Much like Peter Pan, as a child I never wanted to grow up – not because being young was particularly fun, it was more a case that the thought of becoming an adult, with all the attendant grown up things that adults are expected to do, like going to work and paying bills, absolutely terrified me (they still do!). As, inevitably, I did grow older my feelings changed. I did waver however between wanting to be older still and wanting to stay put throughout my teenage years, which I have to say were not the best, and if I had the chance I’d leap at the opportunity to go back and do it all over again, but properly, this time!
No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop the march of time, neither can you – unless you have extraordinarily good fortune, or lashings of hard cash handed to you on a plate – avoid those things that mark adulthood for what it is. These are the serious things, which many of us would gladly trade if it was at all possible: the daily grind, feeling stressed and tired, paying bills, coping with the ups and downs of family life, car insurance, pensions, broken washing machines… The list goes on forever.
These days however, more than ever before in the past, we are permitted some respite from all those grown up things that take up so much of our lives and energy, and it’s only really in the last few decades that adulthood hasn’t automatically meant losing any hope of leisure time and being able to do fun things, just as we used to as children. Pursuits and pastimes that might once have been considered purely the preserve of the younger generation are now equally considered to be just as appropriate for grown ups as they are for kids. Everything from dressing up as our favourite superheroes or Star Trek characters, through going to music festivals, riding bikes along dirt trails, video gaming and even trampolining for fun are as popular with the adult population as they are with the youngsters who would, in the past, have had exclusive rights to such frivolous entertainment.
It might explain why SL hasn’t totally faded into the background noise of the internet too. I don’t think that any of us are under any real illusion that SL is at all ‘down with the kids’. Much as the Lab would love the younger generation to be flocking to their virtual world in the thousands, the reality is almost certainly more mundane – there may well be a fair number of youngsters for whom SL is their number one escape, but they’re far more likely to gravitate to the worlds of Grand War Scrolls Fantasy, or whatever is the current happening favourite. By far the greater number of SL adherents that I come across in my travels happily admit to being in their thirties, forties and upwardlies, but that hasn’t resulted in SL becoming any more adult in consequence, neither do we see grown ups in SL doing typically grown up things.
By its very nature, SL frees our inner child – all those things we used to fill our time with as children we can do in SL, even more so than we could get away with in RL. So, whatever it may be that helps us recapture our lost childhood we have free rein to rediscover inworld… Is playing ‘dress up’ with our avatar really any different from dressing up our dolls as children in RL? Is furnishing our inworld home really any different to playing with dolls’ houses, wendy houses or tree house dens in the real world? Is playing silly games with banana guns, cake throwers and anvil chuckers so different to messing around with water pistols, flour bombs and spud guns in RL?
All those things that were once an integral and important part of our lives – those things we lost when we had to put aside our childish ways, grow up and become serious, stressed and wishing for the past… SL lets us have them back.
For me, it’s not just Second Life, it’s a second childhood!
“From the child’s point of view, the things which the adult considers irrelevant to survival are perfectly important. And so children collect pebbles and colored glass, and all sorts of trivia which they
consider as precious as diamonds. The adults say, oh pff! Frippery. But they really have the secret.”