After spending time in-world at Second Life, I am intrigued by the idea of making my own island. I could be queen of my own realm! I could be me, only a little taller, a little thinner and a little more exotic. (Wallace, 2010) Like Ussery’s (2010) students, I could build and sculpt my perfect place. I could develop a place for people to bring beauty and creativity. It could be a place of museums, salons, and gardens.
Ironically, as in the physical world, any “subjects” who happened into my happy little place would change it beyond my control. The minute someone besides myself joined the realm, operating on their own free will, they would bring with them their own positive qualities, beliefs, and prejudices (Wallace, 2010). My place of beauty and creativity would flex under the tension of not only my wants and needs, but those of anyone else participating. For my realm to be a community, I could no longer be queen. Whatever my design might have been would take on new, deeper meaning as my world populated, communities formed, and groups banded together to complete common goals. The realm I designed would ultimately have its own history and culture evolving over time as the participants imprinted their pattern on the fabric of the world.
The dynamics of the real versus the ideal and the actual versus the potential, as well as the juxtaposition of the individual versus the community are what pull people into virtual worlds and massively multi-player games. These spaces give us an opportunity to “play out” problems in an environment where failure (even unto death) is not final and experience adds up in a tangible (well, virtual) way. We can take the framework that the game creator designed and flex it into a culture and community. We can test our sense of ourselves, play on our strengths, and hopefully learn to mitigate our weaknesses in a “safe” environment. In a virtual world, we confront the good and bad in ourselves and others in a way that leaves us room to turn off and unplug when we’ve had enough.
In that sense, even in a virtual environment, no one is Queen of the World, but anyone can enjoy the game.
Expanding Educational Realities – Exploring Interactive and Immersive Learning Experiences. By Janyth Ussery. 2010.
Some of My Students Are Not Human! Avatar Interaction and Collaboration in Virtual Worlds. By Paul Wallace. 2010.