Escapism and daydreams are, in my opinion, wonderful and part of what fuels our creativity and excitement. I mean, most of us probably engage in some form of escapism just by the act of playing MMOs. These are settings that make us heroes, gives us clearly defined objectives with assured rewards, and continually dole out progression and backpats. Am I the only one who purrs when the game says, “Well done, chap?”
But there’s always that next level of escapism where the mind starts to fantasize about leaping through the monitor and living in these vivid, exciting worlds. Consider the amount of homework or responsibilities or job tasks you have on your plate, and then consider dropping it all to spend your life as an adventurer in Azeroth, Norrath, Tyria, or Eorzea. Wow, that would be such a relief, wouldn’t it?
Nay, say I — it would be a nightmare from which you would be unable to escape. You would most likely star as an ironic mishap victim in a Twilight Zone episode. Today in Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at 10 consequences of trading the real world for a virtual one.
You will live in constant fear and pain.
As we pack our things to jump through the monitor and into these virtual worlds, let’s have a crystal-clear understanding of what these worlds consist of: small outposts surrounded by scads of brutal wilderness, hostile wildlife, hostile natives, and hostile bandits. You would either be huddled up in a city in fear of ever leaving, or you’d leave only to be attacked over and over again.
Even with all the mutant healing powers at your command, you’ll still feel agonizing pain at being bitten, gored, sliced, stabbed, immolated, poisoned, electrified, crushed, battered, and drowned. You’d effectively live in a prison where the world outside of the towns consists of guards who want to pummel you into staying in your cell for good.
You’ll either be a soldier or in service of one.
There’s certainly not a lot of creative leeway when it comes to making a living. You will either grab a sword and become a soldier-for-hire, or you’ll work your fingers to the bone supporting the soldier-for-hire industry. Teachers? Politicians? Writers? Insurance claim adjusters? Scientists? They’re in the extreme minority if they exist at all, so you’ll consign yourself to eternal warfare or making cheese wheels to feed the troops.
Time will stand still.
Time is a harsh mistress in the real world, no doubt, but it does come with a very unappreciated benefit: things progress and change. Your actions today will have consequences, your work can pay off, and your relationships will develop. This is not the MMO world. Like the movie Groundhog Day, the only thing that will progress there will be your knowledge and immediate wealth, because the rest of the world will be stuck in a moment in time with the day before being the same as the day after. The bandit threat will never be eliminated and that inn with the busted roof will never get fixed.
Death will not be a release, but a reset button.
Like mutant healing, having practical immortality sounds like a great thing until it’s shoehorned into a busted, antagonistic world. First of all, you’ll never have the opportunity or choice to die; you’ll be forced to live forever. Long after you get tired of the locales and weary of the pain from uppity goblin stabbings, you’ll still be there. It’ll be like an eternal retirement home where you’ll bide your time because you’ll be detached from the outside world. And even when you are killed — which will happen, many times, even if you try to avoid it — all you’ll get is some more pain and a big ol’ reset button that sets you up for more. Have you started screaming yet? It helps drown out the futility of your situation.
You’d have idiotic conversations piped into your ears 24/7.
So we’ve managed to make the transition into the game world itself, but that won’t stop people from playing it, will it? And when people play, people talk with godly abilities to transmit their message across cities, regions, and even worlds. You’ll, of course, have to listen to it all, all of the political inanity and “yo momma” jokes and incoherent rage, because you won’t have any ability left to mute, ignore, or escape the voices. They’ll be everywhere, trickling into your ears — and they’ll never stop.
You probably would not have plumbing, air conditioning, or deodorant (if you’re in a fantasy world).
Except for the statistically fewer contemporary and science-fiction virtual worlds, chances are you’ll be heading to a fantasy world. This is not good. Since fantasy is loosely based on pre-industrial society, you’re going to have to give up a number of conveniences that you take for granted every day. So start getting used to the fact that you’ll be pooping in a bucket, sweating like a pig, smelling like a howler monkey, and eating quickly rotting food that never had the benefit of a fridge.
There would be no regulation for magic users.
These virtual worlds are filled with wall-to-wall adventurers who have one thing in common: They all have access to things that can kill you and nobody legislates that. What terrifies me the most when I think about it is the prevalence of magic in these games. From the outside of the monitor, they’re good for DPS numbers and pretty special effects. From inside the monitor, they’re unchecked power that can do unspeakable things to people that the magician does not like. Would you want to live in a world where a disgruntled garbage hauler, a manic mother, or a depressed teenager could call down a meteor on your city block, set your house on fire with a thought, or summon demons to do their bidding?
No one would remember you.
In MMOs, you’d encounter exactly two types of people: NPCs who would have simple conversations with you and forget you the moment you left, and players who would only be around for a short time before disappearing forever. So you would be unable to form long-lasting relationships with anyone unless some other soul got trapped in this pocket hell alongside of you. And what if they’re a jerk? Good thing you know a spell to turn them inside-out, I guess.
All laws and rules would be established by an unseen entity that could change them at any moment.
The seat of power in MMOs is not in the figurehead of the king or baron, but in the developers’ studio. The studio represents an absolute monarchy that you would never be able to petition or influence. The studio would set all of the rules and laws with god-like authority and control, and you’d be subject to any abrupt changes that a patch or update would bring. Of course, being in the world and unable to access a computer, you’d never know that such change was coming until it did.
Your world will end. Within years. And it will be brutally sudden.
Considering that you would be in constant fear, in constant harm, and unable to escape, this last fact would be a mercy blow on your existence. Still, considering you traded up to 70 years of your real world life for this virtual world, only getting back a handful of years would be a poor exchange. No MMO goes on forever, and when they’re shut down, it’s often without warning. Imagine living in a world where the end could come at any moment and will most certainly come within a decade or so. When it happens, you will leave no legacy, parent no children, and be completely erased from history.
That’s the world you wanted to escape into?