With the present messy as it is, people find control and relief in building alternate worlds in virtual simulation games such as Second Life, The Sims, and Animal Crossing.
Reality could have been nicer to Bella Marcu. After staying at home to care for her late husband, who died in December last year, she was again confined to her home in Frankfurt, Germany due to the pandemic.
Yet throughout this period of social distancing – at 79, she’s more exposed to the new coronavirus – she hasn’t been alone. “Second Life has been and still is a great business for me,” says Bella, of the virtual world simulation game that encourages role play and socialization.
With the year on hold in real life, her virtual social life has been vibrant. On Second Life, sweet Ms. Marcu is a fashionable model, Anabelle Mayo.
“I met interesting people, made new friends and learned to understand different cultures from all over the world, which are built on the original version of real life,” she says. As Anabelle, she also developed new hobbies, including taking modeling classes, participating in fashion shows and learning Spanish at a Second Life institute. The latter has proven to be useful in real life where she broadcasts Spanish and English songs as a DJ.
In the past five months, virtual life simulation games such as Second Life have played a lot. The game, launched in 2003, saw 1,500 times as many hours on mobile during the lockdown (March 2020 to July 2020) worldwide.
And that makes sense. Forced to socially distance yourself, avenues for real-world entertainment may be few, but virtually you can still visit hotels in different outfits, relax around resort pools, and solve puzzles, just like in a game like Hotel. Hideaway. Or role-play, meet, flirt, and date with other players like in the more explicit multiverse, IMVU.
Maybe even more fun now to channel what could have been your life, without the pandemic, onto the realistic virtual world of The Sims 4. You might not be able to get out, but the Sims you create can live. in new homes, going on vacation and starting a family.
What the numbers say
- Animal crossing: new horizons
- Second life
- Grand Theft Auto, via Twitch Tracker
- – Compiled by Divya Kala Bhavani
While it’s Second Life that keeps Bella busy for two to four hours a day, the current passion of Mumbai-based Gagan Gupta and his 11-year-old daughter is Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH). Here, on a virtual island, his daughter goes to the lake to fish, while he finishes chopping wood. Deciding that he doesn’t like one part of the city enough, he moves his neighbors – with their consent – to another location while he destroys the area to rebuild it from scratch.
Here I am free (clockwise from top) A screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons; The Sims 4; Gagan Gupta and his daughter playing together; and a screenshot from Second Life Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Linden Lab
The game, which tasks you with designing your virtual island and all of its anthropomorphic AI animal residents, released for Nintendo Switch in March of this year and has been downloaded by the millions. “I started playing on March 24 and clocked over 350 hours in this game,” says Gagan.
“I hate to say it like that…” he explains the appeal of Animal Crossing, “but it’s like a dollhouse,” he laughs. The 42-year-old runs a DTR gaming consultancy and has been watching games in India for about 20 years now.
While it is fitting that action games like PUBG are the prevalent ones, the charm of virtual world creation games is in the creativity they need.
“Once you create things, you keep wanting to go further to improve them. A kind of OCD takes over! said Gagan.
Its own island on Animal Crossing is rated five stars and features elaborate flower arrangements, a campground, and a wedding area. Gagan’s Zen Garden, with its pebble paths and peaceful running water ponds, is home to a statue of Godzilla, mostly laid back, but sometimes fire-breathing.
You can trade pop culture furniture and home decor items like these on various groups on the Discord community platform. There are currently over five lakhs in one of these Nookazon Groups, where you can sell and buy ACNH items via Nookmiles Tickets, which can then be used to visit other AI-generated islands in the game. .
Personal data of players is kept anonymous, as many may well be in their teens. But for 17-year-old A Sahiti, the appeal of virtual worlds this summer was not socializing with friends outside of school, but building new worlds at home.
A whole new world
“I miss my house,” Sahiti half-moans, sitting in her house in Dehradun. With her laptop temporarily given for maintenance, she was forced to take a break from designing homes on The Sims 4, a daily ritual she has been devoting herself to for the past few months.
Just before her laptop crashed, she was building a vacation home near hot springs and forests for college friends. Before that, she made a Victorian-looking house for an elderly couple living with their granddaughter, a military bunker with a secret laboratory in the basement, and a modest house for an artist couple: ‘C’ is an artist, and she is a freelance writer. photographer, ”says Sahiti, adding:“ I like to start families and their homes. Even in real life, every house has its own story, you know?
Without the pandemic, Sahiti and her friends had big plans for the summer before leaving for their colleges in different cities. The Sims 4 is a decent alternative. You can get stuck in a 2BHK for rent and still create mansions.
“It’s the power you have over the life of the simulations that is addictive,” she says. Knowing that few lives, although pixelated, depend on your management skills, keeps gamers hooked on virtual life simulation games. In Animal Crossing, the world operates in real time; a rainy afternoon in August is the same in the game.
In Virtual Families, on the other hand, time flies faster. You can’t fall asleep assuming your creations will too. By the time you wake up and log back in, they will have caused chaos. You must therefore compensate for your absence by making sure, for example, that the refrigerator is fully stocked.
Despite the requirement for such a commitment, games like these have many fans. And that’s because, “Anything you can’t do in real life, whatever you can’t be in real life, you do and be here without any consequences!” Said Sahiti.
However, for regular gamers, the freedom to live completely alternate lives doesn’t mean a drastic change in their virtual avatars.
Whatever she may look like, Anabelle is still Bella Marcu: a hardworking and energetic woman, cheerful and sincere in her feelings.
Explains Bella, “She is my virtual representative but clearly the character and the way she presents herself is my person. ‘be and think like in their real life.