Social situations shattered

How many times do we have a young player in our guild who act more like a 30-year-old than the 30-year-olds do? How often do we cross cultural boundaries and forget that we're speaking with someone who might be across the world, in a completely different time zone? To us, they're simply standing in the same room as us, and that puts them in the same place we are.

I know that I don't consciously think about where someone lives or who they really are when I meet them in Second Life or Metaplace. I'm too busy chatting with them about shared interests, because obviously if we're meeting one another while standing inside of a fantasy roleplaying simulation, then we both enjoy fantasy roleplaying.

This is doubly true when I'm playing something like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI. Not only do we now have something in common, but we can be united with our goals as well. You're here to run Nexus? So am I! Let's work together to get through this dungeon. I don't question where you come from, who you are, or how old you are. I may question you if you're not pulling your weight or bringing down the party, but even then I'm going to help you so we can get through the task together.

"In a weird sort of way, virtual worlds humanize us more than the real world is able to.

In a weird sort of way, virtual worlds humanize us more than the real world is able to. While the condition of anonymity can lead to some really destructive individuals, it can also lead to being able to connect to one another without the hangups of social barriers that exist in real life. We can meet individuals who are very different from ourselves, find common ground quickly, and then learn from one another, rather than avoiding those who are different because it scares us.

Beyond that, the experiences we gain from being in virtual worlds do not exist in a vacuum. We take what we learn and we apply it to what we do in everyday life. With enough time, I have no doubt that this too will help melt some of the social stigmas that we carry in real life, simply because we can come in contact with others in a more controlled online environment.

If you want evidence, look at the decreasing age barrier. We let younger kids and teenagers into positions of power and responsibility in our guilds and online activities, and that in turn has slowly lead to more adults listening to kids when they have something to say. We use to completely bar kids from offering advice to us "more knowledgeable, older adults" but it's been slowly changing. While it may not be the only factor that has lead to this, it certainly is one of them.

So I think it's time to give credit where credit is due. Virtual worlds, online games, and the Internet are bringing us together, and many of us are slowly finding out that we're really not so different from one another after all. We're learning about culture, gender, age, and sexuality, and it's certainly about damn time.


Colin Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased isn't that different from anyone else and is darn proud of it. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.

This article was originally published on Massively.