Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Virtual Dreams

I was once a millionaire who owned a sprawling mansion in the middle of nowhere, cared for an exotic azure cat, and constantly saw to it that fairies sprinkled pixie dust all along the way. My world was utopian, perfect, exciting. The only problem was, it was virtual.

I was introduced to a website called neopets at the age of eleven---the age when my common sense was slumbering peacefully somewhere in the back of my brain. Neopia was the promising land where all my desires could be fulfilled. There were unlimited games, virtual rewards, and an opportunity to claim a non—existent creature as my own. The internet told me an attractive lie, and I easily fell into the vicious trap. Every day, my “virtual” pets would demand some food, clothing, shelter, a companion, and it was my responsibility to satisfy their cravings. I soon developed an emotional attachment to them, even though I knew, somewhere in the depths of my heart, that they were not living things, but merely an artificially programmed images, and very immature imitation of biological beings. Another reason for my apparent addiction to the website was that the virtual me found success very easily, and was more responsible, skilled and purposeful than the real me. I saw a superior image of myself projected there, and it soon grew into an obsession. I wanted to keep on going.
I spent more of my sunny days that year, ruining the keyboard, than stepping outside to breathe in the fresh air, skip about the pavement, or feel the grass under my feet. Soon, I was not even a millionaire. I now was nearing a billion neopoints in my virtual bank, and I seized every opportunity to work on the website. One day, my father took me to the library, to browse for books, but I wasted the day using the library computer instead, playing games, earning more neopoints than ever before! It seemed like an achievement, and in that moment of blissful jubilation, I forgot to log out. I was ecstatic all the way home, I kept reciting to myself, like a familiar mantra, “Hundred more points for a billion….hundred more….”
As soon as I was home, I rushed to the computer again. My eyes were never tired of feasting on my exotic pets (I had now painted them purple), and my fingers never fatigued in the effort of dragging my virtual car (which was being bombed by the enemy) to safety, and my mind never took a break from trying to crack difficult anagrams. All these would earn me neopoints, and I logged on to the computer again. That day, my bank showed I owned no money, my deposit a horrifying single “0” where there supposed to have been 9 of them. My inventory had been robbed, my pets stripped of their luxuries. That day, I faced utter devastation.
My eleven year old brain was shattered, I sobbed into the night. My parents told me it was nothing to worry about, that my fears were imagined. Neopia was not real, so was my loss. I lived in denial of the fact for many days, finding the truth hard to ingest. Gradually, I grew out of it, started spending my summer days skipping on the pavement, rather than shopping in a virtual supermarket. It was easy for me to forget my addiction, but it is not so for millions of kids around the globe. Virtual heavens and computer games have tremendous psychological impact on a child. I know it from experience that there is no good to be gained from them. I’m not saying this because I’m not a virtual billionaire anymore, but I’m saying this with the realization of the amount of time and effort I wasted to nurture false dreams. Such things are nothing less than self-deceit. What bothers me of late is that more such websites are cropping up everywhere on the internet. Much to my disappointment, my favorite magazine, Tinkle has launched tinkleindiaonline.com, a very similar website, which rewards kids with virtual money for playing games. Although the games are considerably less violent, they can still addict kids. It’s a major issue, and I have no answers to resolve it. All that I know today, as I breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the moist of the very dewy grass below my feet, the world is beautiful. More importantly, it is real, and very much here. I just hope that computer game addicts would sense that, instead of chasing after something which only superficially looks splendid. True splendor can be uncovered in the intricate web a spider builds, or a mountain flower in full bloom. Today, I am grateful for that helpful guy who robbed me of all my virtual money. Without him, I would never have understood the simple truth that this world is the loveliest part of my existence.


Abraham Menacherry said...

Good post!!!

We really hate people when they rob us of something like this, when they put difficulties in our path, when they act un-fair to us. But in the long run, it is these people who help us build our character more. Kind of an irony but that is how the world is! And at some point you are thankfull to these jerks!! again such is life.

There is a saying in Malayalam and maybe in other languages also "too much of even AMRITH is bad". What you mention is applicable to everything in a mans life... real and virtual. You should never do "too much" of it.

panikp said...

nice post yes always too much is too bad true to the core it is in your hands to put stop before it is too much yes certainly u can decide if you are committed and honest to the core all the best let the dream come ture

Anup said...

The thought is noble; but lets look at it this way - nature or uhm, god as we refer to him has its own way of showing us the path. I totally agree that too much of anything is bad, but then why not if it doesn't have any long term ill-effects? I have not heard or read about internet addiction causing drastic psychological backdraws and neither have I heard that its the interner or the box that caused an emotional/social withdrawal in children or adults for that matter. That is inner fears, instincts and other kicking in. I was an internet addict and its only bought me good. This kinda addiction is temporary and most often than not into blooms into something fruitful. You need to nurture it though. Somehow, these days... I try to look at things as glass half full.

Swarna said...

Thanks for sharing that - real - story. I hope some game coder reads your post and lets it touch the heart!

Deepti said...

hey lux,
i suppose there are just a few countable teenagers who in this world hate video games or computer games for that matter. nicely put!love,

kallu said...

Wonderful post, Lakshmi. You describe the lure of such sites so wonderfully and the agony when its taken away.
Great that you have seen the point or the pointlessness of it all.
You have opened up something very new to me.

narendra shenoy said...

Very well written, as usual! This virtual world thing is at the frontier of foolishness.

Indrani said...

A very well written piece of memory. I am glad you were able to come out of it. Many, not so well guided kids just languish in depression.

Suchi said...

Hi Lakshmi,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Anushya is very busy with her integrated eleventh class (we call it Intermediate in Andhra Pradesh) and Medical Entrance coaching course. I've been telling her to blog at least in the holidays but she doesn't seem to have the will to:-) I'll pass on your comment to her. I see you're in California - are you studying there?


kavya said...

very good perspective of looking at problems.Each one of us should think of the positive sides of the problems!!!!!!!!!
There is a saying " look at the sunny side of everything........"

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Mr. Abraham: Yes, i totally agree...the saying in malayalam holds true wisdom. thanks for sharing
Mr. Pranesh: Yes, too much can be too bad...it takes a while to realize that, i guess. this is entirely my opinion.
Anup: Thanks for dropping by...hmm, you present a very interesting perspective of the entire topic....logically!! U set me thinking...n i confess, i still am! :-)
Mrs. Swarna: Thanks for the comment, i really do hope gamecoders come up with intellectual games rather than blowing up bodies kinds!
Deeps: i guess ur right....only a few left, us included! What say?
Kallu: Thanks for your comment! Do keep popping in!
Mr. Shenoy: Yeah, isn't it? Can u believe i took an year to understand that!?
Indrani: Yes, it gets difficult to come out of it, but when something as abrupt as loosing all your money happens, u are foced to quit! Thanks for the comment, BTW.
Mr. Suchi: Oh, i see...i agree, she must be very busy. Ooh...is she doing CBSE 11th? WOw, nice, she's trying for medicine. Hmm, yes, i'm continuing my studies in california now. I'm majoring in biochem, so hopefully, your daughter N I will travel along the same lines in the future!
Kavya: Yes, kav. there are positive sides to every thing...we just needs to discover it! Thanks for visiting!