I have never been a gamer, far from been interested in almost any science fictions, nor been a fan virtual reality (VR) no matter how painful my “real life” (RL) have been, yet I am able to empathize the “real” (including genuine feelings of users behind the screen) felt through Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace.” Some people with similar taste like me, who uses the internet only as a tool in enhancing the RL by obtaining information and articles that would be applicable to RL, might go so far to say that living in the world of VR is a mere escapism from RL, but I have quite different opinion: it is a matter of personal tastes and choices. On that note, which I hope I have make it very clear that I am not prejudiced against the world of VR or the users who are fascinated with living in the community of VR, I argue that Dibbell’s idea that “recognizing in a full-dodied way that what happens inside a MUD-made world is neither exactly real nor exactly make-believe, but nonetheless profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally true” (n.p.) is quite to the point. Take fanatic fans of a baseball team or a novel, say, Harry Potter (again, it’s a little shame to confess that I am not a fan of neither, but I’d like to be honest), and think about how they would react toward the team they cherishes very much or the characters the fans adore so much. These fans’ emotional attachment to their target of interest is so strong and powerful that they would quarrel and even fight (verbally and physically) when they feel that their target of adoration got insulted or tainted by negative comments. Enthusiastic fans’ mentality in the real world could be almost analogous to the mentality of the users who are totally into their VR. No matter how remote the community of VR appears for those who do not live in any types of VR, emotional values that heavy users would have on the incidents of VR can be as real and as valuable as we feel in RL. Violation and abuse through words and other means on the cyberspace should not be neglected, as much as no crime should be overlooked in the real world. As Dibbell points out, in VR, it is a tricky and difficult task to create so called “lawful” environment that is applicable just inside of the VR community like LamdaMOO because it is tied to the problem of the freedom of speech. Nonetheless, VR violence against individual users should be deal seriously for the reason that I have mentioned earlier.
One of the things that caught my eye in Dibbell’s article “A Rape in Cyberspace,” which I feel I am compelled to discuss about is on her statement,
Sometimes… it grew difficult for me to understand why RL society classifies RL rape alongside crimes against person or property. Since rape can occur without any physical pain or damage… then it must be classed as a crime against the mind — more intimately and deeply hurtful, to be sure, than cross burnings, wolf whistles, and virtual rape, but undeniably located on the same conceptual continuum. (n.p.)
The reason “why RL society classifies RL rape alongside crimes against person or property” (n.p, italics with emphasis), I argue, is that the mind—intellectual property and emotional property—are included in the property and it is tied to a person, thus they phrase it person or property in the First Amendment. It is inclusive.
Reference: A Rape in Cyberspace