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Op/Ed: Are Virtual Lives Wasted Lives?

Posted Fri, Feb 08, 2008 by Aelryn

Drink a little goat blood. You know you want to.

In a recent Guardian blog post, Keith Stuart tackles CNN's recent comparison of online games to cults (in a roundabout way) by examining what it really means to play in a virtual world.

Furthermore, as with many stories that look into online games and virtual worlds, lazy distinctions are drawn between the 'real' and 'virtual' worlds. "Some of the better relationships have crossed over into real life," the reporter sniffily notes, referring to the fact that in-game friendships can often extend beyond the confines of the game world. And it's only at this point that they become valid, right?

But what is real life? Seriously. From an ontological perspective, the foundations of this 'real'/'virtual' divide start to crumble pretty quickly. Philosophers from Plato to Alain Badiou have grappled with the fundaments of reality - Descartes' standpoint was to reject the reality of anything outside of his own consciousness. George Berkeley would later argue that all physical objects are, in fact, just ideas. If only it were as simple as, 'well one of them takes place on a screen with virtual people, and one takes place in the world with 'real' people'. But what is the real world, and, wait a minute, who are those people? Personally, I question the veracity of any reality system in which 15 million people voluntarily sit down four nights a week to watch Eastenders.

Read it at The Guardian before jumping into the discussion.


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