The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable. —Carl Jung
Virtual reality is becoming more and more popular. However, according to Strategy Analytics, only 6% of Americans would own some version of VR in 2016, with only 1% of that group owning the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. To me, it is an amazing statistic, as VR is certainly a reality that I believe all people should attempt at least once in their life. I have been studying virtual reality since 2012, and I am here to say that it has the potential to be a quite beautiful and mind-expanding experience for all who are open to give it a try.
In my research and experiments, I found that the ability to play in another ‘world’ can offer a person a renewed sense of spirit. Most adults I have talked to about virtual reality commonly have the same reaction—they are not interested in finding out what it is all about. When I talk to teens about it, though, they cannot wait to try it. It makes me wonder why adults are reticent to attempt to play in another world. My findings are that gaming and virtual reality have an underlying stigma that is looked upon as ‘useless’ or ‘wasting time’.
I see playing in virtual reality as an opportunity to play for a short amount of time without any actual backlash. It is meant to be fun, entertaining, and challenging. When used logically and occasionally, I see it as an excellent life tool.
Here are some reasons why virtual reality can be seen as spiritually enlightening:
In the virtual world, you are anonymous
Becoming anonymous on a conscious level can be considered as a useful step on the road to higher self-awareness. Playing in the virtual world creates new ways to access other states of thought that may have been previously veiled.
When you begin to play any game, you jump into another universe and forget about your daily routine in everyday, physical life
Is this a bad thing? Only if you believe it is. Within the virtual world of the game, you can become who you want, you can go to other locations, and can live another life—temporarily. There are no consequences to your actions––just the same as imagination. When the game is turned off, and you enter back into your current ‘now’, you may be able to see events more clearly with a new approach to problem-solving.
Anonymity can give you a renewed sense of power
The self is first seen in the mind, and then the feeling of novel perception can transfer into physical life. The experience allows you to see your authentic self outside of the virtual reality. In the virtual, there is room for invention and the art of living is discovered.
When playing in the virtual world, the activity is done in real time, and the experience envelops and responds to you. Playing in virtual reality is a sharp contrast to simply reading travel magazines, watching a film, or talking with a person in a physical situation.
The virtual world becomes, then, a new possibility to re-imagine the world, with all of its unconscious processes of control. Looking inwards with the virtual and moving past a controlling system, the experience becomes a form of awareness, and the role of playing in the virtual world becomes self-consciousness.
The bliss of the game—and enjoying yourself for the sake of experiencing a pleasing experience
The virtual world can be seen as enjoyable as, there, a piece of innocence is found. The ‘rebirth’ that occurs removes the original sense of the ordinary. Now, the game experience is grounded in creative change.
In the virtual space, there are no resentments or doubts
All players are, essentially, on the same page in the virtual world. The interaction is a continual dialogue. The imagination is immediately activated, along with perceptions. This playing can be seen as a new form of training in understanding. The imaginary deals with the capacity to conceptualize images and see how these images reflect on to the self. While it may be uttered that more can be done by way of teaching art and culture, it is imperative to integrate the teachings of awareness coupled with perception and imagination to progress further into the twenty-first century. In my opinion, virtual play is one answer to this long heard call.
Playing in the virtual world lets the mind and body connect with new potential
The experiences within the game offer future modes of learning and becoming more than might currently be realized. While a video game is largely seen as a commoditized object, the transformative power provided is yet unrealized potential. The experiential nature of playing in the game gives you a new sense of fulfillment and optimal hope for what is possible.
When you begin to play, you dive into the newness of the game and experience. You become a being that is immersed with others. In the virtual space, there are no prescribed social spheres, presumed ways of being, or judgments that will affect your character.
By choosing identities and trying out different points of view, you may experience empathy. You can now see the world from a different point of view that may have otherwise never been known. I believe empathy is indeed a step closer to a higher state of self-consciousness.
In all, I find virtual reality to be a great tool to get in touch with one’s self. Of course, I would never promote the use of virtual reality every day and all day, but I do think everyone should give it a try occasionally—to truly step into another world.
Do you want to be part of creating a kinder, more inclusive society?
Join like-minded individuals in The Good Men Project Community.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin