Tangled Web

Deceptions of a transgender guy

Virtual reality

Virtual reality

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Escapism:
The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy: virtual reality offers a form of escapism.” 

Long before I equated transgender with the person in the driving seat in my mind, I engaged in a form of virtual reality – writing fiction with the main character being whom I then saw as my alter ego. My mind explored a life I could not and will not be able to live. I had an imagined youth, became a young adult and matured – and what a time it was.

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.”

~ Bookends: Simon and Garfunkel

The difference is – I still have the memories and many, many virtual photographs, preserved in my memory.

Although the virtual reality experience of Oculus Rift and similar advanced display technology is relatively new, another type of virtual reality, role playing games (RPGs), have been around for a very long time. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop RPG that was first published in 1974. It is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games.  A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters’ actions. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting in the real world, while interacting with each other in character. In addition to tabletop role-playing, LARP has its origins in childhood games of make-believe, play fighting, costume parties, roleplay simulations, improvisational theatre, psychodrama, military simulations and the likes.

Fantasy castleAnd how great were those make-believe games… Castles, knights on horseback, a beautiful woman, dragons…

Although I never participated in any RPG from Dungeons & Dragons to the now popular World of Warcraft, or wandered around in non-gaming worlds like Second Life, I could easily embed the concept of an avatar into my life – having had an alter ego since before my teens. The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication published a study* of the reactions to certain types of avatars by a sample group of human users. The results showed that users commonly chose avatars which were humanoid and matched their gender. Ha! I could have saved them a lot of money and time – Kris had always been male.

How you represent yourself in a virtual world, may affect how you behave toward others in the real world, according to research.**

“Virtual environments enable people to experience extraordinary identities or circumstances. People can take on superhero or super-villain roles using digital avatars in virtual space. By acting as these avatars, individuals may learn new behaviors and model their own, real-life behaviors after them (Bandura; Bem). The virtual environment is, thus, a vehicle for observation, imitation, and modeling; players’ avatars may fuel these processes.”**

Yup. I doubt I could have accepted the person behind the mask and cloak, had it not been for my ventures into my mind-world. Living in the real world has become just that little bit easier. Still behind a mask and cloak, but with self-acceptance and more inner peace.Mask

Much have been and are researched and written about the psychological effects of gaming. The relationship between games and their effects is still too often found to be one of a direct cause/effect.

Dungeons & Dragons had for example been the subject of rumours regarding players struggling to separate fantasy from reality. The best known of these is the story of James Dallas Egbert III – the perceived link between his disappearance and later suicide being his partaking in a LARP version of Dungeons & Dragons (The facts later were fictionalized in the novel Mazes and Monsters (also a TV movie)).

The positive influences of online social communities like WordPress, still needs to be extensively researched. These communities can be a great source of social support where that support is lacking offline. Here I am talking from experience. The value of online friends is much discredited. Online friends are most often the most real of friends.

Today I thank you, my online and offline friends, for helping to make the line between offline and online totally fluid.

Notes:

* Nowak, K. L. and Rauh, C. (2005), The Influence of the Avatar on Online Perceptions of Anthropomorphism, Androgyny, Credibility, Homophily, and Attraction. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11: 153–178. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.tb00308.x

** Virtual Avatars May Impact Real-World Behavior

 

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Author: Kris

Hi! I'm Kris. I live in South Africa with my life partner of 27+ years, whom I call B or Madam in my posts. We have a Pug dog child, Remi, also known as Pooch, who has graced and enriched our lives for the past 12 years.

8 thoughts on “Virtual reality

  1. I was never interested in science fiction or fantasy literature, but I always had a very active male alter-ego fantasy life (both as a child and as an adult right up until I accepted my transness). Interestingly enough, coming out as trans eliminated the need to go into that life. In some ways I miss it, but I am much more connected (to other people) in reality now than I was then, and much more aware of my true thoughts and feelings without them needing to be filtered through fantasy (or music).

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    • You must be slightly more “normal” than some of us who still (need to) fantasize. 😀

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      • This makes me wonder a couple of things. First, how prevalent is this alter ego fantasy life in the trans (or even LGBTQ) population and second, do cisgender, heterosexuals also feel the need to create alter ego fantasy worlds and how prevalent are they? Obviously, cis-het folks do enjoy fantasy (non sexual) and alter ego stuff or we would not have all of the super heros and marvel characters out there, Hobbits and Harry Potter types as well. It’s a curious thing to me. My guess is it’s pretty prevalent and much more than many of us think. I used to think that my alter ego world was a sign that I was crazy and messed up so I hid it and felt ashamed of it. But now I’m wondering if it’s not actually pretty normal for a lot of people.

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        • We’re just as crazy and messed up as the rest of the world, Shawn. I think we just contemplate about it more! Let’s enjoy every minute of our uniqueness.:D

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  2. A while before I realized I was trans I started playing an RPG game online and that led to me playing others, meeting people and forming bonds with them. I started off as a female character but eventually switched to male and learned a whole lot about myself in that process. I got so hooked on my virtual world that I ended up spending the majority of my time there and feeling resentful of having to come back into the “real” world. It played havoc on my relationships and my job but I really didn’t care at the time. I was in a really dark place and my virtual world was all that really mattered to me. It took me years to kick the addiction of living thru my avatar and I can honestly say that I still miss it but I had to make a choice to truly live my life or lose everything I had to live in a virtual black hole. Fantasy has always been part of my life experience and it probably always will, but as I get closer to living my truth the less I need the fantasy part of life. Still, it’s a pleasant escape at times. The movie Avatar still hits very close to home for me when I watch it.

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    • I know, the temptation to escape the real world can be overwhelming and it is hard to find the balance sometimes between what could have been and what is. You are fortunate to be able to inhabit more and more of the real world – although it is largely (still) hostile to us. Enjoy your reality, Shawn.

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      • Yes, it is terribly tempting! I am fortunate to be able to live closer to my truth, though, still, reality is no where near as exciting as fantasy can be. I still crave that connection I had with my team mates and the place I held in their virtual worlds. Though fantasy worlds can be harsh and hostile (more so) than reality, if I’d been given a chance to live there permanently I think I would have taken it. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged and fit in. I was accepted as male and as a leader there with no questions ever asked. Ah, how nice that would be in real life, eh? Plus, the adventures we had were amazing. How do we bring that magic to the real world? If you ever figure that out please let me know.

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        • If it is your own (sole) fantasy world, it is as fantastic as you want it to be. 🙂 Magic in the real world? Nope. (Well, maybe when you fall in love). I guess that is why humans have the capacity to fantasize and escape other humans’ cruelty. I know Pooch dreams, but working with abandoned and abused dogs, makes me wish animals could fantasize too. Sigh.

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