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Living in a Virtual World

by Pennie on May 30, 2013

“If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

There was a point in time in my young life when I actually wondered if other people existed when they weren’t with, or near, me.  I spent a lot of time contemplating it.  Not sure what age that was, old enough to be curious about how life worked and yet young enough to be still very self-centered.   Much thinking centered on the details of other’s lives; were they making it all up to seem as if they had a life of their own?  But if they did, it happened at the moment they met up with me because, of course, they weren’t anywhere if they weren’t with me!  It was a conundrum.

After a period of time the idea that I might not exist also wriggled into my brain.  But if I didn’t exist, whose reality was I part of?  After a while it made my brain hurt and I went off to contemplate butterflies or how lightning bugs glowed.  I was kind of a weird kid – much too introspective even from a young age.

But today, I really do live in a virtual reality a lot of the time.  I work for a boss that I have never met and who lives 3 states away from me.  We communicate mostly via email, some chat (not video) and while I have seen her picture on this website, if she walked up and tapped me on the shoulder, I’d probably have no idea who she was.

I also play some games online like Words with Friends with people I have met at some point in time, but may not have communicated with in years.  Recently I’ve gotten sucked into Candy Crush, which you don’t play against someone, but you do see others in the game at the same time.  Again these are people, whose lives are so separate from mine except for some ancient background, and yet we help each other out in the game.  Now, for me, this all happened because of Facebook, where these games proliferate (as I’m sure on other sites as well).  You connect with some old friend, who connects you to another and another until you have this spaghetti chain of links from some relationship long ago.  Then they start posting about some game, and the buzz builds until you think, well, I’ll just check it out…

Months later, you are up at 2am feeding your “Fickens” – my daughter’s term for my online (faux) chickens – in a game called Farmville 2.  I started playing in Facebook, but then moved to the original website, because it gave me better access to the tools of the game.  This is where my virtual reality got, well, real.  Farmville 2 is another game you basically play by yourself, but on the Zynga site, you can see what everyone else is accomplishing and you can ask to be their friend and/or neighbor (and vice versa).

So now I’m connected to close to 1,000 people who I don’t know AT ALL.  At times, I chat with them through the game, and we visit each other’s farms to help each other by doing chores, but I have no real idea who they are.  Many of the people there use their real names, but plenty don’t.  You may use your Facebook profile picture, or an avatar or nothing visual at all to show the world.

The game is played from very many countries and in many languages.  Fortunately, it uses icons along with text from other players, or else I’d have to learn a whole lot of new languages and alphabets.  So here we all are in some made up place, are they real?  Am I real?  Why must I feed those “fickens” to get those eggs to make a pie crust to bake a quiche before the next time the grocer comes?   I’m beginning to feel like that kid again, wondering if I am a pawn is someone else’s reality.

Or maybe I should just get some more sleep and get a grip in the real world!

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