Life in the game : identity in the age of online computer games.
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Whether virtual reality will have positive or negative implications on the social structure is debatable, but one thing is certain- virtual reality will play an increasingly important role in public and private life as we move toward the future (1). Over the years there has been a notable increase in the amount of people playing online virtual reality games. World of Warcraft (WoW) alone has an estimated eight million account holders, making it the largest Massive Multi-player Online Role-playing Game (MMORPG) in the world. Although the Internet has been appropriated by social practice, it does have specific affects on the social practice itself. Role-playing and identity building form the basis of online interaction (Castells, 2001:118), which suggests that social patterns of communication are starting to change. This study starts with the basic explanation of the Internet and Globalization which lends a hand to those wanting to escape into parallel online worlds, where they are able to reinvent themselves. This will lead into a discussion on how virtual reality online gaming can aid in the erosion of social communication as well as enhance it, through communities, the identity, and addiction. Theorists such as Rheingold (1994), Turkle (1998), Robins (1998) and Yee (2006) discuss how virtual reality gaming provides a window to a different world, where players can experiment with their identities as well as interact with people from around the world; all of which aid in the shift of normal social patterns and self construction. Finally a close look is taken on why these virtual reality online games hold such an allure to its players, turning them into gaming addicts, or is it an online communication addiction. During this dissertation a preliminary case study was under taken with a collected group of the Durban youth, regarding WoW and their online interactions with people abroad. It is evident that further research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand the extent of virtual reality online games and their effect on social behaviours and communication patterns. As a transformation in the relationship between the self and the social outside worlds, tends to blur when gamers enter into their fantasy society. (1) www.bilawchuk.com