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Virtual Worlds Reach Reality

F

or the past two months I’ve been involved in an online

virtual role-play project on Second Life. For those of you who have no idea what Second Life is, check out http://secondlife.com/whatis/ for your very own special introductory video. Be prepared to feel slightly stunned, and if you’re like me kind of bemused. If the video doesn’t appeal to you, Second Life de- scribes itself as the ‘Internet’s larg- est user-created, 3D virtual world community.’

The role-play’s taking part in Second Life where to see how successful online role-plays’ could be as opposed to role-plays in the physical world. Go to http://www. antiviolencecampus.org/ to read their mission statement.

I was apprehensive to say the least, when I was approached to take part in this project. At first I declined the invitation, but upon

learning that it could double up as part of my digital media assign- ment, I reconsidered.

Honestly, I was scared, scared of such a large online community with ‘avatars’ the thought of Sec- ond Life made me feel old- prob- ably the same way my parents feel about msn messenger, facebook and myspace. I felt very cynical and didn’t think Second Life could offer me anything worthwhile. I didn’t feel like my technological skill was up to the task (designing your ava- tar is very mentally strenuous). I’d also heard of some of my parents’ friends succumbing to Second Life and letting their first lives deterio- rate. I just kept thinking, I don’t have time for a Second Life; I can barely keep up with my first one. But the ‘killing two birds with one stone’ opportunity presented itself, so I ‘bit the bullet’ and had a go.

Before I created my avatar, I start- ed thinking about what I wanted her to represent. I didn’t want her

to be an extension of myself. A pixelated me walking around didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. So I figured she’d have to be a com- pletely separate entity. (I wrote all about this on my blog http:// contortedteddys.tumblr.com) Take a look.

My first trip into Second Life left me feeling out of my depth to say the least. I had no idea what I was doing. I think I accidentally made my avatar lose all her hair. It was all very stressful. But once the role- play started, I got into the swing of things. Admittedly I’m one of those 21st century children who spent way too much time on msn and myspace and now facebook. So my typing is quite fast. I managed to keep up with a type-based role- play pretty well. Observers were pleasantly surprised at how ‘well’ the role-play flowed, even if some of the participants felt frustrated at their typing speed. Not being from an acting background I was also worried that this would hinder my believability as a character, but because it was all text based I wasn’t embarrassed, I just typed as it came to me. Hiding behind a screen and a keyboard definately had its advantages for this game. Simultaneously reinforcing how dangerous virtual reality could potentially be. If I, somebody who cringes at the thought of acting, felt at ease playing characters online, then so must thousands of other people, who come want to escape and lose themselves online.

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