Virtual Worlds -> Practice Worlds
Yeeess… but it’s not just the kids, is it?
Right from the beginning, during the pre-dawn of the net, when virtual worlds meant text-based chatrooms and MUDs, people have been using virtual spaces to make pretend. They were roleplaying fantastic scenarios, exploring identities, and socialising in ways and manners not practical or possible in the “real” world. And taking what they learned there back into their own real world lives.
“Online worlds,” according to Professor Gauntlett of the University of Westminster, “were very useful rehearsal spaces where children could try all kinds of things largely free of the consequences that would follow if they tried them in the real world.”
No kidding? Virtual worlds such as Second Life are very useful rehearsal spaces for grown-ups, too. There, we have the freedom to play, to pretend, to try things out, to experiment, to explore, and most importantly, to fail. We fall down, we get up, and we run with the scissors again and again and again. We gain experience by doing, we gain wisdom by failing.
This is true not just for the individual wondering if these white shoes complement that red suit, or whether it would be more advantageous to present their avatar as a member of the opposite gender or even as a human at all, or whether a corporation should present its virtual offices as hip industrial urban or super-sleek chrome and marble.
If it doesn’t work the first time, that’s okay. Because we haven’t really spent thousands of hard-earned on a disaster of a boob job, or millions on an unsafe skyscraper. The virtual world allows us the opportunity to experiment with our appearance and to redesign buildings with a few clicks.
Practice may or may not make perfect, but it certainly means that we have a better understanding of what might work, what might not, and what might be worth trying out for real. In an environment such as Second Life, we have the power to tweak and alter what we can’t in real life. Perhaps that’s what the real appeal of virtual worlds is, that others find so hard to fathom – virtual worlds make us all children again, not just in the way we play, but in the ways we find to experiment and practice and learn. And in the ways we adapt and apply our discoveries to the real world.Tags: cbbc, play, practice, pretend, Second Life