My first thought after reading these articles was how can people be so naïve? There is no way that the lines between the real world and the virtual MMORPGs can be blurred to a point where the argument can be made that these virtual worlds are real. It is almost a terrifying thought. If people are so unhappy with the lives that they have that they become consumed by these created fictitious lives and also get more fulfillment from them. . . I worry about what our real world has become.
In the Banes article she describes an experience she had with another member of Second Life where a sexual encounter experiment went wrong because she did not have the necessary “skin” that mimicked what a real woman’s body would look like. Her avatar did not possess nipples or a vagina, which in my mind is not strange because an avatar is not a human. This created virtual being is not going to have the qualities that the human body does. Sure you can get a “skin” that makes it appear that it has them but they are still not real. It is like a painting. A painting can look like a real human being, but it is not. It was created. The fact that people who are involved in these virtual worlds rely so much on actual human features astounds me and makes me wonder why they are even involved in something fake if they want what is real.
Baym states that “even people who hang out and build relationships online contrast it to what they do ‘IRL’ (In Real Life)”. This lends support to the fact that platforms like Second Life are not real. Yet there are still people like Thomas Montgomery who are obsessed with the idea of living as a younger version of themselves and they change their reality with the notion that this fabricated identity is real. In cases like this, real world implications occur and affect the lives of many. When “players” become delusional and start to believe that their virtual self is real, they create confusion and bring on consequences in their real life.
When it comes to being seen as “perfect” and “flawless” I understand the attraction. I’m a girl living in America. I deal with that everyday. But how perfect can a place be when there is such strong concerns like racism? This is a serious issue that we have been trying to overcome for decades in the real world but in Banes’ article an experience is described where the simple changing of an avatar’s skin led to outward racial slurs. In an article from Pixels and Policy, Wagner James Au was interviewed and he made the statement that “Instead of building a virtual world where race is irrelevant, social conditioning is producing a space where those in ‘unfavorable’ races can easily assimilate into a ‘favorable’ skin tone.” This comparison may be a bit drastic, but do the users of virtual worlds like Second Life have an Adolf Hitler mentality? Do they want to create this “perfect” world where all bodies are white, toned, and possess flawless features? Are we, as a white race, creating this world where we can finally be seen as dominant and better? When statements are made that people in Second Life are creating better versions of themselves, what does this mean? If a person is black or Hispanic, does this mean that they would be a better person if they were white?
The world of Second Life may appear to be one of perfection but the misfortunes of the real world are apparent as well.