“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Wagner James Au, New World Notes.
An academic study co-authored last year by leading virtual world academic Edward Castronova suggests that people get more happiness from being in Second Life than they do from good news in their real life. In other words, as he wrote on his blog, “Second Life is providing a big chunk of life satisfaction, just as big as the factors that previous researchers on life satisfaction have found were the ‘biggies,’ like health, employment, and family relationships.”
I deeply suspect this is also true for people who extensively play other immersive virtual worlds and MMOs with similar features. Which would mean that for tens of millions of people, this famous scene from The Matrix, in which a man betrays his real life friends for the chance at having a better virtual life, is relevant to their actual choices.
Of course, I think few MMO/virtual world players would make as stark and serious a choice as Cypher did, but at the same time, we are already well acquainted with many who do sacrifice aspects of their real life for their virtual one — jobs and chores skipped, friends and loved ones ignored, so some of us could spend just a little more time socializing or gaming in a 3D digital landscape that doesn’t strictly exist. This also calls the mind the “experience machine” thought experiment put forth by philosopher Robert Nozick, way back in the 70s:
Screenshot from The Matrix, 1999.