Week 7- Second life

This week, we got to play video games for a grade! Kinda. The reading this week comes from a Princeton Anthropoligist by the name of Boelstorff, who did an extended study on Second Life, a virtual world found somewhere on the tubes of the Internets. He starts off justifying his research through Malinowski, who, it’s revealed, spent a lot of time in Australia interacting with local tribes, and felt that good research took prolonged contact with the subject. Honestly, it strikes me as much the same argument I used to my Mom to justify playing Mariokart on saturday mornings instead of mowing the lawn…I was practicing for when I could drive a real car.

That may be unfair though, as this research is really interesting to me, because seeing how people interact now on Facebook, and the social rules there fascinate me.  For instance…when is poking taboo? Why? Why would they add it? How can I get that stupid thing turned off?

Anyway, the reading goes on to talk about how “the real world” isn’t a true or fair antonym for “the virtual world.” This part really stuck with me. I’m very much a “define things in black or white” kind of guy, it’s why I like marketing, because you can justify this process. “We have the BEST toaster! People love our toaster! It’s the cheapest! It makes toast!” Sure, there’s thousands of ways (probably) to measure the best toaster, the variables in heating, size of bread allowed, number of toasting stations, etc. But they’ve defined their toaster as the BEST, because it’s the cheapest (which IS a way to get that binary option), and it fits the category. Marketing, at least to me, is about figuring out what people care about, and making the product the best for those parameters, or, taking those parameters and changing them so that your product fits as the best.

Verizon and ATT are a strong example, both are saying that they are the best, because of number of cell towers, faster speeds,  etc, even though they both sell the same thing: service for the same iPhone 5. Does anyone else do this? Or am I crazy here?

Anyway, my experience with SecondLife may not be fair and unbiased, as my videogame preferences tend to learn toward the “frat boy” games, games that are quick, easy, and can be played with others drunk. The Modern Warfare, Halo, Mariokart kind of games. I realize that this puts me low on the “gamer” hierarchy, but oh well.

The first thing I noticed was the animation of a rather attractive woman in a very small bikini. I may need to reevaluate my thoughts. I played as a white male, because it seemed familiar to me. After downloading all the software, and choosing the free account, I was able to access the 3d world. Walking around wasn’t too difficult, though it did take a while to render all the locations. OH! you can be a squirrel.

After playing around for a while, I’m certain this isn’t really the game for me. I never really got why people would go to virtual clubs, drink virtual things, etc., when they can do it in real life. I can’t kill zombies in real life, video games let me do that. But I can go to a bar and talk to a stranger or build a house and have a home.

I realize that there’s fantasy and escapism involved, and that I haven’t played this long enough to truly “get it.” But I’ve always been of the mindset that there’s really nothing in the “real” world you can’t get around or “escape.” It’s just the determination to change things.

But that might be a conversation to be had in the “real” world. Back to my very real, but virtual homework.

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6 Responses to Week 7- Second life

  1. Like you, I am not all that into the whole virtual world thing, and also like you, I was calling it a game and escapism. The author defended his position of Second Life not being a game or escapism, because there is no beginning or end (or winning, for that matter) and there is a community social culture. I can see where he doesn’t like it being called a game, but I definitely think it is escapism. I mean, look at his example of going to a SL wedding for two people who don’t know each other in the real/actual/whatever-we’re-calling-it world, and the couple might be a man as a women, a woman as a man, a squirrel as a human, … I cannot help but think of this as an escape from whatever RL they have offline.

    While I was reading this chapter and dabbling online, I kept coming back to the day I was in a local park, pushing my (then) toddler on a swing, and an adult horde of sword-wielding, armored knights came running out of the woods. I’m not sure there is much difference.

  2. alanyskpl says:

    I laughed at your “frat boy” games comment because I play those too, but ironically with frat boys. And you’re definitely not crazy about your AT&T and Verizon thoughts. One day they’re gonna run out of ways to compare each other, faster bigger better….I use to play online virtual world games but not as intensely as some people. Games like Diablo and WOW are less “real life” and daily lives types of games but around the same concept of creating an online character. I agree that a lot of people do see it as an “escape” from their daily lives. Is it healthy? I would think not….

  3. naseemspeaks says:

    Chris, I liked how you mention that playing games where you kill zombies makes more sense than entering a virtual world to meet random strangers at a bar. While reading that and agreeing with your statement—I then began wondering who is the typical Second Life user. Perhaps these are people who have a hard time interacting with people in the real world (or these people could be disabled or have low self-confidence?). So in that sense, maybe building a house or going to a bar to meet strangers really is impossible and that’s why the virtual world provided by Second Life is appealing to them? Somehow I don’t think my theory is entirely right—but it might play a role somehow.

  4. Emily Davis says:

    I definitely agree with the zombie theory as you put it. What gives me the heebie jeebies about second life is that you are doing every day things. (Although, now that I type it, I see where someone could say playing Wii tennis is weird because you can do that in real life.) I admit that these are just my personal feelings though. And I can see why some individuals would use it as a form of escape. Maybe perhaps, children that are being abused want to go on Second Life to forget what is happening in their real life? For that, I will try not to rag on it, but it is not something that I would personally use.

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