Imagine a world where we can do anything we want, have anything we want, or BE anything we want. Second Life is a fascinating snapshot of many people trying to make this fantasy a reality.
SL is not quite the ideal environment for making our wildest dreams come true, unfortunately. There is still commerce,the limitations of Linden physics, and (shudder) the necessity of interacting with other avs whose dreams might be diametrically opposed ot yours. SL does lend itself easily to the realization of some dreams, however. The dream of having a different appearance or gender is elementarily realized here. This is likely the reason why we see so many people with alternative sexual orientations in SL. It is the playground where their dreams can be so easily brought to life. It is little wonder that so many people who are experimenting with being the opposite gender don’t confess this openly…to do so would snap the “reality” of the dream.
It also explains the plethora of sexual promiscuity in SL. Many guys have the “super stud” dream, and some women have whatever the female equivalent of this mentality is. (Side note: it is interesting that while super stud is arguably not a derogatory term, I can think of no female equivalent terms that aren’t derogatory in some way.) There are people whose wildest dream is to have sex ALL the time with the gender or genders of their choosing. Such behavior strikes me as being somewhat adolescent, but then, what better place to grow beyond emotional adolescence than in the comparatively “safe” environment of SL. One wonders how many truly grow beyond it, however.
SL lends itself well to certain other kinds of fantasies: Fairies and Furies being among them. Other fantasies are harder to realize. Being a “superhero” is kind of pointless in a world where no one can be hurt unless they chose to deliberately expose themselves to places where such hurt is possible. It is also hard to maintain a secret identity when one’s name floats a meter above one’s head.
The question that then arises is if such realization of dreams are “real.” The answer to this, of course, is that the dreams realized in SL are as real as we choose them to be. We don’t directly “experience” the real world–it is instead filtered through a limited range of nerves and neurons.. There has been some question as to whether the experience of dreaming (as in the kind we do when we sleep) is just as valid to our minds as the real world is. From the brain’s perspective, there is no real difference between a dream and a waking state. The same neurons get fired, the same synapses close…the reality of our nocturnal dreams is just as valid as waking life, as far as the mechanics of the brain is concerned.
To say that what one experiences in SL is not “real” is merely a matter of perspective. One can argue that the experiences of SL are far more “real” than the experiences of television, of movies, or even of literature. In SL, one interacts with the active, real minds of others. Television, movies, and books are passive in comparison. No matter how much these other media may fire our imagination, the experience is entirely internal. One does not “interact” with the characters of a fiction book…the book will end the same way, no matter how many times one reads it. When one walks into a sim in SL, one can never quite know what to expect. SL reflects the unpredictability of reality in its pixel-generated mirror.
One could even make the argument that SL is MORE real than reality, as the number of minds we can meet from all different ilks remains far greater than the number of minds that many can meet in reality, at least for most SL residents. The factor of randomness therefore increases–and thus does the possibilities of meeting others who alter our narrow mindsets. And now the time has come for my animator to try to experience more dreams of the nocturnal variety. He is falling asleep at the keyboard, barely having the stamina to complete this last sentence before drifting off to the “reality” of sleep induced dream-scapes.
If we dream of walking across fields in SL, what differences is there between that and dreams of RL?
Precious little, I would imagine.