Distant Worlds & the Meaninglessness of Avatar Life

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
5 min readAug 1, 2021


Once the MMORPG server is swallowed by the digital sun, did life in that magical forest mean anything?

Does Your Avatar Life Mean Anything?

I’ve never experienced an end of the world event where an online game studio officially retires all servers, but many MMORPG gamers have. Once that magic forest vanishes permanently…

Did it mean anything? All your degree from magician school. All the beautiful art work you created during random sidequests. All the dragons & bosses you defeated and dungeons you conquered… did it mean anything? You may have accomplished great things with your guild & perhaps you even made a few Elf friends (or Elezen, friends to use anti-racist/ inclusive language).

But once the game world’s server officially closes… did it mean anything?

Avatar life in the digital universe doesn’t HAVE to exist. Nothing suggests it’s REQUIRED to exist. But it does, and we’re here logged on to our Xbox/Playstation.

Though our existence in this digital universe — these Distant Worlds — may be inherently meaningless, there is great meaning to be derived from how we live our digital existence, and especially in how we treat other gamers’ avatars.

The meaningful fulfillment we experience when we share the meaninglessness of MMORPG life with others is associated with the increase in online gaming (as opposed to single-player gaming) during COVID social distancing.

We Go beyond The Information Given

Part of the beauty of each individual life is that we’re all unique. Everyone is unique & they create their own impression based on a combination of what the movie objectively presented (the literal content) & their subjective personal experiences. It’s one of the truisms of Psychology:

We Go Beyond The Information Given

A Dallas Cowboys fan who watches America’s Team defeat the New York giants will form a positive subjective perception of that objective outcome, whereas a giants fan will form a negative subjective perception. Same objective outcome & yet it’s perceived differently based on fandom.

The way vaccines/masks are perceived may differ based on subjective political ideology, independent of the objective protection each confers against COVID19.

Existence & Essence

As entities with free will, we create meaning for ourselves while we’re alive. To quote Simone De Beauvoir’s lifelong bae, Sartre, our “existence precedes our essence.”

Given the increased usage of Replika during the pandemic, it’s easy to understand why people would hold a funeral for their robots

In contrast, Ai was created with meaning (e.g., meaning in its life is to be a self-driving car, to assist in facial recognition, to be a chatbot for individuals at risk of suicide, etc). Stated differently, Ais’ essence preceded their existence. The development of sentient Ai will be existentially fascinating as it will mark the first self-aware, conscious lifeforms who were created with a purpose in mind before the company put them on sale at Best Buy. (I’m sure Best Buy will still be around in 2047, or whenever we achieve sentient Ai).

Growth Destinations

As you correctly stated, the journey is oft more fulfilling than the destination. Importantly, the destinations can be amazing as well as they may open pathways to even more self-actualizing journeys (e.g., reaching the destination of holding your Bachelors Degree).

Destinations like college graduation increase our lifetime earnings, which increases our capacity to provide for our current/future families. In this way, growth destinations reinforce the most meaningful aspect of many journeys: sharing that journey with someone else.

It is noteworthy that many of life’s journeys are meaningful when traversed solo. Anyone who has ever played videogames before understands this, whether single player or MMORPG.


“Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.”

See this story by Gholamreza Zare to see the piece that inspired my commentary




Audarshia Townsend (July 2021)

Long gone are the days when Black folks dressed up in conservative brocade cocktail dresses and dark, slim suits for a seat at a restaurant table. Some restaurants have taken it upon themselves to enforce “dress codes” that target Black folks. From upscale steakhouses to casual pizza parlors to even sports-focused destinations, the establishments seem to always implement these dress codes after they experience an uptick in Black customers.

Ditch the sagging jeans with exposed underwear — PLEASE.

The Unstoried Life

Galen Strawson 2018

I want Death to find me planting my cabbages, neither worrying about it nor the unfinished gardening. Michel de Montaigne (1563–92, 99)


‘Each of us constructs and lives a “narrative” …this narrative is us, our identities.’ ‘Self is a perpetually rewritten story.’ ‘In the end, we become the autobiographical narratives by which we “tell about” our lives.’ ‘We are all storytellers, and we are the stories we tell.’ ‘We invent ourselves, but we really are the characters we invent.’ A person ‘creates his identity by forming an autobiographical narrative — a story of his life.’ We’re ‘virtuoso novelists, who find ourselves engaged in all sorts of behaviour, and we always try to put the best “faces” on it we can. We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography. The chief fictional character at the centre of that autobiography is one’s self.’ ‘The story of a life continues to be refigured by all the truthful or fiction stories a subject tells about himself or herself. This refiguration makes this life itself a cloth woven of stories told.’1

The Author(s) 2018 A. Altobrando et al. (eds.), The Realizations of the Self, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94700-6_7-

‘In line with Einstein’s theory, it’s possible to see the light waves ejected from the far side of this #BlackHole, even though they’re in the opposite direction of Earth, due to the distorted magnetic fields acting as a mirror’ (Pinkstone, The Telegraph).

‘A black hole rips atoms and electrons apart, and the light X-rays this subsequently produces — in the form of X-rays — was being emitted by the far side of the black hole.’

“Black holes are born when a gargantuan star explodes in a supernova & then collapses in on itself. This forms an incomprehensibly dense material which swallows up everything in its general vicinity, & therefore it should be impossible to see light from the back of a black hole.”

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Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.