We imagine that the Hollywood movie version of life is somehow the reality that everyone, apart from us, experiences – a world where action heroes are the norm, road trips lead to enlightenment (and are never boring), miracles can – and do – happen, inspirational teachers routinely transform rogues into angels, and the guy always gets the right girl.
Mostly, that’s crap.
Nothing in the real world ever quite happens exactly the way it’s portrayed on film, or plays out in our head. That stereotypical, ordinary life less ordinary, where the kitchen is always clean and tidy, you can always find a parking space, and bed hair is as attractive as the most immaculate coiffure is a complete fabrication in terms of what we can expect in our everyday experience – in many ways, it can be a complete let down, but we know the score, so we put up and shut up, whilst in our minds we imagine a better one – a better life where we are the star of a script that’s far more appealing than the real thing ever could be.
Perhaps that’s why SL can exert such a powerful grip over us? It allows us to precisely fill that wistful fantasy gap and substitute an ideal world, where we are front and centre, and which meets our most fanciful expectations. In so many ways, SL is our own film stage with a plot scripted and written by us – the stars of our own virtual movie. This permits us to redress the balance: Where the real world doesn’t quite live up to expectations, lets us down or simply doesn’t pan out in the way we’ like; or where RL is simply incapable of fulfilling our fantasies, SL provides the panacea. Here’s somewhere where we don’t need to compromise in order to live the dream; somewhere we can enjoy the edited highlights, without having to suffer the in-between tedium and mundanity that comes as part and parcel of RL.
The world and activities that are the norm for us in SL are very much the product of our own wishful thinking. They are the product of the ‘what ifs?’ that we all ask from time to time and, just as in the movies, they are compressed and enhanced to leave out the less interesting parts and to highlight the excitement, fun and pace that we crave.
I think that’s one of the reasons that the SL community, unlike many gaming communities, is incredibly diverse in the way in which it explores and exploits the virtual environment. With no fixed boundaries, game play or outcomes to be pursued, we have more liberty to interpret and express our virtual lives in the way that we desire. Just as there are many genres of film, each appealing to different types of person, there is also a wide and eclectic variety of experiences that each of us builds through SL. Here we can be the property magnate, the fashion icon or superstar DJ that we could never be in RL; here we can live out the rom-com of our dreams, enjoy the swasbuckling adventure of our fantasies, or the high drama that our lives may be lacking in the real world. Best of all, we get to write the screenplay, direct the action and dictate the pace and we’re not subject to forces we can’t control as is so much the case in our everyday, real lives.
Some would say that it’s wrong to seek to escape the real world in such a way. Personally, I don’t think so, if anything I think sometimes we need to find that bit of drama and magic that’s otherwise missing from RL wherever we can – there’s nothing inherently wrong with escapism, in whatever form it takes, and if SL is where you find what you need, that’s great.
It works for me, anyway.
I’m ready for my close-up, Mr Director!
Sometimes I think I’m gonna better myself,
Searching for acceptance in this big, wide world.
The Kinks – Groovy Movies