Finding yourself: Self discovery in a digital world
Gaia’s Got Fish
I, ClareisCool, was born November 22nd, 2010 4:32pm western time. My birth place was Gaiaonline.com, and these are the events that ensued afterward.
I was directed to this world, Gaia, not at all sure what to expect. I could recall vaguely making something for the site in the 8th grade to chat with friends long before the times of Myspace and Facebook. Beyond this, all was a great mystery.
With interest I visit the nostalgic address, Gaiaonline.com. Greeted with a worldly image of a great metropolis surrounded by beautiful blue oceans and sky’s, I clicked the large friendly button, (“Join Now!”) and entered the new world.
My first impression was how easy everything was compared to the world I actually live in. Not only did I get my own car, but my own house to decorate, a fish tank, and the choice of gender and color of my skin (I remained a woman, but indulged in luxurious dark skin and white hair). My name was my choice too. Unfortunately the name “Clare” was already taken. Fortunately Gaia suggested that I choose “ClareisCool” instead. I couldn’t complain about that.
I set out on my quest for Gaian Gold so I could pay for sweet clothes and accessories for my house and car. You get gold for doing anything on the site, so I explored. The Gaian landscape was a colorful anime setting. The storyline to Gaia is illustrated in a comic book archive. It was very detailed and hilarious. The forum base hosts several lively places that a person can go to talk about whatever they want. I see all sorts of different people walking around and doing things,catching bugs, or picking up paper, while others are chatting.
It is the vast amount of things you can do in the world of Gaia that placed it in a different category from other social sites that I have seen. You can do everything from puzzles, fishing, games, and pets, to chatting, displaying artwork, shopping, and watching a movie. Really, they have movies that they show off their site. The best part though is you get to “sit” in a “theater” with lots of other Gaians who are throwing popcorn at people and throwing tomatoes on the screen.
A few days after my birth at Gaia, however, I realized I wanted a better wardrobe, accessories for my house and car, and a new hair style. I found myself spending an hour surfing the site trying to get enough gold to buy a new pair of shoes. I got them, thank you very much, and I felt pretty good until the game notified me my fish had died because I hadn’t fed them enough. Curses.
I, Clareiscool, learned my lesson well: whether in the real world or in the virtual world, if you spend too much time obsessing over getting the things you wish you had, your fish will surely die. Clareiscool will wake up tomorrow a wiser Gaian. Good night Gaia, and thanks for all the fish.
Let go of your first life for a little while
This is an interactive and realistic Massively multi-player online role-playing game very reminiscent of The Sims. In this world you create a virtual person, connect with friends, and interact with different places. Some places are modeled after real places while some are complete fantasy.
There are even a few lands owned by many of the schools here in Oregon, including Central Oregon Community College, here you can connect to libraries and other schools, and according to an article in the New York Times, founder and CEO of Second Life’s parent company Philip Rosedale said that “There’s actually a vibrant community of educators already in Second Life, and we’re happy to see it continuing to grow.” So this is not just another game, it’s a place you can go to learn and interact with your college in a new and exciting way.
Rosedale also notes that “Second Life can teach people new skills and connect them with new cultures in a way that the real-world environments of many places cannot.” Second Life even allows players to find jobs that range from Escort to Shopkeeper and the more you play the more you make. Parents be wary, this game has a huge market for adult themed things and despite having to prove your age for the Adult only lands the rest of them are not really all together kid friendly.
The downside to this game is that you have to download it to your computer and some days the lag gets unbearable, especially if your playing in a highly popular area of Second Life or have a low bandwidth connection. The game takes up quite a bit of space on your computer so be prepared for that.
Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life, has really managed to make this game world a fun and realistic place to play, learn, and let go of your first life for a bit, so go join up and find your bliss on Second Life.
So here is a not so brief log of my time playing Second Life:
The Start: First thing I have to say is I hate any game where I have to download stuff to my laptop. First thing I did was edit my appearance and it takes for ever! After hours of getting my Avatar just right, the worlds seem a bit confusing. Within the first 4 seconds of saying “hello” I was called a slut… Friendly. The first 6 hours I spent customizing my Avatar and trying to mingle managed to customize the Avatar, mingling failed. Now 2:00 a.m., the game is addicting as well as boring
Day 1: They only way I can find to have a house to put your little avatar when you log off is by spending 72 dollars a year on a premium membership, so I did what any good player would do and flew my avatar to the top of the highest building I could find and sat her down on an air vent with a bored expression on her face and logged off. Hopefully she doesn’t fall asleep and plummet to her death.
Day 2: I wandered around finding some pretty racy islands, and play with “my” look for another few hours… Some guy named Eddie hits on me, for journalistic reasons I allow this and don’t search for a way to kick him in his family jewels and run. He lures my newly blond Avatar to a secret Island and offers to show her the “fun parts of SL” I’ll leave that to your imagination. After finally shaking my new friend I find a nice quiet auditorium to rest my Avatar for the night. She didn’t feel safe sleeping on the “clothing optional” island.
Day 3: I found a peaceful free meditation house my little Avatar spends a few hours here whilst I study. The meditation house is on the Help people Island so after study I take her shopping at the free mall nearby. This island has lots of fun stuff and friendly but not too friendly people. My avatar stays in the Meditation house tonight.
Day 4: I found a box full of Land Marks that leads me to explore Golden Gate Bridge and the Great Wall of China. The Wall is fun with a huge Buddha meditation spot and very scenic. At the Bridge I ride a horse along the shore line and watch the sunset. Tonight my Avatar sleeps at the top of the bridge.
Day 5: More shopping this time, the window shopping variety in Soho, and I found Big Ben, even got a little Big Ben for the house I don’t have. I find that you can rent houses nearby and get my first SL job offer, that’s not x rated, at a small pub. I kindly decline as I doubt I’ll be playing much longer. Next stop is to the Central Oregon Schools land which has a social area and links to many Oregon schools and even a mini Crater Lake like object. I decided to leave my avatar here for the night.
Day 6: Finally figured out your avatar doesn’t stay in SL if you’re not logged on it floats off to the abyss. I visit a castle and find a little cafe full of books and cozy places to read and I sit and have some orange juice.Later I find a little reggae Island with some highly questionable furniture but me and the Saber Tooth Tiger get along, so I go swimming in the clear blue sea and sit on the beach as the sun sets. Then I find a piano in the house and I sit and “play” it until I start drooling on my Laptop because its now morning, this game is getting more interesting and more addictive.
Day 15: I know I skipped a few days but this is the day I decide to show Second Life I am a grown up, so I hesitantly give Linden Labs my home address and voila! I am a grown up, meaning I can now access the adult only part of SL, a few mildly dirty words entered in the search engine, in the name of investigative reporting or course, suddenly people, places, and advertisments pop up that would make a seasoned pro blush. In an effort to see exactly what draw this world has to the unwashed masses, I go visit a few of the “Adult Lands” and man if the heat off my face could power cities we’d never have an energy crisis. Some of this stuff I’ve never even heard of. There are warnings everywhere about no child avatars. Can we say creepy? No less than 10 people ask me if my avatar is an “alt” meaning that you have a first account that you play as well. I guess spending all that time shopping and learning to dress myself paid off, since I am no longer being called a newbie. Even though I know she will float off to the abyss as soon as I log off I take my avatar back to the reggae island before logging off.
Day 22: A guy I met, a charming one, takes me to a Victorian themed ball and we dance and chat and listen to romantic music. I’ve realized how perfect a place like Second Life is for people who have Long distance relationships. Just because your husband is away for months at a time for work doesn’t mean you can’t have a date night in SL. The guy promises to take me to a place called Bogart’s that has a Frank Sinatra theme to the music and all the men wear suits and the ladies ball gowns next time we are both online.
Minecraft: Playing with legos meets virtual reality
I would consider myself a pretty seasoned Minecraft player. I have built all manner of structures and explored my fair share of islands and caves. So I decided it was time for an experiment, to build a completely self sufficient underground base so that I would never have to set foot on the outside world and risk getting killed by the variety of dangers that walk on Minecraftia. This is a log of my ingame day to day experience.
Day 1: I spawned on a large area of sand on the beach, like I always do. Looking around I feel that the island I am on is too flat for me to be able to find the resources I need. So I look off into the distance and see a mountainous area with lakes, trees, and wildlife. I broke down some trees with my bare fists, turned them into planks, made a boat, and set off to this island. I landed on the island and found a large lake surrounded by trees. Common sense told me that trees don’t naturally grow underground, so I gathered as much wood, seeds, and saplings as I could, and some coal I found near by, and strung together torches. The sun was just setting so I quickly dug myself a cave under the lake, covered the hole I made, and placed a few torches in this dark hole so that no hostile creatures would spawn and cut my adventure short. I was still close enough to hear the creatures above ground though. And my first day ended with the moans of a zombie…
Day 2: I spent the night prior just expanding the entrance room to hold my chest, furnace, and workbench I made and making pickaxes and shovels to build. I collected some dirt, stone, and iron I found in the immediate area and started thinking about what I needed to survive down here. I needed to make a farm to get bread so I could heal my health when I find monsters or fall a great distance, I needed to find a cave system to explore and find more precious materials, and I needed to create a place to grow trees because picks and shovels don’t last forever. I figure I have enough wood and build a farm. Using spare dirt and posting a LOT of torches on the walls to bring the necessary light to the dirt, I till the soil and plant seeds. Plants take a while to grow so I leave it, and as I’m walking away, I hear the sound that plays when the sun rises…
Day 5: The last few days consisted of impatiently watching my farm slowly grow wheat for bread and expanding my little hidey hole. This day was different though. Today, I broke through a wall into a large and expansive cave system. As soon as I saw darkness, I freaked out like a little girl and filled it. Why? I saw a skeleton. I covered the hole just as it saw me and shot an arrow. It hit me but thankfully at this point I had a loaf of bread and filled my health. I invested some of the iron I had found into making a sword. And walked back to the hole, ready to fight. I broke open the wall…and a valiant fight ensued. By valiant I mean I circle strafed like it was no ones business and whacked it to death. After I finished off the skeleton, I quickly placed torches everywhere I could get to so enemies would have no shadows to spawn in. I went back to my farm and after seeing it’s poorly state, decided to wait to explore the new area I found until I had more bread to heal myself with.
Day 7: The last day of my first week underground. The constant mooing from the cows above is driving me mad, but I stay true to my vow of living underground. I made a full set of iron armor, filled my inventory with pickaxes and bread, and set off into the unknown caves. I found a few straggling zombies in shadows I missed, but thankfully no more skeletons, and by the grace of the Gods, not a single Creeper. Creepers are strange four legged green creatures that explode when they are within one block of your character, and destroy blocks around them. At the end of one side of the cave, I found lava and water coming together to create obsidian blocks. Obsidian would be a great acquisition, but it can only be harvested with a diamond pick, and diamond is very rare. My second to last pick runs out looking for more coal and it is then I realize that I am completely out of wood. It was time to try to grow trees underground. I use my last pick creating a giant room and replacing the floor with dirt. I grab the saplings I have in my chest and plant them. I go to sleep, hoping that when I woke up, I would have new resources.
Day 12: I wake up and I see that my tree still hasn’t grown. Angry, I check the wikipedia and find that my ceiling was not high enough. I start to make the room taller when suddenly, a tree explodes into existence and I get stuck in the spawned leaves. It very seriously, scared the crap out of me. I punch my way out of the leaves in a very manlike way, and look at my lovely creation before destroying it with my bare hands to make more tools. The leaves drop saplings and I fill the room with them, hoping more trees will grow.
Day 16: I have searched the cave to it’s full extent, and my chest is filling with stone, wheat, and wood from my farms and digging activities. While I have made underground living successful, it is not as exhilarating as it was when monsters were spawning in the caves. I detcide to spend today selecting what items to take with me…on my return to the surface.
Day 17: I have decided to take all my iron, coal, and wood. Pigs would provide me with pork chops with which to heal myself, and I would find a new home a top the mountains. I re-open the hole to the surface, and swim out. My oxygen bar was almost depleted when I break the surface of the water. I swim to the shore and look out upon the island. Cows, pigs, and chickens roam freely through the land, and just in the distance I can see a dense forest. The future of my travels seem to be full of adventure. Then my heart sags as I hear the most terrifying sound that can ever be heard in the world of Minecraftia…”Sssssss…BOOM!” A creeper had walked beside me and detonated before I could react. I stare, mouth agape at a a red tinted screen of a crater filled with my treasures, white text stating “GAME OVER” stabs me in the heart. I slowly mouse over and click “RETURN TO TITLE.” My respawn point was three islands away and I would not know my way back. My adventure was over…or was it?
START NEW WORLD…
A week of wandering in WoW
Since I was assigned the notoriously addicting World of Warcraft, I was, naturally, determined to not let it undermine my social life during the ten day trial.
Only two hours after opening the game for the first time, I desperately want to subscribe and buy all the expansions.
I spent a good half hour choosing my character—a Human Priestess. My logic wasn’t very serious at this stage. I simply chose a Human because of the intensely long ears the Night Elf had that didn’t appeal to me, and a Priest because I liked their outfit.
I started out with the beginner quests intended to familiarize you with the game. At first I was bored and slightly peeved at how stiff the competition was for killing the first beasts, but as I started and finished more and more beginner quests I began to understand the appeal.
First of all, WoW is graphically a gorgeous game.
Second, other players are friendly—multiple times players with combatively better characters than mine teamed up to save my sorry butt, when I, being full of myself and assuming I can run away, got mobbed by higher-leveled-than-me monsters. When they shot the ugly beasties away with their arrows and spell, it made me very sad that I, being on the ten-day trial, couldn’t thank them.
Third, even the beginning quests whisper hints of the huge story lines beyond—story lines that I shall not follow due to the expense of the subscription.
Received advice to choose Shadow priest when I hit level ten. Considering creating a second character (if possible) so I can experience the Horde quest lines.
Opened login screen in order to play for a half hour before I went to a friends’ house—predicted that I would spend too long in the game. Closed out screen quickly.
I created an undead character with the idea of seeing another perspective of the game, but I hated it. I only stuck with this character for about fifteen minutes before switching back to my human.
I played for about an hour and a half again. Due to the frigid temperatures in my house, my mouse hand goes numb after about that long. I can scarcely type this log.
I died probably five or six times, but made a couple of breakthroughs with my spells, if that’s what one calls them when one is a priest.
I leveled up once (almost twice,) got new robes, and completed two quests.
I didn’t log on all day. I thought about it dozens of times though– I even considered leaving a gathering of friends early in order to play. I didn’t. Is addiction setting in? Maybe.
New Year’s Eve. I played for about hour in the afternoon. I completed a couple of quests that were too hard for me the day before yesterday after levelling up a few times.
Another hour later in the evening. Leveled up again. Died a couple more times. Embarked on a dozen more quests.
I had a couple of good conversations with serious WoW players (in real life, since I can’t talk ingame.) They gave me some tips, and were sad with me when I expressed my inability to subscribe.
Played far too late, considering this is Sunday and my first class is at 7:45 tomorrow.
I leveled up to nine, finished an quest that had been bothering me, and went to Stormwind to buy new robes so my character could look pretty for the picture.
School started. I attempted to play, but was too tired and collapsed as soon as I logged off.
My WoW life has come to a close.
Three days as a virtual chef
Cedar N. Goslin
For three days, a plump avatar version of myself ran a virtual restaurant on the popular Facebook game, Cafe World, which is an application that allows users to play as a personalized avatar, cook level-determined meals from the menu and decorate your cafe.
Virtual customers frequent the cafe and are served by waiters—your level determines how many you can have—whatever food you have waiting on serving trays. For each dish, you only have so long to get the food from the stove to the tray, otherwise it will turn a sickening green, collect flies and be unusable.
Day one: Getting Started
Excited to embark on my virtual cooking adventure, I patiently waited the five minutes for the application “Cafe World” to load on my freshly made Facebook page under the name of Betty Sue.
Immediately, the game started encouraging me to invite friends—I had none, so I declined and started the game. I was guided through how to make the first dish on the menu: bacon cheeseburgers.
This task really only involves clicking the stove several times as the food goes through three steps of preparation, simple enough. After several rounds of bacon cheeseburgers were on the table and being served up to customers, I went about the task of spending the meager profit I’d made to give myself a makeover.
I decided to stray away from the default look given to my avatar; friendly round eyes, full cheeks, and a cute little chef’s outfit. Instead, I opted to dress my character in pinstripe suit, I narrowed her eyes, painted a smirk on her face—I decided to pretend that she was a business tycoon preparing to make big bucks off of the cafe she’d recently purchased.
Cafe World leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to story line so you have to use your imagination.
Day Two: Who Knew Guacamole Spoiled So Quickly?
The next day I logged in and was shocked to find that all of the cheeseburgers I’d made the previous day were gone, my ratings were down and the customers were angry.
It seemed like it was time to add something new to the menu, so I checked the cook book to see what was available and decided on chips and guacamole. I filled my stoves, clicked through the steps, and then left my computer to make a sandwich—a real one, that is.
Unfortunately, the cooking time for chips and guacamole is only three minutes, so by the time I returned, all three servings had grown mold and each had their own fly fan club.
Not to be discouraged, I cleaned the stoves, added fresh dishes of guacamole and decided to decorate my cafe. There wasn’t much I could afford, but I did manage to replace one of he default tables with a snazzy round one with a red table cloth.
I was delighted to find that the wallpaper I wanted—nice deep green—was only 30 coins … that is, until I realized you had to buy it a panel at a time. Luckily, I hadn’t been able to afford a larger cafe, so I had just enough to wallpaper my small cafe.
I closed out of the decorating menu … to find that my chips and guacamole had spoiled. This would happen no fewer than nine more times throughout he day—the game eventually awarded me a medal for sucking so badly.
Day Thee: Sorry, Can’t Go Out—I Have Customers
By day three, I seemed to have gotten a handle on the whole cooking thing—partially because I’d gotten some experience under my belt, and partially because I’d implemented a new rule forbidding myself from making anything with a cooking time of fewer than 15 minutes.
My serving tables were constantly full of dishes such as onion soup, fish sticks and of course the original bacon cheeseburgers; my rating was a the max it could be, a whopping 10.5, and my customers were finally happy!
However, there was a new problem—my virtual restaurant was effecting real life.
After obtaining my “wow, you really suck at this” (dubbed by me, not the game) medal, I was determined not to spoil another dish … that meant I couldn’t leave my computer.
Once when asked to go to the store for fixings for a real dinner, I said I would have to wait a half hour—why? Because that was how long I had left on my fish sticks.
It occurred to me that I could just let it rot and start over … but that would disappoint my customers! For being boring and frustrating at first, Cafe World had become oddly addictive.
Though my dabbling in Cafe World was enjoyable in it’s own way, I’ve definitely decided not to click on it again now that my experiment is over– my social life may depend on it.