Altered States

[Note: This post originally appeared on Terra Nova.]

June 3, 2007


[Thanks to Mike Sellers for the link to the xkcd comic above.]

Ever find yourself reaching for the pause button while listening to your car radio? Picking up your home (land-line) phone to text someone? Both technology and games can shape our dispositions in such a way that, in other contexts, we may find ourselves seeing things, or trying to do things, on different terms…

I played a lot of pool in college — and I mean a lot. Sophomore and junior year, I would spend between 3-5 hours playing pool on the dorm’s pool table — luckily, a full 9′ one — every night, and lots more during the day on the weekends. I noticed a strange thing that would happen only after my longest and most intense pool playing sessions. Arriving back in my dorm room, I saw it differently. For a little while (the effect would eventually wear off), the first thing I noticed about any room I walked into was the relationship between all the objects (the furniture, people) and the corners of the room. The angles presented themselves to me unbidden, as if any rectangular space were a giant pool-playing surface.

So that’s an example from game-playing, but technology does it too, of course. Being a DVR user for several years now I often find myself doing things like unthinkingly reaching to pause or rewind the radio while in my car. So I thought I would ask the readership to share their experiences with how virtual worlds have, even if only briefly, shaped their dispositions toward other parts of their lives.

A point of clarification: one thing I’m not particularly interested in here are the metaphoric connections that we make between virtual worlds and other domains. These are interesting, of course, but what I’m after here are not the moments where we think that, “Hey, in this contentious meeting Linda’s like the main tank, and Roger’s doing mad dps from range.” Instead, I’m curious to hear about the surprising moments when we realize that we’re seeing/acting toward the world differently, if only for a while.

So, after that intense raid, SL building marathon, grueling 5-man, or solo quest grind, have any of you noticed yourselves approaching the world differently?

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