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Blurred Virtual Lines

Technology is going to change human connection forever with the creation of Virtual Reality and Second Life online worlds. “Researchers believe new immersive technology could lead to isolation, but maybe when social needs are met online, people won’t need in-person interaction as much” (Kim). These online worlds are a place for people to escape their everyday lives to live the life they’ve always wanted. “With VR, it is possible that instead of simply escaping reality by focusing on a TV show, for example, people may choose to replace an unhappy reality with a better, virtual one” (Kim). Second Life gaming has been around since the 1990’s with the creation of the Sims videogame. Both children and adults alike played this videogame. Some saw it as just a videogame, but others saw it as their way to escape reality and live their lives through the characters. Second Life is now a virtual world instead of just a video game like is has been in years past.

The newest videogame craze is World of Warcraft. This game is similar to Sims, but has proven to be much more addictive and actually quite dangerous and unhealthy. Two extreme addictions to World of Warcraft have caused death because players lose themselves in the universe. “In 2004, Zhang Xiaoyi, a 13-year-old from China, reportedly committed suicide after playing WoW for 36 consecutive hours, in order to ‘join the heroes of the game he worshipped” (Kim). Another reported death took place in 2009 when “a three-year-old girl from New Mexico tragically passed away from malnutrition and dehydration; on the day of her death, her mother was said to have spent 15 hours playing the game” (Kim).

Virtual Realities and Second Life world are so dangerously unhealthy and addicting, that a WOWaholics Anonymous has been created in order to bring the 60+ hour-a-week users back to reality. “The Internet and virtual realities easily satisfy such social needs and drives—sometimes [they are] so satisfying that addicted users will withdraw physically from society” (Kim). As Virtual Reality and Second Life continue to grow, the worlds will probably become so realistic that it will be nearly impossible to tell the different between Virtual and real life. Are people really willing to trade in real life physical relationships for online transactions with people they will never actually meet?

Stephanie Smith @Smith32Steph

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University