonstrate the presence of these four criteria in a real life situation was a night club. At a night club, participants—I guess we’ll call them— ‘dress to impress’ in their wildest, but most attractive outfit, which is geared toward creating a “party” image or version of ourselves. These club-goers are creating an animated character. They move through the wide open space of the club with different areas of interaction (dance floor, bar, private lounge, etc…). Some people dance, some people sit and mysteriously scope out their surroundings, some people are the life of the party, and some people are just glad to be a silent participant at the party. They choose the interaction and the activity they would like to partake in based on their mediated surroundings. They communicate through excessively loud music, somehow—through body language primarily, but there is no doubt face to face communication occurring in a manipulated way. They have access to a variety of strategically marketed objects: drinks, drink accessories, glow sticks, V.I.P. Tags, etc… Nardi says that “the culture of the virtual world is enacted through human conversation and designed objects that mediate activity;” each aspect of a night club is a mediated activity—the alcohol, the dim lighting, the loud music, the best dressed people in their animated party characters—all of it.



5 thoughts on “The Virtually Real World

  1. I really like the example you have chosen to illustrate this point. It seems that we are always projecting ourselves and moulding ourselves into an image which is alien to our body. The night club example illustrates this point well! The fact that we enjoy games where we can create a character in our likeness or something we wish to be and then move the character around a virtual space, doing whatever we want to do, makes gaming very pleasurable.

    Posted by aditipre | June 6, 2013, 3:27 pm
  2. Even further, this enacting of ourselves is our ‘natural’ state. Night clubs certainly put the pressure on to perform, but in ‘everyday’ encounters (why is there always a need to separate certain events from the ‘everyday’, or even, reality?) we perform the version of ourselves we have determined to be most suited to the situation. Certainly, this is not an old concept but definitely interesting. Every single object we encounter has been designed in a highly selective manner and enacts/performs/expresses something about us as both a human being, an individual, and then into further subjective categories (masculine, feminine, heterosexual, homosexual, musician, athlete; whatever social categories we or others put us into). Video games seem to heighten this reality because what we chose to be in video games are so often not what we are, or could hope to be, in ‘real life’. Night clubs give us the freedom to be the party-animal we wish to portray, while games like World of Warcraft give us an entire world of fantastic characters to play. Regarding Second Life, Nardi is disappointed that “the reproduction of consumption as a primary activity” constitutes much of the Second Life landscape, and to me, it seems that she is suggesting this is merely an exaggeration of everyday human desires and actions. I argue, however, that creating a landscape teeming with sex and shopping suggest the dissatisfaction with or lack of fulfillment with these desires in everyday life. Second Life gives people the opportunity to be the human and material consumer they wish they could be in ‘real life’. In World of Warcraft one may choose to be a Blood Elf because they are desirous of or attracted to its qualities, so it is not unlikely that in Second Life we can choose to embody a highly sexual or materialistic personality. Video games give us the opportunity to enact a performance we want but may not be able to live otherwise.

    Posted by emmajani | June 6, 2013, 6:39 pm
  3. Thank you for your comment Aditipre! The concept of Avatars in gameplay, and how games would not be the same without them is really interesting. Like you said, we are able to create a fantasy version of ourselves, and act out things we’d never have the guts to in actual life. Every time I start to play a new game, my FAVORITE part is to create my Avatar before I start doing anything else– as if my entire mentality going forward is shaped by who I wanted that character to represent. Very interesting.
    Again, thanks for commenting. 🙂

    Posted by jowz24 | June 7, 2013, 8:33 am
  4. Thanks for commenting Emma… I really like your line: “we perform the version of ourselves we have determined to be most suited to the situation.” You made some really good points about the nature of Second Life, especially compared to the nature of something like WoW. Both give players the same sensations in much different ways.

    Posted by jowz24 | June 7, 2013, 8:36 am
  5. The following passages on pages 182-183, after Wade’s invitation to a birthday party, illustrate the basic idea of the way one creates an animated character according to specific settings:
    “I spent over two hours tweaking my Avatar’s hair and trying on different skins to wear to the club… I also loaded my inventory with my best suit of body armor and a large amount of weaponry… [The club] was located in a PvP zone”—where peers or players can activate in battle with each other, usually becoming the proud new owner of all their enemies resources if winning. “Thousands of Avatars were packed up against the velvet rope force fields that kept everyone without an invitation at bay. As I walked toward the entrance, the crowd bombarded me with a mix of insults, autograph requests, death threats, and tearful declarations of undying love”— not unlike a real night club. “I had my body shield activated, but surprisingly, no one took a shot at me. I flashed the cyborg doorman my invitation, then mounted the long crustal staircase leading up into the club.”
    Using the engineered security of our animated persona—living through an avatar or escaping from reality in a virtual world—can be considered a defense mechanism, but not in a negative way necessarily. They say that the act of dreaming is an integral part of one’s well-being. We participate in dream worlds like we participate in a game world. Both allow us to go beyond the limitations of our human circumstance, and experiment with possibilities we can’t access in conscious life. OASIS, like all alternate video gaming worlds and dream worlds, allow us to experiment with fantasy versions of reality. It is proven that we need these escapes for the development of our mental and emotional health. It can work oppositely as well though, when one becomes too immersed in these alternate worlds, he or she finds a difficult time succeeding in or accepting the real world that’s full of setbacks and limitations that simply don’t exist in virtual fantasies. It’s all about the balance.

    Posted by jowz24 | June 19, 2013, 5:59 pm

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