Wk 2 — Activity — Virtual: Worlds

It feels like forever since the last time I was on campus physically rather than just at home virtually attending the infamous “Zoom University”. While my first year in college hasn’t started as any of us would’ve expected, I wouldn’t necessarily resort to labeling it as solely a bad thing. Seeking out the positives in life aside, the virtual college life has brought some very unique situations to the table. It’s been quite different from the year prior as a senior in high school, with not being able to socialize properly with people we’ve grown to call friends and classmates and the sense of a hard-set schedule in place with big things in life to look forward to now unfortunately somewhat gone. While apart of me knows I’m missing the full “college experience”, the moments of additional comfort and an easier transition from high school to college has been a plus. The feeling of my life as a high schooler coming to a close (this time much more forcefully, unfortunately) as a senior forced us all to want to cherish the fun times and being with one another more because of the looming realization that some of us would be moving far away for at least the foreseeable future. In hindsight, it’s somewhat funny in a depressing sort of way, that all of us were looking at it all wrong and that things weren’t all that they seemed in reality. No senior prom, no ditch-day, no real graduation, among many other once in a lifetime high school opportunities as Class of 2020. Even though this all may be true, the virtual college experience still has treated me quite well, for the most part. Both in-person high school and “Zoom University” act in such a way to show the “endings and beginnings of new chapters” in my life and, in time, will someday be looked upon as a unique story from such a crazy time in the world we live in.

While the physical world may be rough to fully explore nowadays, the virtual world is always there to comfort and get a sense of escape from it all. With this being said, a sense of placefulness and community shines through within the virtual worlds of, say, Minecraft and that of even communication tools like Instagram. Both offer plenty of unique opportunities to come together while apart with those we care about and can even give us all a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of anyone across the globe. However, even though both of these offer opportunities of connection and interaction with truly anyone, I feel as if (even in my experience in Minecraft) there is a better sense of ease of working together with others to achieve a goal, even as simple as just messing around in-game while catching up with friends by being able to see “each other” in the moment, giving us currently one of the closest attempts at distantly seeing those we care about we have during this pandemic.

Two places of note come to mind when comparing and contrasting life in the virtual world with real life: the world as a whole and home. If we dive into the world of Minecraft, for example, most of us can relate to something we call home and the world around us from what we see in-game. While the idea of “home” wasn’t quite as concrete and fleshed out as one would expect within my Minecraft adventures with friends for the sake of this activity, the sense of being in a world of opportunities certainly was. We all decided to start fresh with creating a brand new world to truly get a sense of the infinite possibilities that could be out there. Our adventures, of course, tended to go off track quite a bit but we still managed to stick to two main sets of goals: find treasure either through maps or mining and establish some sense of home within our world. Now at first, admittedly, the first goal seems rather extreme in our ability to do the same in real life, however, as I mentioned, our adventures in this strange, new world tended to veer away from the original path on numerous occasions. This is where it gets interesting. With our minds set on hunting for valuable ores and riches, (highly unlikely for us to do in real life, even without lock-downs in place), the funny part of it all was that when we would go off course, it nearly always was to do something much more doable and tame in comparison. Be it fishing, exploring what our world had to offer, or befriending animals, our adventures were definitely grounded in reality and realism in some ways. Since we were constantly moving across the world, an established “home” was never quite a reality for us, but that was quite alright for us. We learned that the idea of “home” and a place of comfort in chaos can be wherever we felt “at home”, so to speak, and this tends to work quite well in the real world too. While our own homes and our makeshift temporary housing to just lay our heads at night may not have quite the same amount of features going for them and definitely didn’t look the same, both provide protection and a sense of togetherness with the ones we care about, funny enough. The same can even be said about both worlds, as well. Both have their fair share of danger and unfortunate events, but both can be seen as places of countless possibilities if we put our minds to it and a sense of connection with those around us, even those we don’t actually know. Some experiences within the real world may either be easier to accomplish or just achievable in general (like having a job to make real world money or using all kinds of modern transportation to make travel to other countries that much quicker and accessible to the mixing of cultures) in comparison to that of Minecraft, however, the sense of always having the opportunity to make the world your own and leave an impact can definitely be said about both realities.

With all this being said, I do feel that this experience has given me a new perspective on the Idea of Place. As mentioned above, I was able to adopt a newfound better appreciation of the concept of “home” and the connotative feelings associated with any place we feel right associating with a sense of togetherness and comfort in. With the reality of pandemic life looming over us all, the ability to connect through the virtual world feels that much more real in the sense that, in some ways, how we deal with life now is much closer to how we utilize our favorite virtual worlds. Both are currently based around a feeling of “distant but not apart” from one another by adapting to our situation to make connection despite what’s been thrown at us, thus, I feel it’s definitely possible to find a Place Experience during some degree of Pandemic Isolation.

The concept of MMORPG’s mainly tends to follow the gaming scene, however, it raises questions and sparks thought if we try and apply this term with that of real world social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook. Clearly social media platforms aren’t technically “games” in the sense that the term is typically relating to, but the rest of the acronym is not as cut-and-dried as it appears at face value. Taking a deeper look at the idea of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing (Games), interesting conclusions can be drawn when we compare that with what social media platforms are at the heart of what they do. Both are Massively Multiplayer (check), both are Online (check), and it’s up for debate whether the concept of “Role-Playing” can be applied in a more loose sense. Most tend to use their social medias to showcase a side to themselves that they know and want others to see, or “role-playing” someone who’s not quite their true self. With the idea of worrying what others may think or say about what someone truly likes or shows off in private, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many don’t live their “social media life” as they do their own, just as with the virtual worlds of MMORPG’s and reality.

I feel that the same can be said about real life, sadly enough. While yes, we may want to typically show off what others think is acceptable and “cool”, most of us tend to hide away at least some aspects of what makes us ourselves. However, just as how social media can technically be seen as MMORP(G)’s, so too can real life in the sense that collaboration in our “Massively Multiplayer” world with those around us and meeting up with those we care about can lead to just as much satisfaction and greatness as that in-game for some.

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