This week’s article by Boellstorff (2008) discusses Second Life and the concepts of visuality and land, lag, afk (away-from-keyboard), immersion and presence found in online virtual worlds. What I found interesting about this article was the distinction Boellstorff emphasises between ‘being online (or “in-world”) versus offline’ (pg 108).
For most online game players, virtual worlds allow an escape from reality to a place where they have an element of control over their surroundings. When we log onto Second Life, our attention focuses to this alternative world whilst the problems that exist in our actual lives are put out of mind for the time being.
I think that a characteristic of many virtual online world players is the desire to keep the online ‘virtual’ life and the offline world separate. In this article, Boellstorff (2008) talks about the controversy over whether voice should be added as a feature of Second Life. Some residents believed that the ability to use voice would damage this ‘border’ between their real lives and their virtual life and would therefore “destroy the fantasy” (Boellstorff 2008, pg 114) – in other words, the immersion of the player into the virtual world would be impacted. I understand this concern as I am a player of an online world and I am against anything that that threatens to bridge the gap between my offline and online persona. When the virtual world that I play introduced a Facebook application that identified your Facebook friends who also played the game and vice versa, I refused to install the application.
I guess this is why they call it Second Life – players desire their online life to be separate to their actual lives.
– Katie Challita 3663620
Boellstorff, Tom (2008), Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, Princeton: Princeton University Press, [pp.93-117]
Image sourced from http://www.eslweb.org/virtualworlds.htm