Experiences, Wonders and Revelations
That day was to be — literally — a game-changer, but it had started in a mental mist.
‘Wonders and Revelations’? More like: ‘Doubts and Daydreams’…
It was morning, he remembered, and again his thoughts had been interfering with his well-being, standing at the counter of his small, quirky, real-world games shop:
The Cyborium. A ‘Cyber-Emporium’: ‘Experiences, Wonders and Revelations.
Choose your Next Immersion… wisely!’
He had just lit some incense, so the thick, smoky tendrils — perhaps too many — had drifted across his vision. The chosen aroma was supposed to be helping but he had still been… distracted. He’d gazed around the dim interior, his eyes almost following the lazy smoke, drifting around titles of cyber-worlds he’d visited, (and mostly completed), around frozen figurines of archetypal characters and collector’s edition game-world maps, tied in elegant scrolls or displayed in large, rustic wall-frames.
He’d heard his store called a boutique before, by the more patronizing customers, but where everything these days was online or in the Cloud, his shop actually existed too, tucked away from a busy high street. And it wasn’t really old-fashioned; it was entirely ‘overlaid’ and perpetually open for business on the Virtual Web. He was quite proud of his avatar there (or at least, the Mage’s robe he wore) standing mysteriously 24/7 in virtual space, doing the same job of representing and selling old and new games. Not just ‘games’ though: rich experiences; feasts for the mind and soul and super-senses…
On that particular day, however, he had been feeling his middle-age.
It was about time then, that a game-changing day should come along. The day of the mysterious visitor.
Dear God, I hate blogging…
He recalled that he’d been trying to concentrate at his laptop; trying to finish a blog entry about a new open-world game adventure involving witches, demons etc… It was not what he really liked to stock in his shop; not anymore. If there was one theme hidden behind the titles on offer, the range of experiences for purchase; the retro to the cutting edge; it was that he was looking for something not just new and more totally immersive, but… closer to Life. Not just realms of pure fantasy, but something that illuminated more about this reality… who we are, what we are… where we are going. More recently, many of his selected titles had more spiritual ideas or were meditational realms to try and re-acclimatize people to the Source, inspire them about their world, or its past. He especially loved games that revealed something about oneself or illuminated ways of seeing the world.
His hopes for these kind of titles now rested in The Spiral, with its vivid interface and connected worlds rapidly becoming the most popular thing he sold access to. Before this it had been the Game of Being, the closest thing so far to his ultimate game-world, but that had been taken offline following the ‘fall’ of the Neuroceans servers. Many of his items relating to it still sold well — and some of them were not for sale. He knew that his Cyborium was a responsible store, and although at certain times of the year his servers strained with downloads, he never had any sights set on expansion. You could be sure you were purchasing something worthwhile, anything from the latest geographical experiences (such as driving games modelled on real cities), or astronomically-correct space simulators or dinosaur-hunting adventures (with the most vivid and accurate paleontological re-creations yet).
He had put his thoughts on pause. Suddenly the old door bell had sounded on closure and — looking up from his screen; its mocking cursor — he noticed an old, white-haired man had entered the store, calmly. It was not any of his usual, real-world customers.
No, not at all…
And in the days to come this visitor — their brief encounter — he’d replay many times in his mind, either in the early hours of the morning or flashing back to him, deep inside the Island…
For one thing, it wasn’t exactly common to have a real-world customer. Most of his trade was done on the V-web like any software store. However, he used his real space more as an office and showroom for particular customers who liked to buy the more exclusive items. He either knew or remembered most of these visitors. He liked them, for they were enthusiasts and very often motivated or inspired him in his occupation, his dedication to the virtual.
In fact, he had gone to some lengths to make it a welcoming shrine to this dedication. There were old gaming posters, ‘ancient’ console games, early PC game boxes and a magical-themed book library (with leather sofa) for famous rulebooks and companions, or accounts written by legendary designers or coders. You could get a more real sense of how far games as a medium had evolved. Towards the back he had desks and hardware for when he found the time or energy to host retro gaming sessions (dedicated to one or two classic titles) or even board games. The whole place had a mystical slant, so he’d often light candles and have ambient music playing or famous in-world soundtracks. On the walls, or dotted about, were cool, ‘cyberpunk’ features such as recycled game controllers and replicas of signature ‘world items’ and trophies. It was partly a mini-museum that celebrated the greater, more spiritual or more intelligent creations of the video-gaming past and present.
And my visitor that day — a legend in his own time — had come to him? It was still so weird!
To the kids who came by, he would also act as a ‘real’ presence or ambassador; a guide to the vast range of classic and new experiences, continually advanced by the latest interfaces. There was always a chance he could inspire the world-builders — the demiurges — of tomorrow. When not sharing tips, releasing secrets or walkthroughs, he tried to inspire them with immersive experiences that would prepare them for their future dreams, even suggesting avatars and identities that might be suitable to their interests. And he would tell tales of his own adventures in the Online Realms, as a former tester at the Academy.
God, that was a while ago now…
The elderly man meanwhile seemed to be taking his time (he’d liked him already), and seemed currently engrossed in one of the old companions on the opposite side of the store.
I wander if he’d actually been looking at anything…
He’d abandoned his blog and waited, to see if he was going to be asked anything, but nothing was forthcoming. So his mind had wandered again, still questioning the nature of his vocation…
Yes, he’d seen many things, both real and illusion, and often he had trouble distinguishing them, in his memories. Since the dawn of the Virtual and the first potent interfaces had emerged, such new gateways for the senses had led him into even more heightened interaction with man-made reflections of the world. The dangers he knew too; of seeing too much, knowing too much, without a proper foundation. Kids these days, especially the ones from broken down homes and families, could just get lost and damaged mentally or physically.
The only eternal danger is the danger in ourselves…
The tendrils of smoke — just like his thoughts — were now drifting up and loosening in the slowly spinning sails of the overhead fan. Increasing the fan speed was too damn noisy, and wouldn’t alleviate this heat much anyways.
At the end of the day, we are grounded by our own natures; a sense and need for meaning, or simple purpose; to glean success, or balance — freedom — before we become worn down by the world.
Where did I start out? He had started as an artist, and he’d thought then that it was only a humble thing, with meaning only in the transitory appreciation of it with others; sharing in the beauty of the world.
But it was never just this. For art is also about influence, about communicating possible effects and influence to others; sharing the timeless signs and forces of our species with the world with one another. From the walls of the Egyptian tombs to the screens in our pockets. Reducing the world. Containing it. Knowing it. Controlling it.
And, as he gazed about his Cyber-emporium, (which, before technology might have been a bookshop, and, before books, an art gallery or some religious mural), he realised how far his outlook — embedded too inside of it — had changed. Inside this shrine to digital experience and training, systems of mastery to bring power to the user — and so many portals into cyber-worlds of summoning and spirit — was a cautionary note.
For Man had extended the nature within him now for ages, had searched and discovered ways to communicate, express, belong and be as one — safe and individualistic — and now as one global tribe of tribes. And this impressive pace of progress continued — ever faster — conquering space and time. And it had become — these days — his quest to bring a positive influence to Art itself; to this mastery of nature by Man; and likewise to nature’s eternal mastery of Man.
Out there — in the Virtual Webworlds and its new, golden Spiral Tower — had we gone too far already, affecting the careful balance of mood through flights of escapist fantasies? And coupled with this: the many cases of those mixing hard drugs with VR. Even he, a one-time tester, had trouble shutting out the memories of his own numerous intoxications while patched in. His senses had frequently OD’d on the rhythms of nature that seemed so often amplified into the soul, through these safe, idealistic, supplicant, unrestricted worlds. It began as harmless fun, until the pendulum of emotion swings painfully back again to a more shaky centre — the everyday centre — where reality must function. It struck him as sad, where the young look for release and inspiration they are continually tricked with new fantasies and dark delusions of what life is about. Many a Super-world can only really be said to be stealing their time and casting strange, distorted spells of Nature’s light upon them.
For you can see too much and wish for something lost in the process.
His best cyber-hand still sometimes shook despite attempts at innervation.
So… the games he proffered and the worlds he proscribed had been filtered — by his hand — a little more towards teaching the world through beauty, teaching communion with nature by example; suggesting outlooks. His titles would not lodge too deeply in the muscle of the mind and shape it too permanently; hinder it in its role as a child of evolution and the Source; the mother-world. Their influence would aim to touch it, or inspire it; to sooth it or even restore it. His Cyborium — so he was resolved — would stay open to the world but only in service to it. This had become his updated mission.
‘Yes…’ he thought, and sighed, feeling resolved again.
Scarred, wise and wary, he would continue to do what he could to banish his own inner demons, and to keep out or keep down those demons hidden within worlds…
And that must have been why he’d been chosen… invited… The work of so many years rewarded on a single morning…
For the old man had appeared at his desk, jolting him out of his renewed intentions. As he found himself looking into the man’s calm expression he had remembered his face from somewhere… he just couldn’t think where at that time. A wizardly face, if ever there was one, certainly a professor of some kind. But he would find out very soon.
“Nice place you have here.” The guy had a pleasant voice and manner too. Unassuming.
“Why, thanks… Be welcome!” he croaked, clearing a dry throat. “I guess I’m… pretty proud of it… these days. What can I help you with?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I thought I’d be able to help you.”
“Ah… ok,” and he’d said something like: “That’d actually be a welcome change.”
They’d laughed briefly for a moment. What game would he be selling though? Most likely, he’d thought, a very independent game. Maybe he was still programming, in retirement, still trying to give something out to the game industry. But he had seemed more self-assured than this, despite the glint in his eye.
The stranger continued: “It might be easier… if I just mention that I’d prepared you a quick email.” He held up a store card briefly, so he obviously had the address already. “It’s more of a key… and an invitation.” He paused, checking his mobile device briefly. Looking up again he said, “I didn’t want to send it until I’d told you about it first, personally. For one thing, I thought it would be more polite. And I just don’t want you to delete it that’s all… because I… hope… you’re… going to agree… it would be a shame.”
It was interesting. “Well sure… that’s fine by me. I await your message, sir.”
“I’m a follower of your blog too, you see, and your reviews on Spiral worlds. So before I go, I should say thank-you, and again, for this great place. I hope I get a chance to visit again… sometime.” He looked away, talking now to the light coming in from the front windows. “I’m so busy… at the moment. But you’ll understand why.”
The man seemed to be getting lost in the light. He had felt — properly — intrigued now. As a reply he’d only said something ordinary, like “I’m intrigued. Don’t worry I’ll look out for the invite.”
The professor turned back then. Nodding once he’d said “Good-bye for now then… at least, from in this world,” and the words came with a warm, genuine smile, before he turned to go.
They would meet again, but it would be in the virtual, in a very different setting.
“So long,” he replied. “Maybe you’ll get more time next time. Thanks for coming by. “
The white-haired man had already reached the door, but there was a chuckle and a “Hope so!” before he’d gone.
The low sighing from the fan above was once more the only sound and the incense was beginning to die out. The old door had started to close problematically again, so he’d gone to check it was now completely shut. By the time he’d resumed his post behind the counter, a light notification sound sang out from his mobile device. His particular sound signaling a new email. He picked it up eagerly and read the new message, subject: ‘A Personal Invitation…’
My name is Professor Fielding and I’d like to invite you to experience our ‘Game’.
It remains currently in a Closed Beta stage but will remain in a continual state of ‘live development’. As a dedicated spokesman for a certain kind of Game-world my team and I feel sure that you’ll accept our invitation to try it for yourself, along with the few others in number so far invited.
Possible errors and residual bugs together with any suggestions may be reported by vocal commands when you have ‘acclimatised’ to the surroundings.
Please ensure that you follow the tutorials for the Interface as you may find it makes potent use of its fully immersive features.
Despite anything you may have read or heard about it, we hold high hopes that you will experience it simply as yourself and without pre-conceived notions.
Instructions for access are as follows…
So… that morning would mark a meeting of sorts, of his past with his future, and a door into his next quest. A dream had been given to him, to what he had been looking for: an ultimate game, if it were possible.
He’d lost no time in drawing out his still recently-acquired Spiral Interface. It was certainly the most powerful immersive device currently on the market. He’d lost many hours familiarizing with its still-early game-worlds and experiences whose portals lay waiting — glittering — in the hallways of The Spiral. The Ben Fielding — a developer both of the interface and many of these initial worlds — must have read his recent reviews and come to visit his store for himself. Firing up the equipment eagerly, feeling the old excitement well up in him again, his hand trembled.
Rumours were abundant online across the Superworlds channels about something as yet still undisclosed related to The Spiral. Was it possible that had he been granted an exclusive right to see the update to the Game of Being? It was a game-world that allegedly could form the very heart and bedrock of The Spiral…? The magnitude and significance of the meeting now created an empty pit in his stomach. The implications were scary.
An enigmatic voice — full of wisdom and time — prompted him out of some shade of darkness.
‘How much will I be changed? Before I am changed?’
Then, from inside his securely-fastened headgear, this empowered darkness began to move and shift before him like a mist, the mist of a new world…
‘Take me back to The Spiral,’ he whispered the mysterious phrase expectantly into his mic.
Suddenly, much quicker than he expected, a world came into being. It wasn’t new — no, how could anything be, really, under the sun? But it was… fresh… green. And so lush and incredibly detailed that he couldn’t help but inhale, expecting a change of purer air to reach down into his lungs.
One thing was sure, he wasn’t inside… anywhere. He wasn’t inside The Tower! So… where was he, and where was the Tower?
All he had to do then was look up…
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