NOT A GAME!!!!

My first introduction to Second Life was in first term when one om my TA’s talked about his obsession with SL. Upon hearing about it I assumed it was just another online game. But woe to the person who says that to an avid Second Lifer. I was clearly told that Second life is NOT a game. I wisely agreed at the time, but secretly still believed that it is simply an online game, much like World of Warfare or the Sims. While I was reading Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human I was happy to discover a section dealing with this topic. It seems as though I am not the only one to believe that Second Life was a game.

So why is Second Life not a game? According to Boellstorff, Second Life is a virtual world that provides a venue in which people can play games, create things and socialize. Second Life itself is no game. It is fun, and people “play” it, but it is not a game. Or so i understand. I must admit that I still am unclear about the distinction. It looks like a game, it sounds like a game,  it can be fun, so why not call it a game? What do I call it? When people ask me what second life is and I say it is a virtual world, they assume it is a game. I don’t know how else to explain it to people. I suppose I will say that it is a place where one can play games and express themselves artistically. If anyone wants to clear this confusion up for me, it would be greatly appreciated!

While I was reading Boellstroff, I initially related to his description of arriving in a strange place and being alone, lost and confused, as that was my exact feelings when I first entered the virtual world. I too felt like an anthropologist being immersed in a foreign culture for the first time. After more than a month, I still feel slightly like an outsider. My basic skills are improving and I finally figured out how to stop dancing, so I at least no longer scare away the locals with my crazy pirate moves, but I haven’t come across anywhere that I feel as though I belong. Perhaps this is because I am constantly coming across information that confuses me about the purposes of Second Life. For example. I was struck by the section in the reading describing a wedding in Second Life between two avatars. In real life, these people were strangers, yet they chose to wed their online selves. I found this incredibly strange. Why would you marry someone you’ve never met? What is the point? For fun? Remember, Second Life is NOT a game. I wonder if either person is married in real life and how their online marriages effect their actual ones.  Are their spouses jealous of their online relationship? How do online relationships influence real ones? It would make an interesting study.

Since I’ve only met a couple of people on Second Life, I don’t suppose this is really an issue for me. Currently no avatar has asked for my hand. Maybe it is because of my pirate hat or my incessant dancing, or because I am obviously a noob and have no real idea what I am doing, I don’t know, but either way, I don’t think I would be comfortable getting married in Second Life. Maybe this fact leads to the credulity that Second Life is more than a game. In a game I wouldn’t care, but knowing that there is someone real behind other avatars makes me less inclined to perceive intimate relationships and marriage in Second Life as frivolous events in a game.

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