The Other Reality: Or How I Learned to Stop Grinding and Love the Multiverse

Forgive me – I don’t outline, I spew until I stop. Tangents are my slippery tentacles.

I’ve been an avid gamer since I was tiny. I remember the original Mario Bros. and Joust stand-ups at Safeway. I remember pizza-smeared tabletop Space Invaders at Godfather’s Pizza. Video games have been a part of my life since I played Pong on a shitty little television upstairs at my grandparents’ house.

These days I’m living the high life as John Shepard saving the universe from the Reapers, or abandoning it to them. I am a Jedi Sage named Griegan trying to stay true to the Unifying Force as I run errands for the Council. I’m a leafy Guardian throwing down some serious hammerage on the Nightmare Court. I’m John Marston holed up in a barn against overwhelming odds.

I wasn’t always this immersed in my games, though. I was once a button-masher, a level grinder, a completionist. I didn’t just beat Kid Niki, I mastered it. I didn’t just beat you at Mortal Kombat, I made you shit your pants. For what? “Thanks a Million”? “A Winner is You”?

I started WoW shortly after it came out, well before Burning Crusade, and it hooked me like it did millions. Before that I was already experienced with MMOs through my addiction to Ultima Online. Hell, my family didn’t have an internet connection until that game came out and I demanded it. UO exposed me to a style of gameplay I hadn’t been involved with in years, since table-top gaming D&D: role-playing. Sure, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Dragon Quest – those are Role-playing Games, but you didn’t get to sit down in a chair and drink a glass of ale, or compose a spontaneous poem about the undead in front of other adventurers at an inn.

For once, it didn’t matter what level I was. I stopped trying to beat the game or become a Grandmaster Scholar. I had friends in the game, and we pretended the game realm was real. Our characters talked about the politics of the fictional game world. We immersed ourselves in it. My ranger married a nice warrior chick and we built a tower outside of Yew. World of Warcraft took it even further. There were whole servers dedicated as realms for people just like me, taking the game to another level beyond PvP and Heroics. Oh, I still maxxed out my time in Arenas and Raids, but it wasn’t why I stayed with it.

Gaming changed for me then. I saw what video games had the potential to be. In the last ten years, I could read a Spider-Man comic, watch a Spider-Man cartoon, watch a Spider-Man movie, and then play as Spider-Man in a video game. One day, that’s all going to be one form of entertainment. One day, that needs to be one form of entertainment.

Who needs a 2-hour movie about a guy who cannot tell in the end if he’s stuck in a dream world or not, when you can experience it, sand-box style, in the comfort of your very own virtual reality entertainment room?

Who cares about Joe Reboot Director’s twisted donkey fuck of a movie with all its continuity errors, sparkly drama and explosions, when one day you can live the experience as you choose.

That’s where video games are going – not to a 7″ screen. Smartphones and tablets need video games, because one day people will realize and are realizing that having 3 separate gadgets that essentially could be accomplished with one is pointless and not cost-effective. Those companies haven’t perfected the NodePad, or the HoloDeck, or the LiveDome, yet, but they need your money now.

“Look! You can play games on it!” I must need that, because I’m a gamer!

No, you’re not going to take me away from my 50″+ screen and my surround sound. You might can do what my Xbox 360 does with Call of Duty, but you can’t capture what WoW or any other MMO on PC is on an iPad.

Science fiction has picked up on VR some for decades now, but it rarely addresses how humans are going to handle virtual reality when its so good its real. It may be beyond our time, but its coming. Along with androids that look like us, and alien life on other planets. *cough*

What happens when a man can have v-sex with any woman he wants, without his wife even knowing? Imagine young adults exchanging data chips that contain their avatars, giving up their likenesses to be used and abused by whoever they choose. What happens when that pedophile can do whatever he wants in VR? What happens when that serial rapist stalks facsimiles of people he knows in his game?

Those are tough questions. Is VR keeping the pedophile off the streets? Will it satisfy the blood lust of maniacs who we might rather have take an ax to a video game character than a real person? Will it be a safe prison for those criminals we can’t fix with drugs and incarceration?

That kind of entertainment changes everything – and we have a tiny taste of it today. Look at games like Grand Theft Auto, Fallout 3, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption. You don’t have to grind quests to level up and get better gear to beat bigger enemies. You can sit your ass in a chair, get drunk, and play poker all day. You can also make a living chopping wood, holding up stagecoaches, driving a taxi, beating prostitutes, or selling junk you find in the wastelands. And then you have games like Minecraft, that aren’t necessarily about playing a character, but exploring and building a world, using your imaginations to create tangible works of art, intricate machines, big … holes in the ground.

It’s these other realms I want to immerse myself in when I don’t have to crunch numbers and provide logistical support to my clients. I love movies like Inception, television like Lost and Doctor Who, and the occasional Jersey Shore episode, but I don’t get to interact with those adventures, I have to just watch. That will change one day, whether I get to experience it or not.

I can throw birds at pigs all day, but what do I really get out of it for me? I can headshot a careless 13-year-old who fills my headphones with painful urban dialect and doesn’t understand cover, but does it bring me peace and wisdom? Little games are going to satisfy the little gamers, the casual gamers, the social gamers … but I don’t want to see the industry pump funds into trumping consoles with smartphones and tablets to keep “fresh” because they think mobile gaming is the console killer … its not the natural direction for games, at least not the forward motion that the video game industry needs. We need bigger games, more sand-box, more MMOs, more epic realms to explore, more story that challenges us intellectually.

There is a bigger prize out there, and it will change how we look at games, and how we look at life.

Our future lies in other realms of human consciousness, whether on distant planets as our race expands through the cosmos, or in the game worlds we create in our own homes.

My Futurist Manifesto

After two decades of hard work, long hours of research, many gallons of alcohol, and two exorcisms, I have completed my futurist manifesto. Here it is, and may you find something in it that changes your future for the better. And remember: There is no greater adversary in life than the person you were yesterday.



My Little Nest of Vipers

I guarantee it.

You’ll find favor among those locked into the wanderlust cycle – a sore spot on a toe, a boil, a lesion, an open wound.

Life is a three-inch ledge over a vast open space. You have one leg and a weak knee. The rail is smothered in your blood and you’re wearing rubber gloves.

There is no traction.

We’re looking out of dirty windows, smoking dirty cigarettes, blowing dirty circles into dirty collisions. A good writer surrounds himself with people that are terrible at writing. We’re reading their futility like a hawk spies a spasmodic twitch from miles up.


We step out of red doors into the lightning flash of the cold morning. We’re watching. There are leaves clinging to their mother trees, shivering in terror as the wind assaults from the temple of the horizon. Mother’s chest rises and falls like Rome – a blade sharpened, used, and broken. Fingernails split and rip from flesh as those last vestiges of simian shame cling to the back of our throats.

We swallow.

Distance wanes to smothering friction, and the edge of infinity slices through the vision of those wavering on the outskirts of meaning. Idiocy clings to the species like sap, and in moments of rare humor, the sap tips the leaf to death, bent on riding spirals to a wet grave. The sun tickles, prods, punches, rapes, burns.

Burns through aperture.

Wednesday’s man-child four-legs through the marshy indifference of his wicked elders. Time is irrelevant in the dreams of the ancient – the future is a mockery and a sham. Man-child wears the barbarian helm, brandishing the horns of beasts he’s slain through rage and boredom. He tears away the curtains hiding the hag that molests his mind with sweetmeats and tainted water. Under darkened skies, he cleaves skulls both dry and empty and finds nothing in their broken bowls.

Exoneration and Exculpation.

We’re tired of the love story written as if we’ve never experienced the razor bite of lust. We’re tired of the alcohol burn of waylaid wanderers crossing shipping lanes in homemade rafts of artistic liaison. You don’t fool us with your one-act play on the stage of your panhandling circus caravan. You snide. You wilf. You fuck. You meged tuft of emprisant.

Ipseity on five horses and death from above. A torrent of advertising refuse – the long discarded jingles of the generation that first sold their souls to the flaming demon at the center of Greed and Self-loathing Impotence. Hark! You vacuous toads. You scum-eating slime. You empty men. Depart. Flee. Explode.