Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Virtual Reality Games?

I've never really understood why people enjoy playing games such as Farmville and other reality games. I have tons of friends who play them and I'm constantly getting requests to join and see posts about their achievements. What is the fascination with these games? Some of my friends become so involved with these games that they talk about them in conversation as if they matter somehow to real life. They will even take time out of doing other activities to log in and tend to their virtual realities. Why do so many people play them and become obsessed about them?


According to "Planting Crops in the Hyperreal: Farmville and Simulated Work", an article by Emily Hall about the fascination and addiction of Farmville, it's all about how the game mimics reality:
Creators of the virtual game have constructed a hyperreality. As the game offers a myriad of awards, prizes, and sometimes even notable recognition, players can come to believe that they are more appreciated at their simulated job than at their real job. Thus, the hyperreality of work created in Farmville supersedes work in the real world. (Hall 1) 
In creating a world where the user can achieve ribbons and points by succeeding in their work, have neighbors and online relationships with them, create an avatar that mimics the player's self (whether their real physical appearance or their inner idea of who they are), and even spend real money to purchase Farmville money to buy items in the game the creators of the game have made something that mimics reality to the point of hyperreality. Users will actually begin to prefer the world of Farmville over the real world around them because it's easier work and they have the illusion of social relations and achievements.

As someone who doesn't play these kinds of games, though I have tried to before and was not terribly impressed, I'm still not sure I quite understand the addiction. Therefore, while reading this article I tried to think of something in my life that might be similar to this kind of escapism: reading books. For me, when I read a book I picture myself as the main character, whether I am my physical self doing what's written or if I am the character described (similar to how players in virtual reality games can create an avatar).

When I read I picture my virtual book self doing the tasks and going on adventures as described in the book. My book avatar may go through trials, win achievements of various sorts, and do all kinds of other "real" tasks. I imagine this is similar to how players in Farmville get trophies and other games make players do various tasks to win points.

Reading is also my own form of escapism, trying to (momentarily) immerse myself in a world that is maybe less stressful or more entertaining than my current reality. Sometimes, this escapism is to the point where I become so involved in a book or in reading in general and getting away from reality that I spend hours at a time immersed in a novel's "reality" and less in my own. This is where the novel's reality becomes hyperreal and I long to be in the fictional world (the genre I generally prefer) rather than my own. Sometimes I can become so lost in a book that when I either finish it or take a break for food I find myself, for a moment, slightly confused by my surroundings and who I am.

In this way, I can understand now why some of my friends and other people get so involved in their virtual reality games and my ignorance and judgement have been significantly modified. The question I now have is: Is it potentially dangerous to spend so much time in these alternative realities and make them hyperreal? I'm sure people have at least lost jobs and friendships because they're too focused on their hyperreality games. Will people eventually stop living their physical life and begin exclusively living a virtual life, being fed through a feeding tube and having no physical contact with the world around them and other people? This is some pretty scary Matrix-y stuff...

1 comment:

  1. I love this because you suggest that alternate reality is not so much about the particular technology, but about the experience. The idea that the oh-so-lo-tech experience of reading a paper book could actually be a virtual reality experience is fascinating!


Need to add an image? Use this code: < b > [ img ] IMAGE-URL-HERE [ /img ] < /b > (make sure you have no spaces anywhere in the code when you use it)