Editor's note: This is a guest post from Noelyci Ingmann of Ingmann Design Group, and is part of the first annual SL Blogger's Mix'n Match event. He's writing on a topic suggested by Alphonsus Peck of Alphonsus's Random Drivel
“I’m leaving Second Life!” “That’s IT, this character is dead!” “I can’t take it anymore, I don’t know if I’ll ever be back!” Live long enough with a significant portion of your creative juices flowing through digital play and you’ll hear something similar. From pen and paper roleplaying through the UNIX Bulletin Board Systems of my youth to the AOL and Compuserve chatrooms, into worlds like Ultima, SWG, WOW and Second Life there’s always been a reason to commit suicide of a character, now it’s digital rather then analog, but what drives a person to do this? The other question is, is it still a character if you don’t think it is? If you’re just ‘yourself’ in Second Life, does that mean you’re killing the digital you when you ‘suicide’?
The fact of the mattter is that we all play roles, in every aspect of our lives, and when we decide we aren’t going to associate with those people anymore, we may find that we can stop playing that role, in fact it’s often why we stop hanging out with them, because we don’t like ourselves when we’re around them. This is a common reason for leaving Second Life. Because we lose balance, and lose part of ourselves in something ‘too deep’ that ‘isn’t real’ or detracts from our responsibilities and commitments outside of the digital realm. Most commonly the people I know who’ve left Second Life do so for this reason. They may have had a broken heart and been surprised by the strength of the feelings that the ‘unreal’ caused. They may have just lost track of time once too often and disrupted their sleep schedule, they may have not liked the fact that their avatar and fantasy fufillment didn’t fufill them the way they thought it would. But they leave because they don’t like the part of themselves that Second Life brings out, they excise that part of themselves, hoping that they can be different without. They have to commit digital suicide to maintain what they want or have to be. Does this work? I am not qualified to answer that and I am sure it depends on who you ask. The characters who ‘died’ in the course of my roleplaying are still very much a part of my Psyche, their stories just ended…. So even the ones that were destructive to play, and there were a few… don’t completely disappear from who we are as holistic people. Hence, the idea that “It’s all real!”
So why else would we commit digital suicide? The idea that the character is done with their story, or it’s just too painful to play leads to Alts most of the time, unless it’s a balance issue brought on by real life concerns. But the other major reason I see people committing digital ‘suicide’ is because they disagree or protest the decisions made by the company. In this instance it would be Linden Labs, but this has happened before, Star Wars Galaxies is a fairly big example, when they completely changed the game and experience while people were playing, they lost at least half their user base. So, are open space pricing issues enough to make you commit suicide from Second Life, to never go back? The people I find who do this the most are people who don’t have ‘real’ friends in Second Life, but use it as a tool, they get upset that their tool dosen’t function properly so they leave. If you have a social group in the game then it’s unlikely that it matters as much to you, you’ll adapt to hang out with those people. Neither is wrong, just observations on my part.
Could we truly commit digital suicide? I’m not sure I could. Think about it… could you stop signing on to a computer to have anything to do with our ‘second life’? I’m not talking about not signing onto the grid. I’m talking about deleting the email that has your avatar name… Never contacting anyone who you met in Second Life… Never posting another blog post under that name… Being dead. I know that for certain people this is the step they have to take, but I suspect some of the friendships they have made continue, in forms outside Second Life. This leads me back to the assertion that it’s all ‘real’. Could you kill off part of yourself completely? Sure, we all do it when we grow, it’s how we transform and become what we ultimately are, but it’s not as easy as you think. The more I reflect on the term ‘digital sucide’ the more I like it. You may not be actually killing anything other than pixels but you’re certainly putting yourself through agonizing transformative pain if you do it right.
As always, written by ‘a random collection of pixels’ ~Noel.