A major newspaper just reported on the sad moment when Bill Holcomb finally had to leave his fantasy world behind. Bill, in his 70s, had spent better than 20 years in a virtual world and finally got too old to keep it up. He had to retire. He had to step back out into reality and make the transition from Hero to Everyman. He had to experience The Return from the Hero's Journey. It's what the enemies of games wish we would all do, once and for all. Give up on the dream, stop living in a pretend world where we are somehow special and significant and capable of great things. Return to the real world, trudge through the day like everyone else; limit encounters with the heroic to the TV. Watch it, we are told, but don't live it. Look, don't breathe.
Mr. Holcomb's virtual world was a baseball fantasy camp. He was pretending to be a shortstop, not a sorceror. Interestingly, the paper's treatment was poignant and sympathetic rather than dismissive and critical. They didn't say he wasted his time or his money. They didn't insist that he was crazy for paying real money for a virtual experience.
It's not a little contrast. Fantasy Football has 18 million players. Playing with virtual football players is not subject to social criticism, while playing with virtual warriors is.