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Updated: Jan 8, 2023

Citizens of virtual worlds can be grouped into three large categories according to how they view their presence and act within those worlds—augmentationists, immersionists, and dissociatives—developed from a discussion originally posed by Henrik Bennetsen.

Augmentationists see virtual worlds as extensions of their real lives, as tools to achieve their RL ends… whether as a sort of social media on steroids (aka Facebookers or FBers), a 3D website for developing an online business, an alternative channel for promoting their pet ideas, a virtual venue for distance education, and so on. They often claim that their avatars are ‘just themselves’ and have no qualms about using voice chat and video, sharing their real life, and even meeting with others outside of the virtual world.

Immersionists view their virtual world as an actual ‘place,’ different and separate from their physical life, complete in and of itself, entirely divorced from the ‘real’ world. Immersionists become their avatars once they slip into their 'skins'. They tend to avoid using voice chat and sharing RL information about themselves, concentrating rather on living their virtual life to the fullest, as the essence of roleplay. They are also known as ‘lifestylers,’ because they identify with their characters, are at one with them, and live vicariously through them. RL does not exist for immersionists. They ARE their characters.

Dissociatives use virtual worlds simply for entertainment. They may roleplay, but more like puppeteers – portraying characters but not becoming them, identifying with their lives, or immersing themselves in their stories. They will put their characters on and off like a shirt.

Personally, I don’t see this as an ‘either-or’ or ‘us versus them’ debate. Rather, I view augmentation, immersion, and dissociation as distinct types of activities that any one of us might engage in at different moments. Sometimes, you may want to use a virtual world as a tool or extension of your real life, sometimes you just want to play, and at other times, you will want to put RL away and fully immerse yourself in a roleplay situation. If so, you may want to consider having different accounts for these diverse types of activities.


What do you think? Do you disagree with something or have anything to add? An example from your experience, maybe? Please leave a comment below to make this more of a conversation. Thanks!

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