I’ve been “in” virtual worlds since the earliest days of the MUD.  Throughout these decades, I’ve never really understood the interest of people in virtual relationships and “adult activities” online.

I certainly have always had friends in virtual worlds.  Some of those friendships have crossed from the virtual to the tangible worlds through meet ups at conferences or professional meetings.  But to develop a romantic relationship between my avatar and that of another person seems problematic to me.

I’ve read James Paul Gee’s discussion of the three identities of people online: me (the person), my avatar (the thing on the screen), and the projective identity (what I want her to be).  Throughout any encounter online, ALL THREE of these identities are in play – which means that I (Barbara) am always involved in any actions that my avatar (Christien Suntzu) undertakes.  And therein lies the rub – I am already in a relationship, and having an online one – to me – would probably put the real life relationship in jeopardy.

While I have met people who argue that you can keep the SL and the RL relationships separate, I have seen very few successful instances of this separation.  In fact, over many decades of online game play, discussion forums, and text/ 3-D roleplay, I can think of one couple that was truly successful.  Even in groups doing strict role playing, one or more of the virtual partners (or their RL partners) becomes confused about which relationship is the “real” one.  When this happens, people become hurt and angry.  Sometimes, RL or virtual relations come crashing to an end.  Oftimes, a partner needs to leave the virtual world in order to salvage the RL relationship.

And from the sidelines, you have to ask, “Was it worth it?”

To me, the risk is too great for a meager pay off.  So, I continue to rebuff advances from people in world – even for the sake of running a good role-play scenario.