Healing Isolation & Facilitating Empathy: The Power of Virtual Worlds

I just read a great blog post on the topic of Caring and caregivers in the 21st century that brought be back to one of my favorite topics, the untapped power of virtual worlds/3D game environments for healing, developing community, and learning. The author of the post, Tateru Nino, notes that Second Life‘s community has included a significant percentage of people who are struggling with some type of disability or illness, or who are caregivers and, therefore, limited in their ability to leave their homes to socialize. However, the main focus is to highlight a “game” called Caregiver Village:

“The Unity 3D based game, Caregiver Village, is a … well, if you’ll pardon the portmanteau, ‘edutainment’ game, intended to help divert and relax caregivers, while teaching them valuable skills throughout an engaging and episodic mystery/adventure, sprinkled with mini-games and sporting connections to Facebook. All of that, plus the Web-site supporting caregivers.”  [read more of this post by Tateru Nino]

Tateru Nino illustrates the power of virtual worlds. People who are “shut in” have new environments, relationships and opportunities open to them. These settings can be especially powerful in giving people options to connect when their current life situation limits their ability to do so otherwise.

I think we are only seeing the beginning of the emergence of virtual worlds and other 3D virtual settings (e.g., games) to address a diverse range of needs. Continue reading

Everyone on the Internet is an Axe Murderer

Axe Murderer

There’s a lot of cultural fear about what might happen if you first connect with people virtually and then meet them “in ‘real’ life,” although I prefer to call this “in physical life”  (IPL) because I think that the virtual is very real. I don’t want to minimize the risks that might be associated with people being exploited or hurt by people they have met online (or IPL for that matter…remember Looking for Mr. Goodbar?)–there certainly are things that you need to watch out for. For example, at least once a month I receive an out-of-the-blue message on Facebook from some attractive man I have never met telling me I have a nice smile, and then telling me his life story and his desire for a real relationship. Pursuing this, or something like this, is not likely to have a good outcome. This is NOT what I will be writing about.

I’ve been fortunate to establish some really good connections with a wide range of people online. Beginning with my LiveJournal blogging days, then Second Life, and then Twitter, I’ve made quite a few friends in virtual spaces. And over the years, I’ve had a chance to meet quite a few of them face to face. @DorleeM once asked me how many people I had met IPL and I was surprised once I actually counted–I first came up with a count of 8, and I’ve never attended one of the major convention meet-ups where people would typically make these connections–those 8 were all personal connections that I made on my own with specific people that I met first online. They don’t include small Tweetups where I have met a group of people at once. Continue reading

Understanding Interpersonal Drama in Virtual Worlds

Drama Free Zone Sign Within a Virtual World

In my last blog post on the emotional reality of virtual relationships I speculated that one of the sources for the drama that is known to occur in virtual worlds might be the absence of non-verbal communication. The findings from a recent study reported in Science Daily offer support for this hypothesis. Continue reading

The Emotional Reality of Virtual Relationships

cataplexia numbers
Occasionally I find a post on another blog that resonates so strongly with me that I excerpt it here.  Here’s some eloquent reflections by Dove Mornington on the topic of emotional interactions in virtual relationships that occur in worlds like Second LifeContinue reading