Immersion: My PRESENCE in the Metaverse
Yeah, I’m that weirdo who tends play only one avatar or character in video games and virtual worlds. I use my real name for said character, and I try to make the character’s appearance resemble the real me as closely as possible. This is the case with ALL the games that I play, ALL the virtual worlds that I explore, and ALL the often crazy things that I get up to in said games and virtual worlds. If you run into David Venter, davidventer, davidventernet or thedavidventer in a virtual world or video game; it’s most probably me. Say Hi! If you’re unsure, get in touch and ask if it was me, since I’m obviously not present in every single video game and virtual world in existence.
Why am I doing this, you may wonder?… “Who in their right mind would try to make their avatar look like the real them, and use their real name? That’s just weird and defeats the purpose of having a Second Life of fantasy and alternative expression, right?” Well…
Full disclosure: In the real world, I’m a loner; a hermit; a hikikomori – I’m on the Autism Spectrum (Aspergers) with questionable social skills, extreme social anxiety and low self-esteem. My idea was to be able to insert ‘myself’ into the virtual world, and then seeing ‘myself’ doing things in the metaverse that I struggle doing in real life such as; socializing, hanging out in groups, performing live in crowds, going “out” more, etc. will hopefully help boost my confidence and then maybe, If I can see ‘myself’ doing all these things successfully in the virtual world, maybe some day I will have the courage to attempt to do it in the real world, or maybe not – and if not, it still makes my virtual experiences so much more immersive.
Social difficulties aside; seeing a representation of my real self, exploring and doing things in the metaverse also makes me feel more immersed and connected to everything – as If I’m really there doing it. I know it’s not real. Virtual Reality is not Real Life, but I’ve read somewhere that the subconscious mind cannot distinguish the difference when it comes to our memories and emotional responses, be they real or virtual, and we often experience the same or similar emotions in response to virtual experiences that we do with experiences in physical reality – perhaps not on the same level as in physical reality, but there is definitely some correlation, and perhaps even more-so for someone like me who doesn’t get out much. So this is an interesting experiment for me. This is either a really good thing, or a really bad thing. I’m no expert in psychology or mental health, so the verdict is still out on this but based on my personal experiences so far, this has been really great, so far. It’s way more immersive than playing a character that doesn’t resemble me in some way. It enables me to relate to the character on a deeper level and to enjoy the gameplay so much more!
But what about real life safety and identity protection?
One question that I’ve been asked a couple of times in one form or another is; “Aren’t you worried that someone will steal your identity or start stalking you in real life?” Well, first of all, I’m not a popular influencer nor a celebrity. I’m merely an obscure, independent artist with a small online presence. Who exactly is going to want to stalk me or try to steal my identity? I’m not that special (LOL). And how exactly are they going to do that using my real name and likeness alone? No one (besides my direct friends and family, my Internet Service Provider, and other direct service providers) even knows where exactly I’m located. As for identity theft; that’s kind of the norm on the internet lately. There’s always someone out there using someone else’s name and pictures as if it were their own. I’ve come across others using my name and images multiple times, and it’s nothing special. It’s annoying, but It happens. That’s why I have this website here with links to all my “official” profiles, and also why I’m verified on some platforms. None of this is a real concern for me. I find the paranoia related to wanting to hide one’s real identity quite silly to be honest, but each to their own.
That said, I know that some people may have valid reasons for hiding their true identity and I respect that – such reasons generally relate to situations of oppression or differing viewpoints in politics, religion, work, or personal life. I’m fortunate that none of that is of any concern to me. I live in a very liberal and free country, and those who matter to me know what my interests are. There’s no need for me to hide behind an alias, and I’m grateful for that freedom – Which brings me to the the next topic of concern that others have pointed out over the years…
Digital Footprints: social and Behavioral Profiling
This may appear to contradict what I wrote related to immersion and how I like to perceive my presence in virtual reality, but I cannot stress this enough; Actions taking place inside virtual worlds are not real. I’m sure we can all agree on that, right? No? Those who disagree need a reality check. It’s true that real emotions can be involved and real friendships can be formed inside virtual worlds but actions are not real.
Take this for example: When I’m playing a video game such as GTA Online, where a character with my name and likeness runs around murdering innocent civilians, picking up hookers, and trafficking drugs and illegal firearms – does that mean I’m a murderer, a pimp, and a drug dealer in the real world? Of course not. You may also stumble across ‘me’ casting spells and fighting monsters in World or Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls Online, or Final Fantasy Online – that doesn’t make me a real world wizard as obviously such things aren’t real. A digital footprint related to my virtual wizardry would be useless in the real world and you can’t possibly build an accurate behavioral profile based on that. The same applies to actions in virtual worlds like Second Life; While I do merge real world activities with the virtual world, such as streaming my live-mix sets into virtual spaces, using an avatar with my real name and likeness, and using Second Life as a tool to make friends, socialize, and build confidence – despite my avatar being named after me, and looking like me; my avatar’s actions within the virtual world are not real – It’s not Real Life.
It’s important to know the difference between what’s real and what’s not – I assume, or at least I hope that most people know the difference. Some oppressive governments, delusional religious leaders or authoritarian employers may not. But like I said, I’m fortunate to live in a country where that is of no concern. For this reason, I’m not paranoid about my actions inside video games potentially being used for creating a digital footprint or behavioral profile. I see no reason to hide behind an alias (but once again, I understand that many do, for valid reasons, and I respect that). If you come across a virtual version of me with my name and likeness, riding a tricycle half-naked through the streets, wearing a hat made of jiggly penises – or running through the forest, vagina-shaped gun in hand, shooting bloody tampons at zombies – or doing unspeakable things with werewolves or giants; obviously none of those things are real (but they are super hilarious, and fun) and no legitimate institution or organization in the real world would even be remotely concerned by it. I’m just having crazy fun in an awesome video game. No tin-foil hats or doomsday paranoia necessary.
Disclaimer: Virtual World Activities and Relationships
I’m a gamer. I love playing video games and getting up to crazy shit. I also love playing Second Life just like many of you. The creativity, exploration, and even some of the taboo role-play is what got me started in the first place, and the friendships are what’s been keeping me around for so long.
I am the same person in both realms, but like many of you, I do things in Second Life that I would never consider doing in the real world, or things that simply aren’t possible in the real world. In that regard, I keep Real Life separate, and just because I share so much of the real me; that doesn’t mean I expect the same from everyone else.
When it comes to virtual world interactions and activities with others, I don’t even care who is behind the avatar: age, race, gender, and location, are all irrelevant to me. Unless you reveal your true self to me, I will respect your Real Life privacy and treat you according to your avatar’s appearance and persona; according to how you represent. Likewise; I ask you to respect my Real Life privacy, and if we share an interaction or partake in activities in the virtual world, please remember that it is not real.
There’s always potential for online friendships to progress into real-world friendships, and that’s happened plenty of times. Some of my closest Real Life friendships started in Second Life. However, for that to even become a possibility; I do expect complete Real Life transparency.
In Second Life, we’re all just pixels on a screen doing the fun, the bizarre, the crazy, and often the impossible. As none of it is real, I’m open to pretty much anything for the sake of experience and exploration – And seeing a digital representation of myself going through these virtual experiences is just so much more entertaining, however crazy and unrealistic they may be.
If you’ve made it this far – thank you for reading! Now please excuse me while I browse through the Second Life Destination Guide to find the next fun thing to do that’s simply not possible in Real Life, while at the same time giving myself a social interaction and self-confidence therapy session, by seeing the avatar that looks like me do all the things that I can’t do, or that simply aren’t possible in Real Life. See you in the metaverse! ✌️💛