To me, this is an apt and enlightening description of what happens to a person in a virtual world. It doesn't necessarily happen on a conscious level, of course. But if you're open to it and you're lucky, you may notice the manner in which you make your way through World of Warcraft is bleeding over into how you make your way in the physical world.
I've seen it in myself, at any rate. I am a person who is not very quick to action. I deliberate, I weigh my choices, I decide what the right course of action is - and then I still can't make up my mind. But in Azeroth and EVE, among other virtual places, I've found that mode of adventuring doesn't work very well. There's a right moment to strike, and if I miss it I find myself at a real disadvantage. So, I've had to tailor my persona in World of Warcraft, to look for the moment and strike without hesitation. Maybe I get it wrong sometimes and I die as a result, but the results overall have been good.
What's been interesting is to watch that persona creep into the person I am offline. I've hardly undergone a deep psychological change as a result of paying Blizzard my hard-earned $15 a month. But I do find I've been arguing with myself less over the right course of action, and simply taking the plunge more often. What's curious is that it brings on the same sensation I described at the beginning of this piece, something akin to a little cheer, and then the thought: Who was that?
In both cases, whether online or off, the answer is the same: It was me.
Mark Wallace can be found on the web at Walkering.com. His book with Peter Ludlow, Only A Game: Online Worlds and the Virtual Journalist Who Knew Too Much, will be published by O'Reilly in 2006.