Now the summer holidays are over…
Back to Broadband and the
virtual worlds …
‘Reality exists in all worlds’
Sitting on a golden sand beach near Splitapple Rock, in Tasman Bay, New Zealand, being warmed by the late afternoon summer sun, I wondered about virtual worlds and what they have to offer me – or anyone else.
Being without Broadband for three weeks – and Second Life for that period – made me wonder whether immersion (should I say addiction) is all its cracked up to be.
First off I must say I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms. I did, however, read nine fairly big books; swam every morning; hiked for a couple of hours over the hills and through the bush every day; listened to bird song throughout the daylight hours; drove an open-car (Jensen-Healey) frequently and enjoyably on winding coastal roads; went to bed at about 10pm and woke between 4 and 5am; and I had a lot of conversations with fairly ordinary people about fairly innocuous things, most of which – like the books – I forget the detail of now.
It was a holiday in the same beautiful place I’ve been vacationing for 20 or more years. It’s a place I love.
I was totally immersed in the reality of my environment – I have the brown skin and more tightly cinched belt to prove it – but the memories are little different from those I have got from the virtual world of Second Life. The memories now I am back at my desk are like my memories of being 30 years continuously on the road as a working journalist all over the world – little different from scenes viewed in a television travelogue or out a tourist bus window.
Of course, being there I could feel the sun and wind, the sand under my feet, and smell the sea and the ‘honey’ smell in the native bush. I also could feel the strain in my lungs and my legs climbing a steep hill, or over rocks, and feel the initial coldness of the water on that first early morning swim. But that was the only real difference.
Sitting on that beach though I came to the conclusion that for most purposes virtual worlds provide a similar experience with fewer hassles than those of the real world. I know all – yes all my friends – will disagree with that statement, or consider me demented, but I think it is true. There is no real difference in the quality of the experience despite what the naysayers, who claim virtual worlds are not real life, might argue.
I wouldn’t change my holiday venue for all the world – and I don’t think I would ever want Broadband there – but for times when I want to travel without spending five hours in a car, or a similar number of hours on an aircraft; at times when I want to talk to people about real things from around the world or even just banter, without the mind-numbing, lubricity of alcohol which many need to free their tongues in a real life environment; at times when long winter evenings, weather or other circumstances keep me indoors; or at times when I choose to play in another real place I believe interactive virtuality offers a real alternative to what people call “real life” unlike non-interactive television, or other non-interactive entertainment mediums.
But what most people in the so-called real world – and especially in education and business – have missed is that like the “real” world virtual worlds are all about people. They are not about scenery – even though I spend hours exploring the scenery of new and old simulations in virtual worlds - or scripting, or buildings, they are about people, real people, who really exist in virtual worlds, just as they really do in the so-called “real” world, despite their appearance as avatars and/or roleplayers.
Strangely that was the only thing I missed on my real life holiday: being able to talk to the real friends I’ve made in virtual worlds over the last five years. Some I only talk with infrequently, others on a daily or weekly basis. But even though most are from thousands of miles away and I will never feel the touch of their fingers in a handshake they are as real to me as anyone I have met in the real world.
And unlike my local real life tavern – in a small, provincial town in rural New Zealand, where conversations range from the weather, Rugby, cricket, racing, beer, girls and Rugby and did I say Rugby, but “don’t get to heavy” – my conversations in Second Life with both men and women from all ethnic backgrounds cover a world of ideas and dreams, from art to the universe, from medieval shipping to teleportation, from history to present day politics, and from lifestyles to other world cultures.
For me, and millions like me, virtual worlds provide a doorway out of the world we choose to inhabit, perhaps not permanently, but for a certain number of hours each week: I can step through my screen into a place where I can find people – perhaps in a reality 10,000 miles away – who think on the same wave length as me or who I can learn from, or who I can laugh with, and even those who I can cry with.
For me reality exists in all worlds: it’s just one world, whether virtual or not.
Perhaps for some reading this, that is sad.
However, for me with virtuality and Broadband I find I can live in one of the best places on earth, a million miles from anywhere, and still be anywhere in the world when I want to be with the people I choose to mix with. That’s what Second Life has given me. The world.
It has opened another door for me.