Posts Tagged ‘romance in a virtual world’

Thoughts from a discussion on Romance in Second Life

November 27, 2007

My wife attended a discussion on romantic relationships in Second Life a week or so ago. I have been spending time with family and have just gotten around writing about it. First I should clarify that my wife and I are both in our 40’s and this was the first time she has ever attended any type of discussion in Second Life. To her Second Life is just some type of role playing game that people, myself included, take too seriously. Fortunately for me she is willing to help me on my “Romantic Picnic Project”. Although I did have to bribe her with breakfast at her favorite restaurant.

 

So back to the discussion, my take on my wife’s impression was that the women were really looking for a more immersive romance novel. Many of them have true relationships in Second Life that are not romantic. The relationships seem to be more like ones may make on a brief meeting such as a business trip or vacation and continue through letters and/or email.

 

The romance part seemed to be more role playing. Building a fantasy such as recapturing that first teenage romance. Taking that trashy romance novel that you have reread ten times and trying to create your favorite parts in Second Life. I have been in Second Life enough to understand this. My wife was surprised by how drawn in women were emotionally with what to her was just role playing. It was hard for my wife to appreciate the emotional energy that was put into the romance and then the breakup. I tried to explain the emotional high that the romance in Second Life can create along with the crash that comes when it ends. Having not been in a Second Life myself I had to use examples of others I have talked to. This probably explains the strange look my wife gave me along with “OK”. It is hard to explain to someone who has not spent time in Second Life that for some people it really is a Second Life.

 

The subject of stalking came up in the discussion also. My wife was surprised about this aspect of Second Life. Some of the young women have had men try to stalk them in Real Life. Being 47, over weight and balding my wife is not worried about me being stalked. However, she was a little surprised with how easy it was to use email and the Internet to identify who you really are.  In Second Life there is a high level of anonymity. This leads to behavior in Second Life that one may never do in Real Life. The anonymity is only lost when you willingly give information to someone. Like sending them pictures, etc. If the example of the stalkers is true then it would seem to me that some men are also creating fantasies that they are then trying to take into the Real World. Second Life is a world where you can be perfect. Unfortunately, this perfection can not be transferred to the Real World. In the real world we may be over weight, unattractive, etc. The Real World has warts no matter how much we may wish they did not exist.

 

Second Life is a world where our alter egos can run free. The fantasy of romance can thrive, and we can achieve that which we can’t in the Real World. Or those who don’t have a wife who reminds them that it is just a role playing game 🙂

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Is Romance in a virtual world real?

October 29, 2007

Romance in the virtual world, is it really that different than in the real world? I started this project to look at Transreality which is about goods and/or services that have aspects in the real world and the digital world. What I am finding is that romance itself has become transreal. Romance can now exist in both the real world and the new virtual worlds. I guess I should not be surprised because relationships have existed throughout history so long as both parties could communicate in some manner. The Internet has been all about communication. So it has become another means of allowing a romance. What’s new to all of this is the 3-D virtual worlds and the use of Avatars. To understand why, you really have to go back in time to a period before the first PC. To a time when the first Role Playing games came out, such as Dungeons and Dragons. What people found back then was that for some people the roles they played in the game became their alter egos. Some people became depressed and emotionally impacted when their character died in the game. Now jump to 2007 and current avatars used in 3-D virtual worlds and the book titled “Alter Ego, Avatars and their creators”. In the book Robbie Cooper, Julian Dibbell, and Tracy Spaight let people who use avatars in different virtual worlds explain a little about their avatars. As you read through the book you see how avatars can become an extension of the people who use them in a 3-D virtual world.

 

So what do avatars have to do with romance? Avatars and the whole 3-D virtual environment allow a much deeper emotional involvement then were ever possible before, using the Internet. You have personnel space in a 3-D world. You can choose to share it or prevent others from invading it. Many of our behaviors in real life are reflected when we use an avatar because the avatar becomes an extension of ourselves. In the virtual world call Second Life this has become very clear. As I traveled through Second Life this week I attended a discussion on relationships in Second Life. The discussion verified a lot of what I had already observed. For those people seeking relationships, many of the guys seem to be looking for sex; many of the women seem to be seeking romance. This can be verified by the fact that you can find clubs where a guy can hire a female escort. Yet you find few clubs setup for a female to hire a male escort. People’s behavior in real life tends to carry over in their virtual life. Unfortunately, this is not really appreciated by the people who “play” the game of romance in the virtual world.

Second Life allows someone to create just that, a second life away from their real life. People meet new people. They make friends and even fall in love. What is interesting is that people have no trouble accepting that the friendships they make in Second Life are real friendships. They may never meet someone in real life but many of the friendships are as important as ones they may have in real life. Now here the interesting part, at the same time they believe that romance in Second Life can be treated as game. They meet someone, share a number of romantic experiences, in some cases they may even hold a virtual wedding. They tell themselves it is just for fun or it is just a game. In the end one of the two ends the relationship for one reason or another. It is when things end and they experience all the emotional pain that they really appreciate just how “Real” their emotional involvement was.

Over the last month or so I have been talking to people about this. I have heard people tell me about talking to their real life partners about their relationships in Second Life. Some have even gotten their partners blessing on their virtual weddings. After all, it is not real, it is just a game, what harm can it do. The trouble is that these romantic relationships in Second Life tend to be short for a number of reasons. I have heard several stories of the people who had the blessing of their partner for a virtual wedding, needing to be comforted emotionally by that same partner when the virtual relationship ended. They were surprised by how real the emotional pain of the breakup was.

At the same time there is another group of people that follow the “What happens in Second Life, stays in Second Life” philosophy. These are the ones who have real life partners who are unaware of their activities in the virtual world.

If you seek virtual sex, or find a romantic partner in a virtual world such as Second Life, are you really cheating on you real life partner? After all Second Life is just a game not real life. Do you really lessen your real life relationship by marrying someone in a virtual wedding that your partner does not know about? These are interesting moral questions for which I only have answers for myself. But as the popularity of virtual worlds and use of avatars grows these are questions that more and more real life couples will have to deal with. For it takes time and emotional energy to maintain any type of romantic relationship.

 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.