May 16, 2020

Article at To the best of our KNOWLEDGE

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Our Virtual Reality

Live from Mark's (in-game) yard.
Live from Mark's (in-game) yard. Nintendo/Mark Riechers (TTBOOK)

Not everyone has a nice, big yard to stretch out in while sheltering in place from COVID-19. But maybe you don't need one. People are using virtual spaces to live out the real experiences they miss — like coffee shops, road trips, even building your own house on a deserted island, or Walden Pond. In a world where we're mostly confined to our homes and Zoom screens, does the line between virtual and real-life space mean much anymore?

Mark and Anne in front of Mark's home in

Mark just built a new house. In fact, he built a whole town. And it's the one place we can actually visit, because it’s inside a game. He’s been taking refuge from the grim reality of a global Animal Crossing.

Mark on own personal
Screenshot from
Phrasz013 on YouTube
Mark playing a game in his basement.

After suffering a terrible concussion, game designer Jane McGonigal created a game to help her feel better. In the years since, it's helped nearly half a million other people overcome depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

The many realities

How do you know what’s real? Start with your senses — if you can see, touch, hear or taste something, it’s real — right? Not necessarily, according to cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan.

Tracy Fullerton
©2016 Christina Gandolfo
Simon Parkin