Virtual Reality: Paradise or Prison?

A wise man by the name of John Lennon once said, “reality leaves a lot to the imagination”. We generally hold these ever-present notions of a harsh reality, a dimension in which along with many ups comes twice as many downs. Humans are forced to deal with growing pains, both physically and mentally, we get old, we grow tired, we pay bills, etc. On top of the systematic way of living, we are forced to deal with societal constructs bestowed upon us, beauty standards, racism, or even the overarching spectrum of nature vs. nurture. As humans, the coldness and harshness of this dimension, this reality, makes us feel imprisoned.

So how do we transcend this barrier? What do we do to escape the strong walls of a way of living for which we did not ask? More importantly, how do we attain this highly sought-after freedom? We create itVR

Once established, it becomes easy for one to identify with his/her virtual self simply because these are all hand-picked, desirable traits and qualities embedded into a character. In the reading, “Blacks Deserve Bodies Too!” Design and Discussion about Diversity and Race in a Teen Virtual World, it says, “in addition to analyzing the expressive resources for virtual identity construction, we can observe some aspects of projective identity, or how real and virtual identities interact as a player embodies the avatar they have created for themselves,” (Kafai, Cook, Fields, 3). Virtual Reality serves a gateway purpose into an alternate dimension in which everything defies who we are beyond these boundaries. But we are granted this privilege with a heavy price. The reading goes on to examine the dark side of VR through the online game, Whyville, and racial prejudice experienced by some of its users. A key example of this was the mentioning of a British game journalist and writer, who belonged to the online game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast under the name always_black. It states:

His opponent understood his screen name always_black as a marker of race, and after insulting him in chat mode with slurs, asked him to “bow, nigger, bow,” suggesting a racial stereotype of subservient blacks.

The difficulty behind viewing VR as an alternative, or a second life, no pun intended, is the fact that social constructs and ideas are carried over. It isn’t so much of a fresh start, but rather a reminder of how penetrable that wall between reality and “beyond” is. As this serves to be an inconvenient truth, what do we make of life itself? Are there any actual ways to battle the trials and tribulations? Do we just live on, and deal? Maybe this is something we can only answer through practice, rather than theory.

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