Thursday, January 24, 2008

the future is now

This. Is. So Cool!

Microtechnologies as come up with an anti-theft system that talks to your mobile. That means anywhere you are, you know what's happening to your car, where it is (they have a web-interface tracker), two-way voice, GPRS and SMS-based tracking, remote arm / disarm, lockdown, and shutdown features.

So the next time someone steals your car, you can lock him in and shut down the whole works, then go over to where he is, and call the cops. And tell him what a naughty boy he's been while he waits for the cops.

Waiting for the next-gen version, which will have internal / external cam, remote control, and a large boxing glove on a spring.


Why do I game?

It eats away time, money, sleep, healthy eating, good posture, fills the head with nightmares and daydreams, opens your computer to infection risks, overwhelms my HD, and blows my bank balance in associated costs - AGPs, peripherals, networking...

yet I game. Compulsively, obsessively, incessantly. And I enjoy it. I love it. I live it.

I guess one bit of it is... escapism. The same reason you read, or listen to music, or watch movies... or plays, or art... there is a story in here, and it's long, complex, rich, and often fascinating. It's not just shoot-and-watch-the-gore-spatter; the background stories can be expansive and imaginative as any SF. When you read, you don't just look at the words; after a point, there's a direct flow of thought from your imagination to your conscious mind, with the words on the page just the occasional trigger. This can be as immersive.

Entertainment. Adrenaline. Reflexes. Will you rather play cricket on the road, on rock-hard tarmac? You also play with traffic. Or travel for an hour each way to get to the ground, after having booked it in advance, of course? Sad fact of life, but real-world play in an urban environment is becoming more and more inaccessible. And in a city, finding a safe nice place to play in is way easier than finding a nice, safe person(s) to play with.

On the other hand, you can curl up on a bean bag in an AC room, and immerse yourself for a couple of hours.

Ever done puzzles? I'm not talking about the crap that passes itself off as 'puzzle games'. Even stuff like Tomb Raider, like a lot of movies and books, require significant suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. Stand back and look, and you know that Ms Croft can get past the cunning trap in one way and only one way, and that one way has been conceived and created by Eidos Interactive long long before you came on the scene. You're being forced to walk down a corridor, wearing a chicken suit, with a pause every five seconds to sing the chorus lines from Eminem's Stan. If you don't do any of this, you die.

On the other hand, look at cheatcodes, easter eggs, and cracking. You're getting inside. Edit the default values in the config files, and suddenly all your tanks mooove like rocketbikes and fire unlimited nukes, our soldiers wear tank armour, and your buildings are invulnerable, and you yourself can fly, walk through walls, never run out of ammo, and use level 9 weaponry on level 1 minions, the poor creatures. The getting in, figuring it out, trying a hypothesis, seeing it work, applying it for a better experience - dopamine overproduction! It's a high of just using your head to make something happen!

More than that, sometime around 2 AM, when suddenly, everything clicks, and you're past the block, in the zone, on fire... it's a quasi-religious experience. Superego and id in perfect harmony for once, in perfect coordination, needing each other, working together. Higher brain functions shut down, worries evaporate, stress vanishes. It's just you and the game, in a world where none of the constraints apply. And it's amazing what a relaxing feeling it can be for the soul when all your troubles get boiled down to 2 simple counters - your health level and your ammunition level - and your hindbrain, too, believes that with all it has.

Stopping play is like... waking up, or falling asleep, depends on how you see it; between



Do you really want to quit? Y / N



and shutting down, getting up, water, roll into bed, drifting off... is a dreamlike, fugue state anyway. As soon as I slide into unconsciousness, REM kicks in almost instantly, picking up where the other side of that Y/N left off. Talk about an immersive experience - like most immersive experiences, this one sticks to you after you've climbed out. The next waking in the morning is even more disjointed.

It's an experience that extends way back in it's foreplay before the actual gameplay. The entire wandering through Fort, leafing through the pavement titles, one eye open for cops, making the selection, the bargaining, the wrapping up of the purchase in the inevitable black plastic bag, quick turn-down of the offer for porn ("saab english / hindi / double / triple / latest") and walk home; and the entire installation adventure, decoding the crack instructions written by a technically gifted but linguistically retarded cracker, and that rush when the game executes perfectly for the first time... this is entertainment that you work for, that you take risks for. Is that why it's that much more enjoyable?

That's it for now - I stocked up on Gears of War, Q4, Bioshock, and Max Payne 2 and HL2:Ep1 is still left with a little to go... have a good Winter-een-mas!

Play. Evolve.

Images thanks to Ctrl-Alt-Del and