I finally have something to say that won’t fit in 140 characters. Ever since my first foray into virtual worlds I’ve taken a bit harassing from friends and strangers alike. I’m not alone. There’s quite a bit of eyebrow raising when you start talking to people about a world that only “exists” on a stack of servers. It’s caused me a lot of thinking. Dangerous, dangerous thinking. Initial reactions to any talk of a virtual world illicit responses of “Why don’t you just hang out with real people?” or “Isn’t it weird that it’s all fake?” or something to that effect. It can get more hostile but it rarely does.
These sorts of comments push me to ponder the “real” vs. the virtual. Most virtual worlds are populated with actual people who are logged in, controlling an avatar. The world might look like a video game but in most cases it’s not. (WOW and such not withstanding) It’s a rendered “place” and it’s intangible but the interactions are real even if the stuff isn’t. If we take a minute to stop and think we, as humans, seem to surround ourselves in all sorts of things that aren’t “real.” Here’s a short list…
- Borders (not the book store, c’mon)
You might have just chuckled…but let’s think it out. Money used to be real. It was based on a certain amount of gold (here in the US) and the perceived value of that gold. (perceived value also being virtual but we’ll let it go) Now, money works because we’ve all agreed the gov’t can tell us what it’s worth. This gets a little more tenuous since government is entirely created and made up, basically, as we go along. If we all decided the President wasn’t in charge any more, he wouldn’t be. It would take an astounding organization of the public but I think you get what I’m saying. And yeah, I’m over simplifying but not absurdly so. What’s next? Borders…I’ve been to the border of states and countries. There’s nothing there. Oh sure, we put up a fence or a gate here and there but you can move a couple of miles in either direction and there’s nothing. At some point, someone decided to draw a line on a map and that line is transferred to reality…sort of. As a matter of fact, borders are MORE real in a virtual world…if you cross a border in some places your data is moving between physical servers. The border exists as a limit to the space on an actual machine. Do I have to go into religion? No? Good. Laws go with government…if you cross an imaginary border the laws you were held to become arbitrary and you’re supposed to follow new ones. They’re all made up, they’re virtual.
Here we are in the physical world living our lives for and by virtual concepts. For the most part we haven’t much choice. If we are to exist in a society we kinda have to go along with the majority if we want any sort of comfortable life. I just ask that we think twice before commenting on the virtual gathering I’m attending in a virtual space where I might use a virtual currency to buy something because stealing it would be against the virtual laws of that virtual space…