Jesse Walker on Virtual Worlds


"The modern West has been called 'disenchanted,' but that is a half-truth," the UC-Davis historian Michael Saler writes in As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality. "It can equally be deemed an enchanted place, in which imaginary worlds and fictional characters have replaced the sacred groves and tutelary deities of the premodern world." The people who enter those imaginary worlds do not literally believe that these creations are real—not usually, anyway—but they often enjoy acting as though they do. And this, Saler suggests, has benevolent social effects. Jesse Walker judges his argument.