Dragon Zen


Virtual worlds have one teaching aspect that I particularly notice. There is a certain disconnect between what we intend to do and what, and esp. when, it actually happens in the virtual world. Hardware and bandwidth limitations can make this lag quite noticeable and often frustrating. What is special to me about this effect is the fact that it's what I have learned to deal with all my life. Living as a visual person with a visual handicap has me in that exact situation most of the time. It taught me to step back a bit. To observe first and act second. To be patient.

It has been very eyeopening to watch a good friend to be suddenly confronted with a very similar situation in her Second Life experience. A sudden and severe cutback on bandwidth has cut her inworld perception down considerably. Things are often 'not visible' for a long time until they fully load etc. To help with that we reduced the view-distance and other settings to some effect. The net result is a reduced perception of the inworld 'reality'.

The real fascinating thing about this experience to me was how much I recognized her agony and frustration. "Welcome to my world" was something I must have said more than once (hahaha). Most notable is the difference in how we deal with these situations. While I learned to stay calm, collected, observant... my friend tended to panic, try various things to cumulative bad results, and generally just storm ahead into the unknown. "Stay put!" was a constant mantra for me to repeat to her. My advice was to stay put and communicate, while the natural reaction seemed to be to shut down and run.

Maybe that is the one most significant lesson my handicap has taught me. When faced with stressful situations I tend towards calm and reflection. I admit I get carried away by panic myself, but I also have a very calming effect on my environment in those situations. While most go "WAAAAAAA" I go "Ok, shit. Let's see what options we have."


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Martin Spernau
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