Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me…
Yes, yes, I’m still musing on the virtual worlds thing. I’m not sure if the world of simulations is just getting better or my patience with the real world is eroding at lightening speed, but I think I’m getting a newfound appreciation for life with an avatar.
One of the great things about being a doctoral student is the freedom to choose what you actually want to study, because you’ve essentially earned the right to tell that Registrar: Yeah, multilinear regression can take a long walk off a short pier; I’m taking a class on Virtual Worlds. And in this class, instead of weeping over SPSS pairwise comparison charts or homogeneity of the variance tests, you get to create an avatar and play two hours of World of Warcraft AS AN ASSIGNMENT. How cool is that?!
Now, I’ve never played WOW or any other MPOG (multiplayer online game), though Big Bang Theory definitely piqued my attention. However, I was honestly scared off playing WOW after watching Penny (BBT) turn into a slovenly, smelly, aggressive beast (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FZ4ycL_YcY). Plus, my real life was just so full and busy and filled with, well, real things, I honestly believed my life was far better without any of this online gaming stuff.
The irony that my doctoral studies and research is completely centered on gaming and simulation is not lost on me. But I believed that was work. My life didn’t need graphic rendering to be complete.
And it still doesn’t, really. I don’t need to play online games, build avatars, or complete quests to feel more complete or accomplished with my life. But as my world increasingly becomes fraught with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, where on any given day I’m either awarded a badge of awesomeness or alternatively metaphorically kicked in the teeth because you just simply can’t please everybody, I’m finding myself drawn into the rabbit hole of immersive simulations and games.
Face it. Games are cool. Everybody plays games. Those who know me in real life know my obsession with hockey (yes, in the off season I watched reruns of the playoffs and the Stanley Cup). I have always enjoyed playing theatre games, was a fan of PacMan when it first came on the scene (I’m THAT old), and who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned drinking game with your high school buddies or the ladies from the PTA (can those girls pack it away…).
And then, of course, there are the games we play with other people: I’ll call you if you call me; I’ll say I love you if you say it first; let’s see if you still love me after I put you through the Labours of Hercules and a Thousand and One Nights of deafening silence, stuffing wax in my ears to navigate the treacherous waters of the Sirens. Not to mention the games we play when we’re alone in the house with only our reflection through darkly mirrored hallways: games where we reward ourselves with badges of courage for saying all the things we should have said in the heat of the moment but didn’t, but are brilliant in the afterthought nonetheless.
So yes, games. We’re all game players, and sometimes we’re honest and sometimes we cheat, but we play even when we don’t know the outcomes cause we can or because we think we’ll actually win.
So I’m going to say for the record that maybe I’ve been wrong about virtual worlds and maybe having a fictionalized embodied agent fight my battles is not the worse thing in the world. The truth is I know full well that my innermost self is identical with the transcendental Self, and that which is of this earth is the same as all that which is not of this earth. I am both the fiction and the reality — something I think game designers have hit on inadvertently. We are both ourselves and our avatars at the same time we are not ourselves and not our avatars. It’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to becoming the Avadhuta, a mystic who is beyond dualities and common worldly concerns. It’s the path of the saintly fool and the essence of crazy wisdom. There are worse things to aspire to then be the hurt, lost and blinded fool stumbling about a land fully realized through mostly fantasy and imagination. Life’s a dream anyway.