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Thursday, April 25, 2013

When I Am Not Me...

It has been a while since I wrote anything, and I apologize since I did have things to share!

When I want to take a break from writing, I like to pass the time gaming. I discovered a game through Facebook that I enjoy. It is slightly time-consuming, as in order to level your player you must perform actions such as building your city or attacking areas - and these can take hours. But there are many interesting people that also play, and the conversations can be quite entertaining and something to do while you wait for an action to finish.

As I immersed myself in the online lives of the other players in this game, something peculiar happened. Certain regular players began to react to me differently, referring to me as an "alt." For those of you not familiar with gaming, an "alt" is an alternate character that you can play as. One player can have many "alts" depending on how he or she wishes to play the game. So, back to the story, I am faced with the realization that other players think that I am someone else.

Imagine for a moment that you are speaking with a group of people who think they know you - are CERTAIN they know you. You ask a question about game play and they brush you off because you (the person you are not) should already know the answer. You comment on someone's statement or question and another responds in a way that implies an "inner joke" that you (the person you are not) should get. It can be quite disconcerting let me assure you.

A few days later, I had the opportunity to meet the person that I was not. The two of us certainly did share a lot in common and as we talked it became understandable how we would be mistaken for one person. The one major difference was that the other person had much more experience playing this game than I did.

We tried to convince the other regulars that we were in fact two different people, but to no avail. After a while we resigned ourselves to the fact that my character was an "alt" no matter what we said. This has some advantages in that the other player is highly regarded and others would think twice before attacking my city, and I am treated respectfully for the most part during chat (except when I'm trying to get answers). But it brings up a strange predicament: by being myself I become another person, so should I change myself to be myself?

Odd question, but it makes sense. In the online world you can be anyone you want to be - a girl can be a boy, a privileged college graduate can be a homeboy from the mean streets, a middle-age homemaker can be 18 years old again. But what happens when you want to be you, but "you" already belong to someone else's online persona?

The online world has made us schizophrenic. You could talk to twenty people online and six of them are the same person using different "alts." Who the person is becomes lost. Or in my case, who I am becomes appropriated by another. So in effect "I" do not exist.  That is a scary thought. In this game, I am online. I am playing and conversing and making game play decisions. But to others, it is not me. I am not there. The other player is there making my moves, speaking through my keyboard. My personality - my "me-ness" is lost.

So, I have two choices: accept that my character belongs to someone else in the eyes of others and roll with it, or create an alt of my own with an entirely different personality and hope that it doesn't get appropriated either. I chose to roll with it, because making a new character is just too much effort. I am not schizophrenic, yet. Although as a writer, one should have some multiple personalities running around or the characters would not be very believable. But until I decide I do want to be someone else, I will enjoy my game and my online "friends" and be the "me" that I really am...even if that "me" is not me...