I’m a gamer. Sitting here, watching the people on my computer screen go about their business--it’s my version of sex. There it is, my world. Towering moonscrapers reaching over skyscrapers in cities built on light. Multiple space shuttles being launched every second of every minute of every hour. Hundreds of groups of people compiling into billions of artificially intelligent simulations. An entire world created from scratch.
I clank down my green coffee mug onto a desk piled with empty pizza boxes and half-eaten bags of Doritoes. If my father were home, he would not approve. He would ask--no command me--to clean everything up. I’m looking for the mouse to my computer. It’s hiding under a paper plate with sporadic blotches of various condiments on it, nestled with even more sporadically scattered bits of crumb from those little cocktail hotdogs you eat at dinner parties--pigs in blankets I think they’re called.
Not too long ago, when I was six or seven, I dissected my first monitor--an old, bruised cathode ray screen that served as the epoch of technology during its time; now only a heap of primitive scraps. Computer games were a lot less intuitive then as compared to today.
Right now I’m playing Simulife, interpreting and imposing meaning on the screen’s images--my new LCD screen’s images actually. See, Liquid Crystal Definition (LCD) works differently from cathode ray tubes.
You take billions of particles of light and pass it through a filter of liquid crystals. Certain light is blocked while other light passes through. The light that makes it through then reaches a color filter. And, we are producing a pixel. Put together about one and a half million pixels, you get an image on a screen. Now take the light of that image and pass it through the cornea in your eye. Then the aqueous humor. The lens. The vitreous humor. And finally, that light gets projected onto the photo receptors in your retina. The impulses in the retina feed into the optic nerve. Then the brain. There it is transfigured-- no, translated--into that original image we had on the screen. And, we have come full circle.
If I could live inside a computer, I would. My Father says that I basically do. I constantly find myself locked into a pillory of pixels. Pixels of the artificially intelligent software computer game, Simulife. Sure I eat, sleep, drink, shit. But really, my existence’s purpose lies in controlling the simulated people in my simulated world.
Today, I was reborn. After investing hundreds, if not thousands of hours on creating my own little world, I decided to make comets and quakes. I brought about tsunamis and flooded the place. I was getting too bored and tired of playing the same game in the same world with the same people over and over again. So I destroyed it. That’s the beauty of simulation.
If only real life were like that.
It’s sort of somber if you think about it. Thousands of simulated people living in my little world, gone. Just like that. It’s also somewhat sublime. I get to start all over; I get to make a better place, a better world.
First, I need to turn on the computer so I flip on the power button. God, the light on this LCD screen is damn near blinding. The pupils in my eyes are contracting as to adjust to the brightness.
Next, I need to start with the landscape--in Simulife you really get to customize everything.
After about three hours, I got all of the basics down. I think it’s about time to give a little life to some life.
Five hours. I’m gonna to have to do some of that eat, sleep, drink, shit stuff soon. But not before populating this place with some people.
One of the great things about Simulife is that everything in the game carries on even when you’re not playing--it’s very intelligent. The game learns and attempts to behave as you would have it. The trees fall, although you’re not there to hear it make a sound. The birds and the bees take care of the rose and peony. Men fight for women. Women live for men.
I’ve been at this for the past six hours.
I think I’ll rest now.
They’ve discovered their ability to create fire already. That was fast. Usually, if I don’t give the people a good flame, it takes about a week or so for them to figure it out on their own. Things like that make me curious as to what factors in the game’s program determine when who will do what. For example, if I didn’t create x ocean, y bird, or z child, would these people not have figured out how to control fire?
Moving right along.
Next is the wheel.
I left click on an indistinct character and type into the command box, “cut down tree.” He walks towards a tree and proceeds to chop it down. It only takes half a second of my time, but in my little simulation world this equates to a good hour or so. Then I type, “use tools,” followed by, “look at rock rolling down a hill.” Inspiration. He’ll know what to do with it.
The simulated people, or individual programs, are all part of the major software that is the computer game. While every program registers the commands entered, often times it won’t truly understand them. When dealing with a program grasping the concept of a say a wheel, it’s best to show rather than tell. While giving subtle nudges in the right direction doesn’t always lead to the desired result, you sort of just learn to know what to say and which program to say it to.
Next, the five simple machines.
I’m well on my way to creating the first civilization. But, when creating a civilization, it’s not just about technology. It’s, more often than not, about personalizing social and territorial dynamics.
I left click on another indistinct person. He seems to be the leader of his troop, and if he’s not, he will be anyway. In the command box I type, “unite surrounding people.” I right click, bringing up a series of program behavior logs and commands--altering a programs conduct is often useful. I left click “generous,” right click again, left click “compassionate.”
I slide the mouse, moving across mountains and marshes. Left click on another indistinct person. “Unite surrounding people,” I type. Right click to open behavior logs and commands. Left click “aggressive,” right click again, left click “merciless.” I follow this with, “use force if necessary.”
Great civilizations have already come to fruition, each with their own distinct thinkers, writers, engineers, and warriors. Sure, I put some of the best ideas in the thinkers’ heads; some of the best words into the writers’ mouths. However, to give fair credit, they have done much on their own. And as a sort of tribute to myself, I’ve made some groups of people create religions in my honor. But they worship by their own accord, and this pleases me.
I click on some keys and the game shuts off. I have to take a fairly long break from Simulife. I flick off the power switch to my computer. Complete and total darkness.
The I.V. slowly drips like tear drops from a sick man’s eyes. The room is dark and dull and barren. It’s late after all.
I just want to play Simulife while waiting next to him. But the game needs to be connected to an internet source and the wi-fi here is for patient use only--visitors don’t get the WPA password necessary to log on. And Father would command me to turn off the game when he wakes up anyway.
I point to one of the machines lying next to the bed and ask the doctor in the room what it does.
“That reads some of your father’s bodily functions like heart rate, temperature, oxygen levels, respiration rate.”
I ask what it’s called. Turns out it’s a medical monitor. After asking, he tells me that the alligator clamp on my father’s finger is referred to as pulse oximeter. It hooks up to the finger and gauges oxygen saturation levels which helps determine if a patient has lower than normal oxygen levels in the blood.
The doctor says they haven’t identified my Dad’s condition yet. Apparently overextended periods of hypoglycemia can lead to a coma. I ask what hypoglycemia is. Turns out its when blood sugar levels get too low. Hyperglycemia is when those levels are too high. He tells me that it’s common in people with diabetes, an illness my father has not been diagnosed with. It’s the cause of the hypoglycemia that eludes the doctors, and until that mystery is uncovered, all they can do is treat the symptoms.
What have they done?
All that time and work that they’ve put in--that I’ve put in. Hours and hours of creating and clicking and customizing. All for nothing!
I have created about five simulation worlds in my life and all of them turn out pretty much the same. How long it takes or how many programs have to die--because programs do have to die--all varies on the world I have created. A world created for them. And mostly me.
And after leaving for maybe a day or two, this side of the world goes and sets itself back ages!
Great ideas, lost.
Brilliant books, burned.
Magnificent structures, torn down.
War is at a highpoint. It’s always at a highpoint.
I left click on a program. This one’s a rat. Infect it with plague. Infect everyone with plague.
They want death and destruction. I’ll give them death and destruction.
Left click on a program. A man. Make him ill. Make his family suffer.
Time to rebuild.
There seems to be two groups who’ve been at it for the past several hours--since I logged on actually. Who knows the total length of their warring state? I left click on a program, a young girl from one of the belligerent groups. She appears both impoverished and weak. She is going to be a fighter. She is going to be great. “Lead your people into battle,” I write. But she is reluctant. “I command you.” And off she goes.
I left click on an indistinct man with a beard and open up a command box. “Paint. Think. Build. Invent,” and then proceed to inspire him on how and what to do.
I left click on another indistinct man--right click, left click “curiosity,” right click again, left click “aggressive”--and give him the urge to explore.
Another, the desire to sculpt.
Another, the compulsion to conquer.
...This is going to take a while. But it’ll be worth it.
My whole planet has found itself. It’s gone from a small world to a tiny world. Each simulated person is connected to another simulated person by some simulated means. And naturally, as a result of basic programming, there’s going to be conflict. Only this time groups, from opposite sides of this world, are at war.
About 48 hours ago I left clicked on these two random programs--males; brothers. “Look at the birds. Admire their beauty,” I typed. “Fly,” I said, and left the rest up to them. Now, there’s airplanes being propelled toward one another. Dropping explosives. Shooting bullets.
One group of programs has even created an explosive that can level cities.
I’m gonna need to order some more pizza and chips. This should be interesting...
I am proud of my simulated people. They have discovered what is, in my opinion, the greatest discovery of discoveries--the pixel. In fact, they already have LCD screens. See, LCD works differently from cathode ray tubes.
I left click on an indistinct man and open up a command box. “Go to computer,” I type before watching him walk into a dark room. He sets down a green coffee mug. The room is littered with food. He sits at his computer, flips on the power button.
“God,” he must be thinking, “the light on this screen is damn near blinding.”
He simply sits there, clicking away.
I click on the program and open up another command box. I sit there for a moment, letting the cursor blink on and off, on and off, before typing:
“Create a simulation world.”
...And sometimes you gotta just turn off the
fucking iPod and listen to the incoherent burbles
of strangers walking by, the dopplered whooshing
of cars driving past, the honk, the step, the
exhaling creak of a halting bus. This is the world.
Take it in. Take it in, in all its burbling, whooshing,
honking, stepping, creaking, cacophonous glory.
The jettisoned ﬂyers for who-knows-what
scratching at the concrete. The scrufﬁng sound of
a sleep de pri ved stu den t shrugging u p
his knapsack. The breeze ricocheting off the
cartilage in your ear. The only-half-ﬁnished cup of
coffee quickly crunching a newspaper while being
tossed in the trash. Take it all in. The skids and the
screeches. The tail-ends of phone calls. The wheels
of skateboards on pavement. The gas-guzzling
motor vrooms and the fuel-efﬁcient hybrid hymns.
The weariness of a working girl seeping out
through a sigh. A silent goodbye to your imaginary
hello—of course, it's nothing personal. I repeat:
this is the world. You take it in, mister. You take it
all in, ma'am. This. Is. The world... Alright, now