Yours truly is no marathon runner – i can’t be doing with long-haul stuff; for something to keep me interested, it needs to involve a noticeable element of change and progression; it needs to be constantly stimulating and engaging, otherwise i find it terribly easy to lose interest.
This is one of the reasons that i’m not particularly what you might call a gamer. Over the years i have played many games at one time or another, everything from text based ‘adventure’ games, platforms, puzzles and logic problem games, driving games and strategy – i’ve even indulged in the odd shoot-em-up, although i can’t say i’m particularly drawn to them. My usual pattern is to get completely absorbed in whatever game is my current ‘flavour of the month’ – almost to the point of addiction – this can last several weeks then, all of a sudden, the game will lose its appeal, i’ll become bored with it and there’s a fair chance it’ll never be resurrected. Some do occasionally make a comeback tour and often with the same intensity and fervour but it’s always short-lived.
It hasn’t happened with sl.
So, what is it about sl that’s different from every other type of virtual distraction that i’ve so far dabbled with? What is this strange hold that it exerts and why, even after all this time, there are no signs that i’m going to become bored or lose interest in the virtual world that is sl? It was only when reading a recent piece by fellow blogger Paypaback Writer, and watching a video that she’d posted that i realised some of the things that are unique about sl and the way that i engage with it.
The really relevant bit starts at 5′:27″ where the video starts to discuss ‘Fluid Intelligence‘ – a part of our psychological make up that is intimately connected with our capacity to maintain an attention span when undertaking tasks – and there, in simple terms were five straightforward statements that clearly explained to me why sl has had greater staying power than any other digital pursuit i’ve engaged in:
- Seek knowledge
- Challenge yourself
- Think creatively
- Do things the hard way
That’s not to say that Tetris, Gran Turismo and Tombraider don’t possess some of those elements, of course they do, but few games, even the most interactive and collective ones manage to combine all of those elements quite so effectively, consistently and with such constancy as sl. Games may present us with problems and challenges to solve but sl also allows us the opportunity to create our own novel problems as our creativity is explored, together with our own unique and novel solutions – there is rarely a ‘correct’ way to achieve our goals in sl, especially since we ourselves decide what our personal goals are; there are no walkthroughs and no cheats – our second life is as much about self-discovery and learning about the world around us as our real life. Similarly, whilst sl does have some limitations and rules imposed by the physics of the virtual world, within those constraints we have the freedom to be as creative as we wish, to make our own rules and push ourselves beyond our own limitations, through discovery, the seeking of knowledge and the lessons that we learn along the way.
Unlike a driving or strategy game, or a quest, we are free to develop skills on a ‘Just in Time‘ basis, as they are needed and to meet the demands of specific situations – these acquired skills aren’t honed by pitting ourselves against other ‘players’ or specific challenges, although we may well use the achievements of others as a benchmark or goal, but through experimentation, adaptation and re-engineering… we are constantly being challenged, but the challenges are diverse and few of them will require us simply to be better, stronger or faster – to do the same old thing that we’ve done a hundred times before, just to prove we’ve mastered that ability – these skills are open-ended and infinitely adaptable.
As for networking – sl goes beyond the simple information exchange of Twatter and Faceboob… It constantly exposes us to a diverse and changing array of connections on a variety of different levels; social, business, collaborative and the one-off interactions that happen time and time again; but this is not an add-on, it is intrinsic to what sl is all about and brings its own challenges and insights.
There’s another aspect to sl that’s not touched upon in the 5 points mentioned above and it’s another reason why i’m unlikely to tire of the virtual world any time soon. You see, i have a personal investment in sl – not just the time spent there… i could just as easily invest hours in playing Tetris – there’s a far greater personal investment involved in being who i am in sl – the way i look, the things i do, the objects, places and things that i create to express myself virtually. Consequently, there is part of sl that reflects me, my ideals and my creativity – a very personal part that has taken time, effort and dedication to achieve – this too, creates something that has greater staying power than any game could ever have.
So, i think i’m going to be around for quite some time yet – just like so many sl old-timers for whom the virtual world has become a natural extension to the real world and, if the scientists are to be believed, it’s good for us too!
This is our decision to live fast and die young.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?
MGMT – Time To Pretend