I’m certain I’m not alone in having been ill and injured several times over my life, once when I couldn’t walk without considerable effort and crutches for many months thanks to a busted ankle — and online games were a window to the world for me during each of those times, even more so than they are now.
Now imagine that you’re permanently disabled — or maybe you already are. That’s the topic of a Backchannel article published last week on 2003 virtual world Second Life. Author Kristen French dug into the apparently large — estimates begin at 20% of the game’s 800,000 monthly active users — disabled community in the “hugely profitable” Second Life world, where activists run social groups and events for people with everything from mobility issues to speech and hearing disorders and even autism.
Of note, one of the players profiled in the piece is getting more than comfort.
“Some in Second Life’s disability community now use the term ‘Fran effect’ to describe improvements in real-life functioning that they attribute to their experience in Second Life,” explains the article, a concept backed up by scientific research.
On the other hand, one of the interviewees was reluctant to be typecast as a “supercrip” or “ghettoized” by participating in the online disabled community.
Worth a read if you’ve ever been tempted to write off immersion gaming or virtual worlds as a waste of time.