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Retrospect 2019 Tags: retrospect

 

REFLECTIONS OVER THE YEARS

I started virtual worlds in 2000 with Worlds.com, a very under-powered yet fun platform where few people built and most people met just to explore and socialize.  Moved to Second Life in 2004, then to Inworldz, and finally to OSgrid.

Somewhere in there Wayfinder stumbled into / founded a wee group called Elf Clan, with ensuing madness that lasted several years before settling down into a relatively peaceful area of calm.  It took the collapse of an entire grid to bring that about.  The great thing about now is that the computers can always be shut down and virtual life put on hold, without consideration for finances or "will things be there if I decide to re-open?".  Full control over what is supposed to be a hobby activity is a wonderful thing.

 
THE ORBIT EFFECT
One thing I have noticed over the years in this society as well as real life:  people tend to gravitate toward and orbit around prominent / charismatic figures.  I noticed this with both Wayfinder and Snoots.  When they were very active in Elf Clan, the group was lively and active.  When they "retired", the group became far less active.  I've never considered myself "charismatic", but the "orbit" effect was undeniable.  We see this around popular figures in all walks of life.
 
This is a curiosity.  One would think that people would have enough personal drive, ambition and social structure to hold cohesion regardless of the presence or absence of one individual.   But it seems that virtual reality tends to draw an odd assortment of people.  Some are socially-maladjusted and even anti-social in nature.   On the other end there are power mongers whose primary goal is to become the center of everyone's attention without the self-sacrifice, empathy and humility such a position requires.  If anything, virtual life recreates real life all too well.  Under the veil of anonymity, users show their true natures.
 
ISOLATION
It is possibly because of this that many people isolate themselves on closed islands, inviting only their friends and shutting out the rest of that undesirable element.  Oddly enough even though virtual worlds may be full of people, many feel very isolated.  This is often by necessity; one can choose to wade in the mud, or seek a better environment free of the stress often caused by others.
 
On the other hand, some create areas that are designed to form social centers.  If moderated well these can be islands of comfort for those who may otherwise be truly isolated by real life circumstance.  This all of course is just observation... some of what I've managed to glean from this experience over the last 18 years.
 
MIXED FEELINGS
Virtual worlds can be used for many good things.  They can be a social center for the severely disabled.  (Moderately disabled might make effort to get out and make friends in the new world, because virtual worlds are certainly no substitute for real life.)   VW can be used as a hobby, as entertainment, and as a creative platform-- if that use is kept to moderate levels.  When one allows that recreation to become a primary focus of life and their "second life" becomes their first life-- that's when personal value and true accomplishment suffers.
 
THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES
I discovered that truth when I "took a vacation" from virtual worlds for about 3 years or so.  I had already built and accomplished what I wanted to in virtual life and realized it was unfulfilling and without true reward.  I had tried everything... but everything was virtual, and as Inworldz absolutely proved, could vanish in a moment.  
 
That's the reality of anything really, but when a virtual grid dies an entire "planet" collapses-- something seldom seen in real life.
 
During my vacation-- void of the lure of VR-- I quite by accident discovered a new interest, which developed into a new skill, which developed into a new trade.  This was considerably more rewarding... and something over which I had considerable more control than the shaky-foundations of virtual worlds.  I also increased my choice of volunteer work, which had the nice effect of widening out my social circles and providing greater fulfillment in life-- doing something more worthwhile than pasting pixels on a wobbly virtual platform.
 
DON'T GET ME WRONG...
None of this is meant to condemn virtual worlds as a pastime, a  hobby or even a full-time occupation in rare instances.   It just means we do well to maintain a balanced view of it all, realize there are alternatives.  I've learned to break the habit of hitting the Viewer button every time I'm bored and instead search for other things to occupy my time.    There is so much else out there, so many people that need our help and attention... and so many lonely people who could simply use a face-to-face friend. 
 
There is much to be said for sipping a cuppa and simply chatting for a while with someone who is lonely.  It requires effort beyond typing on a keyboard.  It is more personal than triggering a dance animation at a virtual dance party and sitting staring at a screen for two hours.   Face to face requires true interaction, and can be far more rewarding.
 
VIRTUAL IS ONLY VIRTUALLY FULFILLING
In the end game, virtual reality is virtual.  It may touch lives in personal ways, but like anything can be abused and become unbalanced, taking over our lives.  In retrospect I realize that in the 18 years I have been involved in virtual worlds I likely could have accomplished so much more.   So the question of what I will do for the next 18 years comes to mind.   Whatever I choose, I hope it will be with greater wisdom, insight, accomplishment and benefit.  The last thing I would want on my tombstone would be, "Was an interesting avatar."
 
Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors-- and wise choices in how we use our limited and ever-decreasing days in this world.
 

--Wayfinder Wishbringer / Snoots Dwagon

 
 
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