Formation of identity is an old concept, yet one that has found new avenues in virtual worlds. With the idea that ‘the more virtual, the more real,’ one begins to uncover how virtual worlds propose the question, which of you is the true-self: -the virtual, or non-virtual? This paper will explore how the richness of experiences and authentic nature of those involved have created a ‘more real’ self in the games compared to traditional storytelling mediums where connection to created characters is the goal. It is the idea of identity, not constrained by social norms and culture in the non-virtual world but by the individual’s true self, free to be expressed with low-risk through these mediums. These virtual worlds are not separate from the non-virtual, often linking the person’s non-virtual identity or events with the game with shared experiences (Stone, 1991 p.85).

Arguments on whether the entirety of existence is a simulation have been disproved to the best of abilities (Ringel & Kovrizhin, 2017), the widespread acceptance of the possibility gives insight to the proposition that human consciousness may exist within a virtual world. These theories show not only an attempt to explain existence but build upon a long-standing notion found in philosophy and literature far before the advent of virtual worlds. “-You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying-” (Through the Looking Glass, 1871) speaks to a dream-state, questioning existence of what might be an illusion, impossible to test empirically by the subject, though not negating its legitimacy. Willingness to become part of the virtual-world, and at times, forsake the non-virtual one is also unsurprising, yet begs the question: -are we now realer in the virtual world?

About the speaker

Courtney Kidd, LCSW is a PhD student in Science & Technology Innovative Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her current research looks to understand how emotional responses in Video Games and Virtual Reality can be better understood, measured, and developed for social good. She can be reached at C.Kidd-3@sms.ed.ac.uk

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