Saturday, January 9, 2010

How Do Virtual Worlds Impact Physical World Couples? - Part 1

How are romantic relationships in the physical world affected when one or both members of a couple begin to spend many hours a week as an avatar in a virtual world like Second Life?
I woke up this morning with that question in mind and decided to cast it upon the digital waters. My purpose isn't to preach any neat pre-conceived conclusions, but to encourage thoughtful discussion on a topic that usually gets public attention only when sparked by sensationalist scandal. In this post I want to focus on pre-existing committed physical world relationships.
"Hey honey, what are you doing," he asked, looking over his wife's shoulder. She seemed to be playing some sort of game on her computer. 
"I'm trying out that Second Life thing that Connie at work told me about." she replied with a bit of embarrassment about being caught playing with her avatar's body shape.
"Oh that sounds cool," he said. "Maybe I should give it a try."
Our story could move forward over many different paths, some ending in a more fulfilling relationship for our couple, others ending in drama, separation and Tabloid headlines.

Unfortunately, at this very early stage of virtual world history, there are few (if any) established "best practices" to either safeguard or enhance committed physical world relationships while one or both members are exploring avatar identity.

I'm going to explore the question over the course of the week and hopefully (with the help of reader comments) come up with good guidance for people in committed physical world relationships who would like to explore virtual worlds and avatar identity.


Anonymous said...

Great idea. Looking forward to the posts!

Emilly Orr said...

I'm not sure I'm the person to ask, but I'll toss the comment out there, for what it's worth...My partner and I both play in SL. The same lady was dating both of us, unknowingly (we don't claim a connection on the grid).

Two years later? That lady lives with us. So I'd say it can have a big impact...if you're polyamorous and have open relationships. (I still have a love in world, and a long-distance relationship besides. So I'm not sure our solution would work for anyone else.)