A warning of the implications of RL and VR...

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Hi there, I'm Chris Tonks, owner of The Big C identity on h2g2 and around the Net. I've been on h2g2 as The Big C (previously BigC) for quite a while now, and I've analysed how the whole thing is set up, how it works, and how people affect it and are affected by it. In my time here I've seen a lot of things happen, but one thing recently struck my attention, and I decided to write this article as a warning about getting carried away with VR and RL.

This article will be structured as follows: first off, I'm going to describe to you exactly what VR and RL are, and how they relate to h2g2. Then I'm going to tell you how they can affect each other, and that certain things go wrong when the two realities are mixed, with an example given. To conclude, I'm going to tell you how to avoid such things ever happening, and suggest a set of basic rules for you to follow.

Read on...

So then, what exactly is RL?

Real Life, also sometimes termed IRL (in real life), but this doesn't work as a noun. This is the world outside h2g2 and other communities on the Internet. It is our world, the true world, the world we actually live and (presumably) work in. It's what we exist in, what we were born in, and what we will eventually, if life has its way, die in.

RL is full of little troubles though. Just look at the evening news to see how bad it can really get. Wars, hunger, disasters, and so on. There's nothing we can do about it either, so RL is a term used to describe the real world, the one we can't control.

OK, what's VR then?

Virtual Reality, a logically impossible term. It can be absolutely anything we like. It can be our RL world, it can be total fantasy, it can defy the laws of physics; it can do anything. We turn to VR more and more as 'modern life', RL, gets worse. We use VR as a getaway from our troubles, because in VR we can sweep our troubles away, we can believe them to be nonexistent.

Generally, VR is in communities on the Internet, h2g2 for example. In these communities, we have whole VR lives, either identical to our RL lives, or radically different. We immerse ourselves in these lives, make new friends, bring them into our own lives, and mix them into ours.

We invent new places, take control of them, hold events; an entire new VR world where everything is possible! An awesome prospect, and a reality that h2g2 has become!

Sounds good! But, what of them together?

Well, there are several ways in which the one can affect the other. The most obvious one though, is the intrusion of RL into VR. A most common case is when RL takes you away from VR, usually when you have to leave the computer, or when your ISP's too slow and you give up the Internet for the day. Or RL could also affect VR in a good way, for instance, you get more time on the Internet, or you've finally finished typing up that Guide entry.

Unfortunately though, many things in RL affect VR, your behaviour on h2g2 particularly, in a bad way. If something bad has happened in RL, you're likely to carry a bad mood over with you into VR. Also, certain habits from RL may affect your behaviour in VR. I have a perfect example of this.

It's to do with the Virtual Prez Elections on h2g2. One of the candidates, The Celery, was holding a party. Another candidate, erm, me, thought it might be fun to try and assassinate this succeeding rival of his. He wrote a long post detailing things about the death of The Celery, and stated that it wasn't a movie or anything like that, but that it really happened. After this, The Celery got into a bit of a row about this, because he afterwards said it was a movie, which contradicted the first post.

That's it you see; an argument, something that should only happen in RL, if that. Several people got involved, and the organiser of the whole event, Shazz, had to come in to calm things down. Arguments are things that should have no part in the world of VR, and this incident is a perfect example of how RL and VR together can cause disaster.

Oh dear... Any way of stopping it?

There certainly is! Stop RL from entering VR. That's the simplest rule I can think of. Arguments, bad moods, and things going wrong... they are all things we can be rid of in VR.

But that wasn't the only problem we encountered. Looking back at my example again, we see that the second post directly contradicted the first. This is another kind of problem in h2g2 VR, and one we can sort out easily.

As I've said, I've been around h2g2 for a while now, and I know how to behave. I've therefore compiled a list of rules I try to follow. If everyone followed these, including Newbies (although I'm on no account expecting all the people to follow them), our VR on h2g2 would work well for everyone. Here they are then:

  1. Always keep VR and RL separate - RL interfering has very obvious side effects.
  2. Keep only one VR identity - that way you can immerse yourself into it more fully.
  3. Keep that identity constant - don't make any drastic changes.
  4. Never come up with your identity as you go - have it all set out beforehand, and write all there is to know about your VR self on your User Page for evidence.
  5. Don't directly contradict things said in posts - you can explain why certain things said in posts can't work, but they must be true reasons, and must be explained.
  6. Always read posts thoroughly, no matter how long they are - any misunderstanding leaves stupid questions behind, which can be easily answered by reading the post again.

Great! So, that's that then...

Not quite. I'd just like to tell people to please heed those rules, and please act towards me using them, even if you discard them for chat with others. I use those rules towards people I speak with, so it's only right for you to use them too, or at least base your own rules on them. I think they work, and if anyone has any doubts, they should express them in the appropriate threads on this page.

Similarly, if you'd like to know more about h2g2 VR, or how to manage VR identities, please ask me in one of the threads below.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article; I felt it something I had to share with my fellow researchers...

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