So you’re immersed in a virtual world, in a multi-player scenario…lulled into thinking everything is ‘unreal’…a place where the reality principle doesn’t apply. This may lead to you relating to the avatars of other players in this world as non-people, inanimate objects.
As a player, I am sitting at my computer, interacting with others…and yet, at some level, I forget these others are also people sitting at theirs computers. I might treat them differently, and act in ways I would never dream of doing in the physical world, as though I’ve ‘lost’ my moral compass.
So what is it that brings me back? What is it that brings the person to mind?
In my son’s scenario (previous post), the horror of destroying someone’s work was what brought him back to reality…and he was able to consider the person behind the avatar in a subjective way…ie putting himself in the other person’s shoes. This ‘horror’ is evidence of the incongruence of the act with an innate sense of what is right and wrong. I would suggest this innate knowing is very deeply imprinted into our psyches.
My own experience in Second Life, where I found I was acting in a way incongruent with my values, shook me to the core. I remember throwing down my mouse and pushing myself away from the desk in an attempt to distance myself from my action. And yet it seemed to be accepted behaviour in that world. And it was easy to defend against ‘feeling’ while it stayed in that virtual world, split off from my physical world. It was not until I physically met the people behind the avatars a month or so later that realised how well I had split off this experience, and then began the reparation.
The game that doesn’t acknowledge damage or reverses the damage, without any reparation required by players, can have the effect of numbing players to the ‘horror’ of their actions, enabling them to behave more and more fantastically in this online environment, without any qualms. It encourages people not to think about the person behind the avatar and may foster a false sense of reality…which can come crushing down when worlds collide.