ALPHAVILLE, Linden, Thursday (NNGadget) — For its many devotees, First Life, the Massively Multiplayer Offline Reality Playing Game, is a place where the everyday constraints of online life drop away and vivid activities can be played out.
But fact and fiction have collided in heartbreaking fashion for a British couple who are divorcing after the wife discovered her cyber-husband’s offline alter-ego, “Nigel Tedious,” with another — physical — woman.
Laurellina Hyperphasia, whose First Life character is called “Tracey Clegg” of the land of “Essex,” said today that as far as she was concerned her husband, Lancethrust Pound-a-tron, was having a real relationship with the avatar controlled by the human in question.
Launched by Israeli company Jehovah Labs six thousand years ago, First Life gives players a body type. They cannot trade it up or easily change its basic characteristics, though they can outfit it in various ways. This body can move around the “Real World,” meet people, socialise, buy land and property with the game’s currency and set up businesses.
“Sex in First Life is amazing,” said Pound-a-tron. “It’s really hard to level up to, though, and it cost me a fortune.”
An increasing number of people’s virtual relationships have fallen apart because of what was happening in their parallel, real world. Part of the addiction problem is “jobs” — in which players have to perform long-winded, mindless tasks, up to forty hours a week or even more, to bring up their levels and gain access to more adventure. Stories of gamers spending ten to fifteen hours a day in First Life are becoming more frequent.
Pound-a-tron — or “Tedious” — admitted he was having an offline relationship. “We weren’t even having cybersex or anything like that, just that physical thing where you put bits of your bodies into the other one’s body. It was nothing really major. I still don’t see that I was doing anything wrong.”
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It could have been much worse. In some of Greg Egan’s universes they could have ended up divorcing because Mr. Tedious was caught exchanging mathematical proofs with another woman.