Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Last Friday, our college had a function welcoming parents of students to the campus. There was a reception, an introduction to an art exhibit, and informal communications between parents, faculty, and the students who had enrolled.

For quite a while I was conversing with a student who is studying Game Design in our college.  The extent of his knowledge was remarkable at least to me--a nubie if even that-- to the world of games and gaming.

The student explained what he was studying and also his involvement in games.  One of the games was particularly interesting to me. In it, an alternate universe had been created that had rules which governed the activities and capabilities of participants. He was, essentially, someone else in this game represented by an avatar.  He/the avatar was a member of a virtual corporation.  He had an assignment, much like I or anyone else has an assignment as a member of our organizations.  He also had associates from around the world, members of this corporation who wanted to know how he was doing on his projects. There was this complete alternate universe with friends, superiors, staffers--with a goal to do whatever it was that was the objective of the game.

I asked a million questions and he supplied answers patiently and, more often than not, eagerly. Eventually, I asked the question that was hanging around in my head the whole time.  Did he ever confuse sight of his real world as he participated in this other one?  Could people become so immersed in the game that they confused the avatar with their real selves.

I wonder about this now and again, and not just as it relates to electronic games.  Can we become so adjusted to an alternate being we've conceived that we cease to be in touch with who we are?  Actors run into this now and again.  I was in a play once during my avocational acting days, when the lead playing a maniacal delinquent, started behaving maniacally when the curtain came down as well. How long can you play Marcus Welby before you think you can write prescriptions?  And in a more general sense, how many times can you put on your game face to be someone you are not, before you become the person you are not. And how long can you be the person you are not, before your body rejects or becomes infected by the impostor.

Not all my blogs relate to sports, but I think this one does. Tonight is game 1 of the World Series. The hometown team that plays within a short walk from where I sit, will host the St. Louis Cardinals in a few hours.  (I don't envy the people who paid a couple hundred bucks to go to the game because it will be nasty out there, chilly with a forecast of the kind of rain that wont stop the game, but will soak your bones if you are sitting in it for nine innings). The application of my question about avatars to the World Series is this: successful athletes who play for the Cardinals and Red Sox are players who could not have been successful if they had traded who they were for an avatar.  They would be exposed. If you pretend to play second base well, and then can't catch a grounder, you will have to return to who you really are.  Not so much the case in other walks of life.  You can pretend to be someone you are not for a long time, and maybe even convince yourself.

I think the fellow I spoke with at the reception has a healthy sense of who he is and when he is playing and when he is not.  That, I think, is key for all of us.  Starting my next lap around the sun today.  I'll work to keep this in mind.

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