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Source: Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, Page: 27

When she got back, Stephen was finishing his third helping, but she could tell by his jittering leg and half-out-of-the-seat posture that he was aching to get back to the net.

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How many parents all across the world, are already familiar with this sign of net addiction? For that matter, never mind parents. Wives, husbands, sisters and brothers are all intimately familiar with the symptoms. Escapism has a powerful draw. The urge to be physically different, have powers you do not usually have, live the life of your deepest dreams, or be free of disability.

Whatever the root reason, finding that ideal environment on the net where fantasy becomes reality, where a consensual shared hallucination becomes as real as concrete steps, is like raw opiate to those so desperately seeking something.

The vast majority of the detractor arguments against virtual spaces, no matter how twisted they may or may not become in the minds of those backing them, started out in this dangerous addiction process. Something about computer mediated worlds is just so much of a draw that some, particularly those in the most desperately depressive circumstances, become hopelessly and completely lost, without a steady line in.

For some, as evidenced in crystal clear fashion by worldwide VR events like World of Warcraft, the desire for pure escapism turns sour, and they move to live their whole lives in the VR, never venturing out longer than they have to. This is the case in the quote above, and the case for that unlucky handful who each year, literally play themselves to death.

Most of course are not like those particular individuals, and for those who are, a flotilla of monitoring and warning devices have been deployed over the years.

Sometimes such total immersion is a good thing, such as for those who find the skills they have, plus the familiarity with the virtual environment, lands them a job on the development staff or as a consultant. For a rather larger minority, they are happy doing this and earn enough through item trading in the virtual environment to clothe and feed themselves.

However, when there are other individuals in the family unit, such a retreat can still be devastating. Even, as was the case in this book, when the virtual environments are just as real and fully sensory surrounding as the physical, original world.

At that point, and if the individual is able to live a productive, long, happy life, which is the one who needs help? The one immersed in VR and leaving their body all but behind? Or the one who refuses to accept them for what they are?

Maybe the fault lays with both, and maybe just maybe, rather than limiting time spent 'plugged in', it would be better to accept that some degree of connection to the net is always going to be omnipresent, mediating a conduit to the outside world through the synthetic environment, and allowing the two to co-exist might actually be the healthiest option for all concerned. It is certainly better than either alternative.

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About the Book 'Otherland, Volume 1: City of Golden Shadow'
By Tad Williams
Produced By DAW Books

The first book in the Otherland Saga, City of Golden Shadow serves as an introduction and ground setting book that enriches and deepens the later works. Among the many aspects of life in this near-future world it depicts in detail, is an advanced virtual reality technology.

City of Golden Shadow introduces the basics of total immersion VR technologies, slightly further ahead than those of William Gibson?s Neuromancer. It delves into all the possible uses for such technology in stunning depth and detail, yet it does so in such a way that the pace of the plot never slackens.
Click here for full review of Otherland, Volume 1: City of Golden Shadow

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