Why we play?

So what is the hook about SL really? What is it that snares us up front, and then keeps us coming back for more? I have a theory that I am going to lay out, and then I would welcome further discussion amongst the masses.

Just off the top of my head I would say there are about four groups of people who play SL:

1) Content creators: I would include fashion designers, scripters, builders. Basically people who have a knack for either technical or artistic talents that work well within the opensource framework of SecondLife. They enjoy being able to share their gift with the world, even though in RL they probably man a lot of mundane jobs that repress their creative ability, they find an outlet in SL to let them do something they love.

2) Role play addicts: I would include BDSM, Gor, Ageplay, time period, Furries, and all the other random sci-fi or other subcultures out there. The combination of low oversight (at least up until recently) and open source has allowed these cultures to thrive. You can live out your deepest darkest society in relative isolation on your own bank of sims. You can develop your own set of rules and norms that govern your way of life, and you can create your own version of society based on whatever floats your boat.

3) Sex addicts: Given that 9 times out of ten if you tp into an area with a lot of green dots there is going to be some sort of sex club operating, I would have to say that this is a significant portion of the population. Obviously, people are looking for something they aren’t getting in the RL through living some sort of fantasies. 1000L’s I am sure can go a lot farther in SL than $10 USD.

None of these first three are groups that I know a whole lot about to be honest. I have met people from each of the three, had limited interaction, but really haven’t delved hard into any of them.

4) Broken masses yearning to be free: This to me is the single biggest group of people in SL today, and the group to which I feel like I belong. So what does this group mean? People in this group have some sort of deficiency in their RL life, which leads them to find what they are lacking in SL. I began playing SL as a type of escape from my RL situation. I had gone through a really rough year, and I needed something different in my life. I had never played any sort of online game before, outside of card games on Yahoo. I read about the rapid growth in SecondLife and I figured I would try it out to see what was drawing people into it so quickly.

Over the course of my year and a half in SL, I have met many wonderful people who have shared bits and pieces of their stories with me. I think that if there is one universal theme, it is that they are using SL to meet their needs that are falling short in RL. They might be extremely shy, overweight, in a bad relationship, bored, or even suffering from some sort of disability. SL has the power to put everybody on an even playing field. The old can appear young, the ugly can be beautiful, the deaf can hear (through typing), the poor can live a rich lifestyle, and the shy can be emboldened to speak out through the assumption of a character that is not as personal as themselves.

Everybody has the potential to be a hip cool cat in SL. At the end of the day, all attributes can be fixed or even recreated through alts over and over until you perfect your persona. Then all you are left with is your personality that shines through. Once you eliminate all the artificial barriers that go with RL bodies of flesh and blood, you can literally become anybody you want to be. You can define yourself as a fashionista, a lady’s man, an ultra cool DJ, a bad boy, etc etc…

It is then through finding a niche of people who help you convince yourself that you are all of these things, that you eventually find your satisfaction. SL becomes a world of making your dreams a reality, and RL becomes the boring mundane that foots the bill to pay for SL. You find romance where you didn’t have it before, you become the cool kid who others aspire to be, you become accepted for who you are in your mind, moreso than who you are in the flesh. It is through this mechanism that the initial euphoria and addiction sets in.

It is my belief, that as you start to achieve what you are lacking in your RL, then SL starts to lose its significance and hence its addiction over your life. An interesting question that I want to address in a future post is if it is possibly therapeutic to develop a more positive view of yourself in SL, and then see if it starts to carry over into RL. For example, if a shy person can learn confidence through becoming a more outgoing person in SL. I will save that for another day. 🙂

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6 Responses to “Why we play?”

  1. jellybeanmadison Says:

    I am def in the #4 cat. too. Well, I was. 🙂

  2. I agree to a point with the idea that people use SL to escape. However I do think there are perfectly emotionally healthy, happy non-role playing adults who want to explore art, music, business, shopping and playing dress up and all the other crazy opportunities SL has to offer. That doesn’t necessarily mean their RL is lacking as you suggest.

    There is a huge explosion of educational institutions opening doors in SL including Princeton University. There are TV networks, news blogs, magazines, real estate and land developers, art galleries, theater and comedy clubs. My personal favorite way to spend time in SL is the exploding live music scene. There is a lot to do and most of it beats the hell out of television even if you are just a tourist and not a content creator.

    I don’t think all SL addicts are sex crazed, roleplayers, content creators or broken in RL. Some of us simply enjoy the social networking aspect of SL that enables us to make new friends from all over the world while listening to a little music. 😉

  3. hawksrock Says:

    mhm… your right Chestnut. You are my one perfectly well adjusted friend, who just likes to listen to a lil music. 🙂

    I personally wanna learn to build so I can join all 4 groups at once…

  4. umm well, i make no claim to being perfect at anything but my rl is not deficient either.

  5. Thank You for writing this blog. It really holds so much truth and its nice to know that we are all in this craziness together. Its a second life not only because your living in a virtual world but its a second life because its giving us all hope for a second chance at our real life. It’s seen as an addiction.. and perhaps it is, but I see it as more of a “phase” of life.. that some of us need to go through in order to feel complete in our actual lives. Maybe .. just maybe second life *is* a huge part of our real lives, and is meant to be here as an aid to us that need it. Call it whatever you wish, but in the end it still brings us all together. I wouldn’t have changed a thing and am truly grateful for second life and for meeting everyone that i have throughout the years. I love you guyz! Nevah forget it! xoxo

  6. jellybeanmadison Says:

    I think you’re abso-right *my* Kala… I was telling Hawks that before SL, I was hella shy, and still kinda shy in RL even now. Can ya believe it? Lmao! Just ask him, he’ll tell ya. I think in a lot of ways my Jelly-persona has poured outta SL and entered my RL for the better. Okay well mostly for the better.

    Hawks had to remind me last night that I needed to NOT use “jelly-isms” in a meeting I had this arvo. Haha! I am happy to report that I spoke like a true grown-up and actually used big-girl words & an indoor voice! :p

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