Feeling Small

I noted a while back that there seemed to be essentially no restrictions on what Second Life residents can do with their property, and my neighbours have proved this with some spectacularly anti-social development:


As you can see my little mountain hideaway is now overshadowed by a big rocky outcrop that my left-hand neighbour has thoughtfully constructed on his land, presumably with the intention of creating enough flat space for a substantial dwelling. At least it looks natural, unlike the giant bookcase that the guy on the right has installed on his patch of mountainside, the purpose of which I can only guess at.

I know that I shouldn’t be too bothered by this, since I spend only a tiny fraction of my life in my cabin, and my “land” doesn’t really exist in any material sense anyway. It has been annoying me though, in way that is indistinguishable, in nature if not degree, from the feeling I would get if my real life neighbour cut off all my sunlight by planting a massive hedge in his garden. I guess that goes to show that even a sceptical observer like myself can be unconsciously drawn into the virtual reality of Second Life.

Elf Actualisation

I’ve not had much time to be online this week, so I don’t have any interesting Second Life stories to recount, unless you find virtual interior decorating particularly fascinating. (I got a new coffee table!)

Instead I’ve been catching up on some reading, looking through back copies of CyberPsychology and Behavior. There was an interesting article in the August 2007 issue – “The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft”. The researchers recruited a sample of 51 World of Warcraft players, and got them to complete rating scales evaluating their real-life personality, their in-game personality, and their ideal personality. The characters were (mostly) viewed as closer to the ideal than the players’ real selves, with players who rated themselves poorly more likely to idealise their characters. This isn’t terribly surprising, but it’s always nice when intuition is given some scientific back-up.

Also interesting is “Multiple subjectivity and virtual community at the end of the Freudian century” a paper by Sherry Turkle from back in 1997, looking at psychological aspects of MUDs. Turkle notes that a player can create multiple characters reflecting different aspects of the personality, and deploy these adaptively in different situations. She draws parallels with Dissociative Identity Disorder, but argues that, unlike in DID where such personality splitting is dysfunctional, in the context of a MUD it can be integrative, and lead to enhanced functioning.

Neither of these papers relate directly to Second Life, but it seem likely that SL users will create and use their characters in similar ways.