Friday, July 2, 2010

31 of 52 - Movies and Virtual Worlds

Wonder what Edward will do when I take his seat? /me needs a silver chained garlic

Sitting in the dark theatre the other night, watching vampires and werewolves tearing each other apart for the sake of pure drama (a girl, a boy going steady with the girl, another boy in love with the girl, and the widow of a boy killed by the boy going steady with the girl because he tried to kill the girl, and a boy in love with the widow who is just using him to get revenge on the first boy and the girl, LOL sounds like first-class SL drama to me), I began to think of the similarities between going to a movie and logging into SL.

Both experiences are trying to create an effect of immersion. Watching Eclipse, the third film in the Twilight series, it's easy to find yourselves in the head of Edward or Bella or Jacob (depending on your orientation I guess). You see what they see, experience the situations like they do, and don't know much more of what is happening outside of their fields of vision. The only thing lacking in the experience is the actual physical contact: The feel of the cold winter night, the heat of another persons skin close to you in a sleeping bag, the softness of the tender kisses in the fields of flowers.

I discovered that the feeling was not that different from the feeling of being inside the head of my avatar, watching events unfolding in front of me. I see what he sees, experiences situations like he does, and don't know much of what is happening outside his field of vision. The only thing lacking in the experience is the actual physical contact: The feel of sand between my toes, the heat of the sun as it rises from the sea, the softness of the tender kisses in the fields of flowers :-)

Yes, unlike SL, a movie has a script. But when you view a movie, you don't know. You just observe the actors following it. Just as you observe other avatars interacting with yours; they have motives and emotions that may not be scripted, but are just as unknown to you as the future actions of Bella and Charlie.

The real difference is of cource that you are not merely a spectator. You are an actor, equal in importance to the other persons on the screen. But unlike an actor, you have no script to support you.

Some would say that being immersed in SL is not an act. It's just living out your life in a different setting. But I would say that almost everyone I meet has some kind of filter between their avatars and their real self: They don't reveal their name, where they live, their phone number or RL email address. Some change gender and almost everyone is thinner and more muscular and good-looking than irl. Lots of people use SL as an escape from their lives and therefore really wants those filters. Just as we use movies as an escape from reality: For a short 2 hours we live in the woods around Fork or walk the purple forests of Pandora.

After the Avatar movie launch, there where several reports of depressive symptoms in people having seen the move: They becamse so owerwhelmed by the beauty of the Na'vi's world that they had a hard time leaving it. Some times, when I have to click the X and close down that field of flowers, I feel like that. There have been times when I could not manage to log in, just because I knew how the end of the session would feel.

But I guess I won't miss Breaking Dawn when it opens, just because it's a bit sad when it ends. So that's more of my virtual worlds attitude at the moment: Live the day!

In addition, there are the times you just use the viewer as a tool - creating environments, scripting, taking photos. To compare that to the movie world, its more like being a director or a camera man on the set - I guess they don't immerse themselves in the movie like the audience do at the end. Just as when I poor concrete into the feet of my oil rig in RG (LOL), the viewer is more of a tool like GIMP and avimator.

But now it's a nice summer day, so I will leave the computer in the trunk and get some real sand and sun and people close.

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