Saturday, September 19, 2009

Get a (Virtual) Life (As Published by

I have enjoyed playing video games from time to time. I have invested in several video game systems over the years. After all, I like it better to play on my Sokitumi 3000 at home than paying a week's wages in quarters in an arcade. There are two reasons for this: 1. Arcades are not on every corner as they were in my teenage years. 2. Given than I am in my early 40's, my Dad no longer supplies the week's worth of quarters (no matter how nicely I ask).

If you don't want to invest in a Sokitumi 3000, you can go to the Internet and play a wide variety of games free of charge. You can even sometimes combine your video game system and the Internet and play games with total strangers within the privacy of your own home. The gaming world allows you to be a soldier, fight space aliens, or join a rock group. You can do all of these things awhile sitting in your pajamas with a plate of cookies. If you want something less sedentary, you can get a sports game that will have you on your feet swinging, throwing, or running (and never your living room).

I have come to understand that part of the draw of a video game is to live vicariously through the role of a virtual entity. Who wouldn't want to be a princess saving plumber, a major league baseball player, or a heroine in painted on clothes saving the world from apocalyptic destruction? Personally, I do not wish to be a heroine in painted on clothes (but that's just me). Who wouldn't want to join a rock group that hasn't recorded anything new in 30 years? Imagine if you will, the following scenario: "Hey man, can you play guitar? Ace Van Snider broke his hand." "No, but I have a guitar shaped game controller and I know all the color patterns." "Well, get up on the stage with us, man. YOU'RE IN!" One must admit it's a great escape from the world.

However, I have become greatly confused of late. Players all over the world (me included) have been drawn into a different type of game. I am referring to games of simulation. You start in a virtual environment that is completely bare and build it from the ground up. You can be a virtual farmer or a virtual college girl in a dormitory. I personally do not want to be the virtual college girl (but that's just me). You can build an amusement park or a restaurant. The simulated gaming world offers a wide variety of scenarios. What's strange is that you can even be an average Joe living in a virtual home. You can buy virtual furniture, virtual appliances, and a virtual painting to go above the virtual fireplace paid for with virtual money. I have even seen someone seat their virtual character on a virtual couch and play a virtual video game on a virtual wide screen HDTV. That's right. I saw someone playing a video game where there avatar was playing a video game. I was afraid that avatar's avatar would also be playing a simulation game that would create a virtual vortex that would end the world as we know it.

What gets even crazier is that some people even revolve their real lives around their virtual characters. I got home from work the other day and asked my wife to run an errand with me. She was sitting at the computer and said she had to wait until her cookies were done. I took a sniff and noticed something strange. I couldn't smell anything baking. My wife corrected me. "No, my ErsatzWurld avatar is baking cookies. If I leave now, they'll burn. Do you want my home to catch fire?" I asked her to forgive my obvious thoughtlessness and ran the errand alone. When I returned she was tending her online farm. After all, you can't let virtual blueberries go to waste.

I can't help but wonder what will happen next. Perhaps the virtual farming industry will take an economic nosedive. This will inspire three virtual musicians to host a virtual fund raising concert. You can have virtual vendors selling overpriced virtual t-shirts. You can recruit the rock group gamers to fill the virtual bill. Maybe Ace Van Snider's hand has healed. If not, I've been practicing.


  1. Dude! There are zombies out there! Don't forget the zombies! Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm sorry it took so long to get back here, but I started this farm on Facebook. . .

  2. Great essay Shane. Really takes me back to my arcade days. Can't wait to revisit Flynn's in Tron 2.0

  3. I have a farm and a whole mafia on Facebook and I grew up loving SimCity so I totally get what you are saying. It's no wonder why so many people these days don't know how to actually communicate face to face with people.

  4. There are people who spend real money buying virtual objects to decorate their virtual farms/houses/pets, and I just don't get it. Maybe I have too much college life going on to get too far into virtual life.
    I do, however, have a farm, babies, pets, a sorority house, racecar, and arcade at my virtual disposal when I feel my free time warrants it. :)
    It all started with Oregon Trail - be a virtual pilgrim and do your best to make it to Oregon alive!


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