Before we start today, this post is going to take you half an hour to get through because there’s a video i want you to watch at the end, and if you don’t have that half hour to spare, then it’s better you came back when you do have some time, rather than skimming through this and missing the point entirely. Sure, half an hour is a long time in our busy lives, but what if giving up half an hour now meant you had an extra 10 years to play with?
Over the past couple of weeks, i’ve become very aware than none of us lives forever. Within the sl community you may have heard people refer to ‘The Big Quiet’… when someone simply disappears from the virtual scene, without warning and without reason. There can be many reasons for this, including the one we invariably shy away from: sl people – real people – die.
On occasion, through some mechanism or other, the news of somebody’s passing may be communicated to the sl community, but at other times we may never know. It’s a stark reminder that this virtual world in which we never age, can never be struck down by illness and need never fear accident or injury, is simply not reality and no matter how well it may liberate us from the laws of physics and nature, there are some things from which we cannot hide.
With this in mind, as i sit in front of my computer screen, watching the light fade into night-time through my window, it wouldn’t be the first time that i’ve found myself wondering why i’m indulging so much of the time with which i’ve been blessed in the pursuit of a virtual, pretend existence? Shouldn’t i be out in the real world making the most of the opportunities that it gives and exploring the possibilities of an actual, rather than virtual life? When my final moments come, if i have the luxury of an opportunity to reflect on life, will i be filled with remorse and regrets for everything i failed to do in the real world, because of things i did in the virtual one?
Logically, i suppose, from an outsider’s perspective it could well be argued that time spent in sl is effectively wasted time – except for those very few for whom sl represents a means of making a living or for whom it is a springboard to other things, there is very little that is tangible that can have any real meaning for us as real people, or so it might appear. Personally, i would argue that’s not strictly true when i reflect about some those of the sl community who are no longer with us. You see, when you read their words, or listen to what they say about their virtual lives, and when you hear how those who were around them and spent time with them speak of their absent friends, you’ll discover a wealth of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment – a very real sense that the virtual life that was lived was every bit as worthwhile, if not more so at times, than the life on the other side of the screen. You get the impression that here are people who on their deathbeds never regretted for one minute the time and energy they expended in sl and that their real lives were the better for it.
Often i’ve debated the worth of being involved in sl and how it contributes to my quality of life, to my sense of achievement and overall happiness, but i’ve always found it difficult to reconcile how that equates to the real world… is an hour spent in sl of the same worth as an hour spent in rl? And, does the balance shift according to how we choose to spend that hour in either life?
Questions like this led me to the work of Jane McGonigal PhD, a games designer for whom games represent a powerful force for making the world a better place, if only we choose to appreciate their value and their potential. By coincidence, whilst thinking about the issues above, i came across a talk by Jane in which she talks not just about deathbed regrets but about lifestyle changes that we can all achieve, based around the game concept. Some of what she has to say seems far too simplistic to be true, yet i sometimes wonder if we struggle to accept life-changing facts because they seem to be too easy? i do know that – for me, at least – she talks a lot of sense, and that what she has to say resonates strongly with me. i also know, that when i consider sl within the context of her assertions, there are many synergies – sl has challenged me, caused me to learn and develop new skills, broadened my world view, exposed me to whole new ways of thinking and allowed me to develop friendships that transcend distance, culture and age – all of this in exactly the same way, and sometimes more so, than in the real world. The big question is, as Jane explains, how can i use what i have gained from sl to improve my real life in measurable ways?
This video goes some way to answering that question, more than that, Jane reckons that, if we so desire, we can choose to live 10 years longer and, when our number is finally up and it’s our turn to face The Big Quiet, maybe, just maybe, we can do so without regret.
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
C’est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé!
Edith Piaf – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien