A lesson from the school of virtual life

I was half watching some movie; I don’t recall what it was. There was a father and son chat going on regurgitating the usual cliches, “you have to live your own life,” “you only have one life to live,” or something like that. It got me thinking about the different way we live our lives in the real and virtual worlds.

Imagine that we didn’t have one life, but many (maybe infinite) lives to live. How might that change our behaviour?

In video games we have exactly that. We can choose as many lives as we have time to play. Many game worlds present us with artificial barriers to prevent us from carrying out our wildest imaginings. But some, like the early text based multiplayer games, do not. In life, many of us dream of being wealthy. If we could live a wealthy lifestyle whenever we wanted, as many times as we wanted, would we always choose it over every alternative?

Another difference I see in games is that our characters often pursue a single goal with absolute focus. That’s something quite rare outside of games, with the many distractions of modern living; including games themselves. We worry about the warnings of our movie world father and attempt to pack as much into our one and only life as possible. But in spite of that warning we worry more about other people and what we might be missing out on, rather than staying focused.

So, what if we ignore those warnings? What if we choose to believe that we could live more than one life, as many lives as we wished, or even every possible life? I think envy, jealousy, and related emotions disappear, because if we really want what somebody else has we can simply play them instead. We might also stay focused on our own goals too.

I think this is a nice idea, and it is not a complete flight of fantasy. However, that’s another story.

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