My son learned how to smith bronze and steel, and he learned how to fish with nets (and how to cook it too). He tells me that sometimes there is speculation in the coal market which makes it more profitable for him to sell coal outright rather than to mine it for smithing. He also plays with teams – sometimes with people from other states or other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, or Sweden. This morning he was the only American on a team full of Belgians – most of whom he never met. As the game progressed they were talking to one another in Dutch while switching to English when they wanted my son to do something. All along my son kept talking to them in English about his position, his recommendations and other things. The other day, there was a 45 year old woman on his team. And one of his regular team mates is a college kid in Europe. He is a member of a guild in one world and also a member of a clan in another. His friends go by names like doodleman, intelogix, shady, and chainsonic.
If you have not figured it out by now, my son, like millions of others around the world is playing in digital worlds like RuneScape, Halo2, Tony Hawk Underground and others. He interacts with other through chat or VoIP (I read somewhere that Xbox Live has the largest VoIP user base.)
Sometimes, I wonder how these new interactions will affect their sense of “self”, their identities, or what impact it will have on cultures…
It’s easy to understand the benefits of virtual worlds like the ones sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, where severely ill children can play with others in virtual worlds from hospital beds – thus forgetting their ills for awhile and appearing like everyone else in those make-believe worlds.
We adults know that on the internet “nobody knows that you are a dog” (remember that cartoon?), and that is part of the fun. But what does it do to kids that are spending part of their formative years online?
About ten years ago I read the book Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle, a Professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She says it is good for them to experiment with different personae. I can see that, but are those virtual personae competing for attention with the real life ones?
Maybe now is a good time to go and re-read that book…or maybe I’ll go re-read William Gibbson’s books…any other suggestions?