Virtual relationships are considered by many as "not real" or "imaginary" and something that one can "just turn the computer off" to escape, but to those who have become unexpectedly deeply involved with someone that they have met on-line, perhaps in a virtual world, the suggestion that the off switch also turns feelings off will seem incomprehensible.
In this book Pamala Clift has covered quite a few aspects of living in-world and also the relationships both on and off-line, and also highlighted some important differences and pitfalls. She discusses three fundamental approaches to virtual worlds and gaming, describing them as immersive, augmentative and disassociative and highlights the differences between them, e.g. (in a very rough nutshell) really -being- there, doing things there, or just treating it as a game, and how for instance an immersive person can be hurt horribly (and perhaps innocently) by the actions of the disassociative who treats the virtual world simply as a game to have fun in. The book goes into much greater depth about the inter-relation, the differences and how to understand them, and also what the positive aspects and pitfalls are for each of these modes of virtual presence.
Pamala also discusses real life and virtual life relationships and describes how understanding in one world can be just as applicable in the other. She also discusses in some depth the differences in approaches for different genders and how virtual worlds can bring a new set of challenges to forming healthy relationships.
I really have done very little justice to this book in this rather short review so I'll finish by saying that anyone who considers using virtual worlds for self discovery or for things such as on-line conferencing, staff training or other interactions, should read this book as a good introduction to what is already a complex alternative environment of human interaction, one that has its own pace of time and rules of etiquette and reality.
A fascinating and informative read for anyone interested in the psychology of virtual worlds or who offer counselling to computer and sms literate generations.