Wednesday, March 22, 2006



The door closes behind me as rush into the room. I could swear that the phone was ringing, but the room is dead silent, save for the rush of my feet over a carpet in dire need of vacuuming. I drop my backpack to the floor, the silence amplifying the loud thump of the bag full of books. Words fail as I regard the phone with disbelief, as if daring it to continue to be silent.
She hasn’t called again. I haven’t heard from her in a month. Really, what did I expect? Did I expect that the phone would be ringing and I’d hear her voice again, that she’d be on the other end, her voice pouring through the receiver like the sweetest music? The red recharge light stutters, imbalances in current causing the tiny bulb to wink at me, mocking me.
With a resigned shuffle, I kick off my shoes. They land against the pile of books at the corner of my bed, knocking over old pages of notes from semesters past, unearthed for reasons unknown to any mortal man. With a grunt, I move a pile of library books from my bed, their covers wearing away under my hands in the form of a chalky dust coating my palms. I settle down into my desk, homework put aside for another . . . day perhaps? Hour at least. I draw the computer close, the laptop’s plastic making a smooth hiss against the wood of the table. Behind the screen is a nest of wires and drives. Tiny neon lights blink at me in the gray gloom of the room. Under my hand, my mouse comes to life, a sullen red glow busting to life with a ruby flare, illuminating the mouse pad. I slide it across the black surface, smooth as silk, in motions now permanently etched into my muscles as the computer wakes up as well, the black screen bursting into the garish colors of my desktop. Acid greens and alien teals burn my eyes with their vicious brightness, as whites, oranges, and red tattoo my retinas, leaving aching after-patterns as I shift my gaze.
The icon. Double-click the icon.

The computer pauses, considering the command I have given it, finally acceding to my demands, as the screen flickers again, a window unfolding itself before my eyes. I affirm to the filibustering machine what I want, and it goes black.
The gates are there, behind the log-in screen. Stone sentinels flank a stone post-and-lentil set-up, a swirl of fire between them, the text-boxes suspended equidistant between the statues. The company knows me by a name, a name attached to my credit card, attached to my address. I type in my password, a conglomerate of letters and numbers of no importance to any but me. The keyboard clicks as my fingers dance, the sound rattling through my brain as I relax, letting myself slide into the game.
Black and blue figures watch me. Locked in permanent illustration, they observe me at my keyboard as I stare blankly. Four pairs of yellow eyes pierce the navy illustration. The tall man, bearing a large book, the dead man, swords in hand, the dwarf, grizzled beard and musket standing at equal attention, and the comical gnome regard me for the briefest of moments as the game loads.

I spin quickly in my chair, the rough fabric scratching me through my shirt. Was that the phone? No. I turn back and settle in, sliding down in my chair, right hand resting lightly on the mouse, left hand hovering over my keyboard before resting, fingertips lightly touching on the familiar pattern of the WASD keys. The room lights up as the screen comes to life.
White, burning light. In the game, it is daytime. On my screen I see countless tiny figures moving around. Each less than a hand-span tall, they rush about, some too fast to be seen. I see them all move.
Each character is unique. There are four races in this city. The elves, the dwarves, the gnomes, and the humans. Tall and short, stout and thin, they fill the screen. Facial features and hair style and color are determined at character creation. Armor is collected through playing, clothing determined by luck and perseverance, ranging through entire spectrums of color; reds, greens, purples, blues. Weapons flash from character’s sides, or glint from their backs. Swords and spears, maces and staves, some glow and other merely gleam. Above each of them, the hundred that rush about, are the names, written in green. Character names form a glowing green swarm of gibberish, hovering over the masses like teeming flies.
Each of these characters, animated pixellations, digital manikins represents a human being. Each of these is another person, similarly seated at their computer, somewhere across the globe, anywhere and every, part of the parade of puppets.
I have one too. Female. Elven. Dressed in the green robes of a druid. Her name is a play on the irony of the pseudo-reality of the game; “Daydream.” It stands, idle animations making the puppet’s head turn from side to side, in a simulation of realism. I type the “W” key and she darts forward. Programmed subroutines and lines of code cause the digital illustration of a cape to flap behind the puppet as the representation of arms move in the simulation of running. It is still again. I hold “W,” using “A” and “S” to steer, as the puppet’s line of movement veers left and right.
The perspective shifts. Behind my screen, I can see the world changing, perspective changing, angles shifting to allow for a new point of view. Daydream is positioned with her back to me, and it is as if I float, hovering a constant few feet above and behind her as I control her actions. There is a sense of voyeurism with detachment. The puppet moves and I follow, controlling its actions, always watching.

[Further into the game. Level: “Scarlet Monastery”]

[Real-life break. Bathroom. Make special point at this point in narrative to ignore the phone.]

[Back into the game, begin blurring line between “I” and the character. Start to use phrases like “I move forward, dashing around the corner.” Make it apparent to the reader that the perspective is changing, and immersion is imminent.]

[Big, exciting part of game, describe as if real, as if I’m really there, really experiencing it. MAKE SURE to note “annoying noise in background, heard at distance.” This will be the phone ringing. A “distant voice” is someone leaving a message.]

[End with leaving game, turning off computer, and sleep, telephone ignored.]

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