Gwyn Embarassed in RL Office - Original Photo by

Henrik Bennetsen, in his old masterpiece article Augmentation vs. Immersion, launched one of the biggest debates in the history of Second Life®’s psychology. The clarity of his ideas finally defined the two possible relationships a resident of Second Life might have towards the virtual world: either as a different space or as an extension of the real space.

Bennetsen cleverly explains that both visions are imaginary ideals on the opposite sides of the scale, and that, in reality, there aren’t any “pure augmentists” or “pure immersionists” in SL, but always a mix of both. As time goes by, immersionists will slowly give way to augmentationists, but they will never disappear completely. In my article here I claim that one reason for that is because some immersionists will become post-immersionists instead.

Escapism and the Magic Circle

Current-generation SL residents generally scorn self-proclaimed immersionists by considering them merely escapists, a term that actually fits well to many (most?) MMORPG players. In MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, for instance, few players are anything but role-playing a game for fun (granted, there might be exceptions, since even WoW has a huge social component that is alluring for many; just because you look like an Orc that doesn’t mean you can’t use WoW as a dating service!). A game is just a game with rules, and you act according to those rules. What happens “outside the game” has little relevance — after all, few games give you extra levels for establishing RL business or marrying your partner in RL (I might even be persuaded to say that no game does that!), but only by completing tasks or quests or whatever they might be called inside the game’s rules and environment.

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