Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"The Real Life Danger of Virtual Worlds" by Frolic Mills

Frolic Mills, the former editor of "The Best of Second Life" magazine, known as Juan Delgado in real life, recently posted a thoughtful commentary on Facebook on the subject of virtual reality addiction. Contacting him, he gave his okay for it's republication here.

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Having lived my real life successfully out of virtual worlds for the past 10 years or so, I think qualifies me to write this essay about the potential dangers of virtual worlds. I always hear "expert" psychologists and other specialists (who have probably never even played an online game) say that it produces addiction, anti-social characteristics, withdrawal from family and friends and even, that it even encourages criminal behavior. I don't doubt for one bit that there is always going to be a minority percentage who will prove all of these studies right. Just like there is always a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a pill junkie we all know, I am sure there are people who surrender to the fascinations of virtual worlds to the point they have no desire to entertain the idea of the real world any longer, and even modify their real life behaviors accordingly. I get it, but I don't think it's the majority.

Most of us, virtual users, lead well balanced lives. We love our families, we go out when we want to, we participate in the real world just like the guy next door. But yes, and I admit it, if you want to be on top in any virtual world, you must put in a LOT of hours. No question about that. But the difference between wasted time and real life pleasure is always purpose, and here is where it gets confusing for the non virtual user "specialists". It is not the same that you spent 1000 hours killing virtual hookers with a car, than socializing to meet friends or even your real life spouse from a virtual world. It is not the same if you admired someone else's creation and spent a lot of money making your avatar beautiful, than being the creator of beautiful things and making a fortune thanks to your virtual artistic skills. It's not the same at all; However, all of these examples, have two things in common, for all virtual users. The first and foremost is entertainment value, and secondly, and the most dangerous one, is the idea that real life can be totally fulfilled from the comfort of your computer, just a few meters away. Again the difference between insanity and survival will always be measured by your purpose and the amount of time spent on it. It is crazy to spend sleepless nights killing mobs to the point you don't go to school next day; it is survival to spend sleepless nights creating a better virtual world, which in return aids to your real life economy or any other heart felt purpose, like love, helping victims or charity events. There are thousands of other examples of effect/cause in virtual worlds, but I will let each person reading this essay, decide where their cards fall.

So what is my point? Well, there is a danger that I have never heard anyone speak about, and that, in my opinion, is the underlying reason to all "virtual world behavior studies" and that is, the fear of loss of creative freedom.

Of course I know, virtual worlds give a false sense of accomplishment, I also know people sometimes get lost in their virtual fantasies, but this is not what I am talking about, these are not the people I am referring to. I am talking about really talented artists who were able to create amazing real life survival with their virtual creations. There is nothing comparable to the joy of successfully sharing one's own universe or viewpoint with millions, from the comfort of your bedroom. I am afraid that once this has been achieved and it is over; the real world, or any other world, will never be as interesting anymore. Very dangerous indeed!

Please keep in mind that even Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and other very successful virtual creators still have to leave their homes in order to get to work. It also seems like the world is fascinated with examples of how people started their great businesses from their garages or basements. Well how about this? Thousands of people I know made plentiful real life livings and even millions of dollars with their laptops by their side, while sipping coffee in their own beds, and all this, without the headaches of running a Forbes top 100 company. Fascinating - Isn't it?

Yes! But if you are in the top 1% who actually made it big in virtual worlds, and then lost this privilege for whatever reason, the world may never be the same for you.

What do you guys think?

Juan Delgado / Frolic Mills


  1. I absolutely agree... There is a subset of users who are entirely lost in the addiction of illusion, escapism... And I always tell people the same thing: Balance.

    I always find that the more interesting we make our rel lives, the less time or need we have to escape from it. So I see people who were gung-ho in virtual worlds for many years just drop off the map when real life becomes more interesting... And that's totally alright.

    I've been there countless times before. The ebb and flow. A new set of tools and venue to creatively explore and experience gives way to that height when you can no longer push more and then you find ennui. Go back to real life for awhile... And come back to it later after a break, maybe a year or more, or maybe not again.

    I understand where Frolic is coming from, and can see the pros and cons. For this little post and insight, he's still the man in my book, even if I miss the outrageous fashion parties in SL he used to throw.

    1. Hi Will. Thank you for your kind words. I just wanted to reply because the word "balance" is often used unfairly in this context. To explain my point, let's take for example a sportsman or a concert pianist. No one ever tells them to go to real life and have balance; In fact the more they practice and the more they are focused, the better. Why should it be any different for virtual world creators? Of course, I do believe everyone, no matter what they do, should eventually take a break and be social, but it should not necessarily mean go to real life and do something different.

      But there is a fine line between balancing real life vs entertainment, and pursuing your ultimate passion. But I suppose this will always be viewed from each person's point of view and experience.

      Hugs you!

    2. Of course!

      There is nothing wrong with doing something you love, and even perfecting your skills at it - nor is there anything wrong if such an activity were to bring added value.

      When I get at when I refer to "balance" is that we must remember not to allow a Second Life to cause *detriment* to our First Life - it must not suffer as a result of it. I think a lot of people get caught up in it and maybe escape from reality too long to a point when things begin to suffer in the real world as a result, and then we can say we've obsessed and it is causing more harm than good in the end.