The strange world of virtual reality

My experience with the vast world of both gaming and virtual worlds is almost zero. I have played some basic computer games (the most sophisticated being Halo) and am terrible at them. My thumb dexterity is low and my approach is too cerebral and not instinctive enough. By the time I decide what to shoot at and what weapon to use, other players have easily killed me. I have come to the conclusion that the main effect in my playing these games is to enable my children to run up their scores.

I also created an avatar of Second Life but apart from wandering around aimlessly for about ten minutes tops, I have not done anything with it.

But I know that many people spend countless hours playing games with others in virtual worlds and was wondering what those activities were like. So I was intrigued by this account by PJ Vogt about an ‘adventure’ that he had while posing as a woman and playing Grand Theft Auto.

It is a strange virtual world out there.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Years ago, my sister introduced me to Riven. It was interesting, but too time-consuming. The only game I play regularly on my PC is Master Boggle (5×5), from a Hasbro CD which my perhaps faulty memory tells me came from a cereal box. It seems to be incompatible with any Windows OS more recent than Windows XP, which is why I still have Windows XP. I love Boggle!

  2. M can help you with that. says

    There are, fortunately for me, genres of video game where reflexes, manual dexterity, etc. aren’t vital skills as they are in the “first-person shooter” medium (like Halo). Unfortunately, many of the best of these are “indie” games, which keeps them out of the view of some people who might enjoy them (and enjoy them more than the gamers who want more games like Halo). Turn-based RPGs were the traditional example of this, though the writing tended to be anywhere from fairly schlock-pulpy to practically nonexistent; puzzle-based and adventure games are (IMO) a bit more accessible in that sense. And then there are recent things like Dear Esther or the excellent Gone Home or the wonderfully meta The Stanley Parable that don’t have win/lose conditions like most “games” and focus almost completely on narrative (or meta-narrative and what it means to be a “game” in the latter case).

    Of course, it’s the big-budget games with the often aggressively sexist/racist/homophobic/whateverist player communities that get most of the funding and attention.

  3. leftwingfox says

    It’s funny, I used to be an enormous fan of the social MU*s back in the day; multi-user text-based social environments that were something of a cross between IRC and ZORK. I should have been a natural candidate for Second Life, but it never clicked with me.

    My mother, on the other hand, got deeply involved with SL, thanks to the construction and building aspects. I found it fascinating that nearly a decade after I’d been active on those chats, I could relate completely with my mother’s new hobby. 🙂

  4. says

    I played MUDs on college computers in the early 1990s and never found them enthralling, so networked gaming never held any great appeal when graphics and fast connections came along. There wasn’t much sexism in MUDs as far as I can recall, but then, there weren’t many players and scant few women. The absence of women probably explains the absence of harassment. And as for FPS games, I use them for catharsis, not high scores. I prefer to take out my day’s frustrations on pixels rather than on people.

    The games I play the most are Sokoban and (both from PortableApps), Puzzle Collection and Hex-A-Hop. Puzzle gaming is fun and relaxing, plus it forces you to think. There are literally hundreds of level sets for Sokoban (each with 50-100 levels) if you look for them.

  5. doublereed says

    Honestly if you’re trying to do role-playing you might prefer World of Warcraft or something similar which is much better at making sure you know what you’re supposed to be doing. WoW doesn’t really require high reflexes or anything. I don’t know Second Life, but from what I’ve heard the open-endedness can be a little confusing and daunting.

    If it’s on a console, there are games like Super Paper Mario or the various LEGO games which are fun but not terribly demanding.

    If you want a more Turn-Based Strategy kind of thing, there’s the Civilization series, where you get to create your own civilization and conquer others etc. It can be kind of a complex game, though.

  6. noastronomer says

    What doublereed said. Plus the Halo story is very engaging and fairly intiguing, if you have the time just turn the difficulty way down and play through that way.

  7. Storms says

    I’ll also go with doublereed’s comment. Been playing WOW on and off for years. lots to do from Player-vs-Player, to intense raiding to a pokamon style pet game. It can be especially fun if you find a guild of active mature folks.
    Civilization is turn-based crack at it’s finest for solo gaming. Rise of Nations if you like real-time simulation.
    I believe GTA is especially attractive to trolls. Personally I just can’t seem to get my jollies by random murder and mayhem.
    I also experimented with making a female character once in WoW. She was undead and ugly and within 15 minutes I was being hit on. Guys would group with you to do a quest and then start asking very personal questions. It shed a very faint light on what it must be like to be woman, and I didn’t find it comfortable. I deleted her within an hour and vowed to monitor my own behavior better.

  8. doublereed says

    I should mention that for the most part, all the games I mentioned are perfectly child friendly (except for WoW where it’s all online of course).

    I actually learned a bunch of vocabulary and history from the Civilization games when I was a kid. When you build the Oracle of Adelphi, Angkor Wat, orr Aqueducts you become intrigued about what these things are in real life. The more recent games have introduced more political things like serfdom, religion, multinational corporations, and more victory conditions for peaceful civilizations.

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