Inspired by a comment left by Tina on an earlier post about Second Life I decided to go in search of Wilde, a resident of SL who is made up of a number of individuals who have Cerebral Palsy and other similar disabilities.
Step one was to spend the evening in SL and send Wilde a message (he was otherwise occupied in real life at the time) followed by a spot of sleuthing to see if Wilde resided anywhere else on the Web. This brought me to Live2Give, their blog and online virtual community for people dealing with cerebral palsy and similar physically disabling conditions.
My fellow SL adventurer, Xavo, bought the book Second Lives, by Tim Guest, also recommended by Tina, and spent yesterday evening reading the first two chapters to me (I was busy with the Sunday roast, very rock and roll).
A video games player when he was younger Guest describes his journey into virtual worlds. In the first chapter Guest talks about his two different experiences of visiting the people who make up Wilde in their real life community at the Evergreen Center, in Milford Massachusetts, and their virtual community in SL. In real life he had to do battle with planes, delays and missed connections before he finally got to meet everyone. A stark contrast to literally teleporting into the community in SL in seconds.
This goes to show how simple it is to connect with people in virtual communities. While it is commonly seen by many as geeky and anti-social to hang out online it’s easy to miss the point that by doing so you have an opportunity to meet and mix with people who you would normally never have the chance to meet and mix with and do things we might not otherwise get to do. This is especially so if you have some kind of disability.
But there is a fine line, as Guest himself so aptly says, when using virtual worlds as an extension of yourself. In the book he writes about how he was intrigued by the use of a quote from Macbeth in a video game he used to play:
“Nought’s had, all’s spent / Where our desire is got without content”
And in turn he writes:
“It seemed to show a new kind of self-consciousness about video games: their gift (experience without risk), and their curse (experience without risk).”
I think this neatly sums up the benefits and the pitfalls of video games, and by extension virtual worlds, depending on your perspective and access in the real world.
So thanks again Tina for your suggestions, I’m excited about getting stuck into the book (which I will post a review about soon) and hopefully meeting Wilde as well as others who are finding SL a way to connect.