A old man stepped out of a building and came up to a car I was in. He looked inside.
old man: "Are there any stuffed animals in this car?"
me: (confused) "Yes."
old man (angry) "There can't be any stuffed animals here!"
He reached in the car and grabbed a stuffed animal I had, then ran into a nearby building. I got out of the car and followed him.
Inside the building, there were lots of stuffed animals that were coming to life. It was at this point that I noticed how pixelated everything was. People I talked to were pixelated and there was some conversational awareness of those I was speaking to that they were in a Virtual Reality.
The pixelation was very extreme, much like early 3D games:
...though it felt like I was "in" the game, so I was picking up these objects using my hands.
There was a rich level of detail, including old candy wrappers on the floor that I could pick up and manipulate. It became apparent that the "characters" living in the building were annoyed with my presence, so I went back outside to the car.
There were other people in the car, and they wouldn't let me leave yet. It was as if there was a linear script in this game, somehow.
someone: "There's a question you still need to ask of the old man you were chasing."
me: "Ok, what's the question?"
someone: "He ranted about only having one job in his life. But what was that job?"
Going back inside the building I found the old man who had stolen my stuffed animal earlier, which I guess was water under the bridge by now.
me: "What did you used to do for work?"
old man: "I was a volunteer firefighter."
As a consequence of asking him the question, he gave me his old firefighting suit--or maybe I just took it.
All along I'd been trying to fall upon instincts for how to trigger features like "show map" or "list inventory". At this point, I knew there was a way to show previous conversations, and when I tried to make that happen my whole field of view shifted--as if I'd stepped back from the computer and changed the channel.
There was a preview for the game playing in a video. It was warning about graphic scenes and plot points where you are actively encouraged to set someone tied to a chair on fire, and another part where you are supposed to rape and torture a prostitute.
These issues do parallel things going on already in the world as we know it with Grand Theft Auto
, which include rape and gruesome violence:
...although people focus more on the impact of the game on the person playing it than on worrying the digital people are suffering.
While I was watching this preview I started hearing sounds that I knew meant "your character is under attack". Somehow I switched back over to the game, and there was an Asian guy in a white outfit repeatedly shooting me with a long-barreled rifle. I invoked some keystroke and he went down with one shot of whatever weapon it was I used, spattering blood everywhere. A man ran up to me and I thought he was going to attack me too, but he didn't.
man: "Don't worry, we'll get this cleaned up. Hey guys, let's get this body out of here!"
me: "Uh, thanks?"
He indicated some refrigerated racks on the walls.
man: "Do you need food? Take whatever you can carry."
From his jacket he produced an empty Pepsi can, and handed it to me like it was a very big deal.
man: "This has never been sealed. I work in the factory and the security is really tight, workers can't get an unsealed can out. But I tricked the system by getting the machines to package up an unsealed can in a case with sealed cans. Then I tracked the box with that ID number and picked it up out of the retail channel...bought exactly that one at the store."
me: "That sounds complicated."
man: "No, tricking the machine was the hard part. It involved defeating the referencing system they use to line up the can, that's how they know how to hold it while it's being filled. Look."
He turned the can upside down and I could see a tiny mark etched on it.
man: "What I did was modify the writing on the bottom of the can. This can fools the laser system so it tried to pour the soda in and seal the wrong half of the lid. Since I work in the plant I had just enough access to change the mark at one end, and to override the failure report."
me: "You sure worked hard to get this for me, and I really appreciate it. I have a couple more questions though. First of all, are there any cans of 'Coke' or 'Coca Cola'?"
man: "No way, there's a monopoly tied down in this game environment. The characters only know about Pepsi products."
me: (sigh) "All right, thanks for your help. I'm going to move on now."
The building was a factory or warehouse. There were rows and rows of products, including TVs and consumer electronics...it was a little bit like a Costco. There were even bins of video game titles for sale.
I was overwhelmed by that feeling of "what if" where I wondered what it would be like to just have a giant TV-smashing party...or to eat 1000 sundaes...or...well, all the usual things one conjectures about in the ever-so-tantalizing world of VR.
I wandered into an area of cubicles, where pixelated people were answering pixelated phones. It sounded like they were taking technical support calls for upgrading a game from "RC2" to "RC3".
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