BY SHAUNA SKYE
Can you see the real me, doctor?
If you meet me in Second Life, you are meeting the real me. Ok, it’s a pixel version, but it’s probably more how I feel than in first life. Occasionally, I’m invited to roleplaying sims where people portray characters, but I politely refuse since I prefer to just be “me” when I login.
That doesn’t mean I’m not for using the imagination. We do that every day in SL if we create a world, or when we employ descriptive words to get ideas across. Even typing “lol” lets everyone know we’re amused, and some might argue that’s a form of roleplay in itself; but usually when I speak of roleplaying in SL I mean taking on another persona and immersing oneself in an imaginary universe of sci-fi, vampires, or in other cases things of an adult nature.
My first experience online was with a community of sci-fi fans. I was quite young at the time, and fascinated that I was able to talk to other people in cyberspace. This was long before I got on Second Life, and things were all done in text back then. Our group got into some real-time roleplay, which I enjoyed for a while and even wrote a little guidebook for. (Yes, you read that right. I actually wrote a guidebook on how to roleplay.)
At first it seemed like a laugh. Much of what we did was light and fun, requiring group participation of the geekiest sort. An example; we’d be on a starship and fight off alien invaders. Someone would be the Captain, and the rest of us would have duties and ranks which we’d act out accordingly. Other times we’d be in a lounge dancing. The character I created for myself was bold and probably a bit too cheeky, but we were all adults (me barely), and we got to use our imaginations in a number of ways.
And yet, a darker side began to rear its head. I noticed that some began to get emotional while we were playing, real feelings and not those portrayed “in the game.” People would never admit to this, and would say they were just acting out a character, but most of us knew differently. At first I thought something was wrong with the people who did this. It was all just pretend, right?
After playing a while, though, I noticed a gradual change even in myself. I, too, began to feel the emotions of what was happening. Not pain from battles or silly stuff like that, but situations which fit more into the social realm. For instance, if someone was my ally in the game, I felt a stronger bond with the actual person.
Then came another side. When men and women got closer, the infatuations were definitely real. Feelings of lust and bonding often transcended the boundaries of a game, and some of the online couples ended up together in person, while others had real life marriages shattered.
As for me, I found myself thinking of the activities of the group even when I wasn’t online, and it occupied my mind far more than a game should have. We can invent a world and call it unreal, but thoughts are substantial things because they take up real estate in our brains. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Because of this I decided to stop being involved with it. One day I just clicked delete and never went back, and to this day I’ve not regretted that.
Yes, I know roleplaying can be fun, and I have friends who do it; but my imagination is just too active as it is. I prefer to focus my thoughts on other things.