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We here at Hesitating have a special fascination with the emergence of online worlds — brightly colored simulacrums of human experience that take place in fantastic settings. Arguably the most popular, World of Warcraft has generally been omitted from some of the headline grabbing developments in the online community. This is probably due to its core gameplay and straightforward goals that keep players distracted from silly social experimentation. Second Life, perhaps the game most covered by the media, is more a hotbed of real meets virtual clashes and experiments since its in-game economy can be transferred into real currency.

This year, however, a real death mourned online in WoW sparked a fair amount of controversy. It started in a forum when a ‘friend’ of the deceased announced a funeral for March 4th at 5:30 server time. The girl who had died apparently had a stroke, and the forum was filled with half heart-felt condolences such as, “death is never fun” and “Are you fucking serious? Dude….I was in a guild with her… /cry,” along with a smattering of frowny-face icons.

One prescient post bet money on the funeral being disrupted by someone in the game. The following is a video made by the guild Serenity, who did in fact crash the procession. It’s a little long, so be patient.

My first reaction – before even seeing the video – was: “That’s fucked up.” But I was already chuckling in spite of myself. The lackluster sympathy on the original forum already demonstrates the structural holes in anonymity when it tries to support a weighty topic such as death.

Also, in a game where you were pretending to be in a different world, with different creatures and rules, who’s to say that a funeral slaughter is disrespectful? Maybe a precedent has been set and from now on it will be a sign of respect to the dead to hack all their mourners to pieces. Once the knee-jerk reaction towards offense wears off, it all seems strangely appropriate. If someone was a big enough fan of the game to have friends put on an online funeral, then that person would probably appreciate this type of event were they still alive.

To me, online worlds are exciting not because of the graphics or worlds you can explore, but because common human events such as funerals, weddings, sex, commerce, etc. are being conducted for the first time in these electronic petri dishes. There is no precedent or guidelines to follow in these online firsts, and the things that people choose to keep or throw away from the real-world counterparts is thought provoking. And in these decisions, precedents are being set. What if twenty years from now, when we go to the funeral of a friend online, we feel a sense of closer as the death squads flank us and we are forced to fight for our lives?

What say you, oh loyal readers?

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suit fightOne strange thing about getting older is realizing how few things adults have figured out. The image of good smelling men in suits fighting over a loaf of bread in some primordial mud often enters my mind when walking downtown; an anology for how the pretense of civility in the absence of urgent survival is a tenuous mask. Better healthcare and convenience technology give the impression that those able to afford them are somehow less animal, more human. In my experience, these luxuries create a fantasy of distance from one’s corporeal needs and desires. This fantasy of disavowal can make your human needs bang urgently on your clubhouse door, all the more forcefully because of the sign you’ve hung up prohibiting their inclusion. This observation has already been exhausted by the crunchies and top-heavies that frequent the liberal playgrounds that I’ve lived in for all my life, not to mention a large portion of all Sci-Fi manifestations. I would say it’s an evolution of the trope of mind vs. body, which has usually played out in terms of class and race during almost the entirety of our literary history. But technology has twisted the rules a bit, and now this cerebral disconnect from base functions is available even to the poor. Cell phones, video games, and computers have trickled down past the poverty line. I don’t mean to sound nostalgic for simpler times, as if we used to know who we are and now we’ve lost sight of some sort of purity. I also don’t think it’s wise to clump the whole of technology, convenience, and materialism all into one pile. I just worry when I see

sites like this. Even more when they gain ridiculous popularity. Our identities are fracturing at a head spinning pace. Multiple email addresses, user profiles, phones, clothes. It’s a rare person who can avoid wrapping a little bit of themselves in the things they own and use, or the things they don’t. I just don’t see that it was better before, or that this is something we can avoid. I would say that, personally, I’d like to gain control over where my self goes, instead of a graphic phalanx of advertisments setting the agenda and terms of my identity. My idea of a utopia is not an abolishment of commodities and ads, but simply a civic/human engine rather than an economic/mechanical one for those entities. It’s a tug-of-war. But I know which way I’m pulling, and trying to keep track of which ways I’m being pulled. In the recent past, I believe I mistook the look in older people’s eyes as certainty. I couldn’t wait to join the club. Now I believe it was actually a

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resignation to the struggle. No sight of an end game, but a familiarity with the unknown. That’s why the stockbrokers in my daydream don’t look surprised to be fighting to the death. They’ve set about their task with a grave ferocity. The shock is mine, as I look on expecting that things would be different.

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