Staci here, on my every other Saturday, reflecting on virtual versus real life. When I think of a virtual world, I imagine the likes of Second Life, the computer game that allows you to log onto the Internet, create an avatar, and mingle with people online. Or I’m reminded of those movies where
a disgruntled office worker or worn-out cop comes home, slips on his headpiece, and enters the world of his imagination (of course, in those movies, things go horribly awry and the lines between reality and the virtual world become blurred, but we’ll ignore that part).
I think the appeal of virtual reality is that it provides a distraction from the everyday life and opens up a world of limitless possibilities. One minute, you’re Joe Schmoe with a nine-to-five job you’re not crazy about and a mortgage you can’t afford, and the next minute, you’re a super spy or a race car driver or the most popular guy at the party. It’s a lot like putting your feet up and immersing yourself in a good book.
In fact, over the summer, my oldest son reintroduced me to a forgotten part of my childhood reading: the choose-your-own-adventure book. These types of books are even more akin to virtual reality games than a standard story because you are in control of your own destiny. I get such a
kick out of watching my kid weigh the pros and cons of each decision. Is it better to stay in the tree with the green mamba or jump down and face the black rhino (he decided to jump down and make a run for it). He gets completely engrossed in the story and imagines himself as this young adventurer, knowing that one decision could lead to freedom and the other could lead to disaster.
That’s why these virtual reality games are so popular. It allows the player to decide their fate in a world in which they’d never likely find themselves otherwise. And if they discover that they don’t like the set of choices they’ve made, they can always delete their avatar and start over, completely reinventing their online persona. How awesome is that?