This week will mark something special for this column, not only has it gotten the Saturday spot as you might have noticed, but this week it will be all about the thought itself. In this week’s Massive thought, we will leave science aside for a minute; we will leave scholars and their studies on gaming effects to the next piece in the column. Instead the focus will be on the larger questions, as philosophers have kindly put it over the years, and follow the massive thought on who we really are. After a nice walk home, after one of those nights out with friends when everything feels great, whether it is the alcohol in the body, the good company, or the starry sky with its high definition visuals. It is almost impossible not to ask oneself who we are, and why we are here. But this is a gaming site, and even if those questions could occupy my mind, and writing for hours, like the idea of tipping cows on my way home, I will instead go for the question: Who are we when we play online games?
I know that the answer to this question will differ greatly from player to player, and while the following text about the question will be my own thoughts and experiences, this column is really about your thoughts. Even if my thoughts hopefully will act as a catalyst for your thoughts, my aim is always to give you, the readers, some sort of information base from which you can have massive thoughts. Going back to the question at hand; who are we when we play games online? After sorting through my thoughts, I can think of three main persons we can be, and probably are when playing games, let’s call them subclasses of our own real life for the fun of it. The three subclasses are; our real life self, our adventuring dream person, and our alter ego. There will of course be all kinds of hybrids between these virtual subclasses of life, and probably thousands of other ideas from other players. But let’s stay with these three; let us examine their nature further, and what part they play in our lives.
First off we have the subclass called; who we are in the real life. I know there are thoughts on how the game is the real life for some, but let’s leave that thought aside this week, and focus on games as an alternative to the real life. By choosing to plays as ourselves, it forces us to create a character looking like ourselves, which of course could in a psychological manner have something to do with our love towards ourselves, and how much we adore looking at ourselves. It could also mean a higher level of engagement in the game, and its world. Since we are playing ourselves, we are exploring a new world and experiencing its content as we would any experience in life. This opens up for a new, deeper, complex, and confusing philosophical question; if we play as ourselves, are we still playing or are we living it? One could also argue that this is the case for all virtual subclasses, but by entering the game as ourselves, we are entering the game as the same person as we enter our home, or workplace. And if we play as our alter ego or dream person, we are distancing ourselves from the game in a much higher regard, at least psychologically.
Secondly we have the adventuring dream person, which of course is highly related to the other two subclasses, but still unique enough to stand on its own two legs. Here you emerge online as the person you would have liked to be, if the current “real” world would have been more exciting. I think we all have had those moments when we have dreamt ourselves away to another place, another world, where we could to things and discover things not possible here. As a teenager I used to go running in the forest, leaving the trail behind and explore new and sometimes impossible paths, with a dream of someday finding a portal to a new and exciting world (as a teenager I among a majority of people nagged about most things in life). It would be a world where I could to the impossible and live a whole life, just to return to this life with those memories, but with no time passing here. And I sometimes find myself doing the exact same things in my favorite virtual worlds now.
Finally we have the alter ego subclass, which feels like the subclass most none gamers assume players take when entering an online world. Where the first subclass is who we are, and the second is based on whom we are; this last one is a completely different version of ourselves. Here the player enters the virtual world as someone very different to whom they are in real life, the player will emerge in the world leaving all his daily thoughts, belief, and actions behind, to be someone else. My personal example would be when playing Star Wars: The old Republic, and how I play as dark as possible in the story quest, while I am (believe it or not), a really nice and caring person. But in that game I can be totally ruthless, both to the NPCs and towards other players. I think this how gamers in general have been seen historically, as someone escaping the world to be something\ someone else for a moment, something very different from the person they are in real life.
We have reach the end of this journey, of this week Massive thought, which ended up being; just a thought. And the question I started asking and tried to the best of my thinking to answer is; who are we when we play online games? Have given three examples on who I think other players are when playing online games, but have I gotten any closer to a real answer? Probably not. Have I myself reach some kind of epiphany about my own gaming habits? Not really. While pondering hard on these questions of life and what not, I have only strayed further from the path, and gotten more confused. But I have gotten something much more important, a thought living inside my head, I have manage to think about something hard and long, which I normally never think about, and that is what massive thought is all about, what this column really is all about. So go visit the virtual world of your choosing and think, think long and hard about whatever, whether it is my topic this week, my confusing terminology, or something completely different. Have a massive thought!Related: Column, Massive Thought, Roleplaying