I Don’t Want A Second Life (Part 4)
Saturday January 21st 2006, 9:34 pm
Filed under: second life

It’s over, folks. Seriously. This has gone far enough.

I’ve been a video game dork for pretty much my entire life. I’ve had a computer since I was probably 7 years old. I played Oregon Trail and all the early Sierra adventure games. I had an Intellivision and an NES. I blew it with the next generation and got a Turbo Grafx. I never had a Super Nintendo or a Playstation. Hell, I just now got a Playstation 2. Okay, I kind of suck with buying consoles, to be honest. Seriously. Who the fuck buys a Dreamcast? Whatever. The point is that I’ve been a gamer my whole life, and this is the first time I’ve felt like video games might actually be bad news.

The irony of it is that it’s because video games are too good now. An online RPG can offer a player something that games couldn’t offer before: Human interaction. A gamer doesn’t need to have friends over to play video games in his living room anymore. All he has to do is log on, and while the tech nerd in me is totally amazed by that, another part of me (probably the part of me that goes out and drinks beer and hangs out with other people in real life) is totally creeped out at the same time. It makes interaction easy. I don’t think interaction should be so easy. I think that sometimes you should have to leave your house to hang out. Call me old fashioned, but despite all the stock I’m willing to put into these internets here, I’m still a little uneasy about conducting the bulk of my social life over it.

It’s good for funny videos though.

Second Life is an especially weird case. In other online RPGs there are, like, quests and shit, right? You run around and grab scrolls and buy potions and then you go out into the virtual mountains and fight shit and steal their skin and then sew it into tunics that you sell to buy new swords to kill bigger shit, right? That’s the basic premise, I think. The problem with that as opposed to regular video games is that, as opposed to regular games where there is a start, middle, and an end, these games go pretty much forever. There will always be new spells to learn. You can always gain another level or get some more magic points or whatever. Couple that with a large social element in the game and you’ve got a recipe capable of killing literally tens of asian guys.

Second Life is different. There are no quests to speak of – you pretty much do whatever you want. If you want to just hang out, that’s cool, but you can make things to sell, start a business, be a hooker… whatever you want. It is role playing in a different way than role playing in a game like Final Fantasy. In Final Fantasy, you’re a wizard or a warrior or an elf or whatever. There’s magic involved. That’s very different from playing a game where you’re, say, a prostitute. It provides an outlet to live out fantasies in a game that you could conceivably do in real life. Maybe the 40 year old woman (or more likely man) pretending to be a prostitute in Second Life has fantasized about being a prostitute in real life. Maybe the guy who opens a store in Second Life is a failed businessman in real life. Maybe the people who dress up like leopards and have group sex in a virtual forest in Second Life are actually… well… I’m not even gonna touch that one.

People can do whatever they want in their real lives or in a video game. That’s totally fine with me. But there’s something about Second Life that smacks of broken dreams and unfulfilled desires. People can shout until they’re blue in the face that it’s just a game, that I’m being unfair and how-dare-you-judge-people blah-blah-blah. I’m not purporting to be a sociologist or an expert on the subject, but that’s what I pick up. People living out fantasies in a video game that is, more or less, grounded in an emulation of the real world. And that to me is, well, just kind of depressing.

That puts me at an interesting crossroads. Since I started “playing” this game, I’ve walked around and taken snapshots of stuff that struck me as weird or funny or just downright sad. I haven’t made any friends in the game (which you’re supposed to do) or done anything that could be perceived as constructive in any way. I have no interest in starting a business in the game, or getting a job in the game (“Sorry guys, I can’t go out, I have to work a bar shift in Second Life tonight”). I’ve walked around in the game talking shit and taking screenshots long enough. It’s do or die, and I’ve pretty much decided I don’t want to “do.”

So I’m gonna try to get kicked out of the game.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted.

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