Virtual Worlds and their Effects on Role-Playing

As I am sure we have all witnessed that technology has come to great heights, especially within the last decade.  A new option for online users and gamers are virtual worlds.  In essence it’s a multiplayer online roleplaying atmosphere, in which you are able to create avatars, upon which you can control and interact with others.  I have heard of this, especially the more popular virtual games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life.  I have not personally experienced these virtual worlds before, but I guess for some it is a place that you have the opportunity to explore and be someone other than yourself.

A man by the name of Nick Yee conducted s series of studies exploring the relationships between the avatars appearance and the behavior in the virtual world.  He found that most people tended to stick with the social norms that are also practiced in real life.  For example, men tend to stand further apart from other men, and stand closer to women.  Also, the more physically beautiful the avatar was the more confidence that the avatar had with interacting with other avatars.  The same with height, people that are taller or bigger seem too more assertive. Even shyness and eye contact come into play in these virtual worlds.  In retrospect, it makes sense that people would assume proper role-playing in the virtual world, but at the same time I think that’s the perfect outlet to not be normal.  Initially, I thought that people would seize the opportunity to be totally out of character and break tradition, but the majority of the time that is not the case.

However, there are those that do not seem to have a limit to what they can do to others and in the virtual word, they are known as “griefers” and they basically create havoc.  There are individuals or sometimes groups of avatars that game simply to kill and upset other gamers to the point that other gamers quit and never return.  They are basically the bullies of the virtual worlds.  I understand wanting individuality and sometimes in these games avatars are expected to kill, but not to this extent.  I think there is a really thin line being drawn, to the point where these individuals are loosing the sight of their morals and ethics.  Some people think that its ok to bully and hurt people in virtual worlds, but there have been cases that people have hurt people in real life as a result.  There are some who just cant see the difference, and I think that virtual lives can be dangerous.  People think that because it’s acceptable online; its acceptable in the real world and that is just not the case.    And I also think that because so many people are now involved in these virtual worlds that we no longer know how to interact with each other.  In other worlds we can be whoever we want to be, but in reality some people cannot make the transfer over.  I have seen it plenty of times with individuals who game too much; interacting can sometimes just be awkward.

In the end, being in the virtual world can have its pros and cons, but ultimately, those who choose to be apart of this need to differentiate between virtual and reality.

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