Tuesday, April 04, 2006

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The door slams shut behind me as dash into the dimly-lit room. I could swear that the phone was ringing, but silence fills the room, save for the rush of my feet over a carpet in dire need of vacuuming. I toss my backpack onto the floor, the silence amplifying the loud thump of the bag full of books. Words fail as I regard the phone with disbelief, daring it to continue its silence.
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 sweet, audio-wine? The red recharge light stutters, imbalances in current causing the tiny bulb to wink at me, mocking me.
Recharge.
With a resigned shuffle, I kick off my shoes. They land against the pile of textbooks at the corner of my bed, knocking over old pages of notes from semesters past, unearthed for reasons too obscure to comprehend. 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. I settle down into my desk, homework put aside for another . . . day perhaps? Hour, at least. I draw the computer close, the laptop’s black 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 from the tangle in the gray gloom of the room. Under my hand, my mouse comes to life, a sullen red glow busting to life with ruby fire, 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 from its day-long slumber. The black screen bursts into the garish colors of my desktop. Acid greens and alien teals burn my eyes with vicious intensity, as whites, oranges, and red tattoo my retinas, leaving aching after-patterns as I shift my gaze.
Double-click.

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 doorway, 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 and clacks 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 at the loading screen. Four pairs of yellow eyes pierce the navy illustration. The tall man, bearing a large book, the standing 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.

Reboot.
I spin quickly in my chair, the rough fabric scratching me through my shirt, eyes and ears straining. Was that the phone? Was she finally calling? 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 plastic of the keys has been worn smooth, white letters worn away from constant use. The room lights up as the screen comes to life, monitor pouring a wash of light over the walls.

“World of Warcraft is an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world. World of Warcraft is a "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" which allows thousands of players to interact within the same world. Whether adventuring together or fighting against each other in epic battles, players will form friendships, forge alliances, and compete with enemies for power and glory.”
—“An Introduction to World of Warcraft,” Blizzard, Inc.

White, burning light.
In the game, it is daytime. On my screen I see countless tiny figures milling about. 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 pixilation, digital manikins represents a human being. Each of these is another person, similarly seated at their computer, somewhere across the globe, anywhere and everywhere, part of the parade of puppets.

“MMORPG is an acronym for "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game". In an MMORPG, thousands of players exist in the same game world at the same time.”
—Blizzard, Inc.

I have one too. Female. Gnome. Dressed in blue robes—the mark of a mage. Her name is a trick of Japanese—“Nani”—a word, that be taken to mean simultaneously a question and an answer. 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.
Respond. The perspective shifts. Behind my screen, I can see the world changing, perspective changing, angles shifting to allow for a new point of view. The computer is processing countless strings of calculations to create the illusions that appear before my eyes. Nani 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 such detachment. The puppet moves and I follow, controlling its actions, watching,

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