|An awesome view of the galaxy.|
People plug into their matrix-es (matrices?) of choice for complicated reasons. One TED Talk I watched proposed that these artificial worlds have more justice than ours, so that effort and reward are more humanely correlated. Speaking for myself, I have to disagree. There are plenty of monotonous tasks I could choose for myself where effort and a meaningless, symbolic reward walked in lock-step. I could dig a hole in my back yard, and get my sweat's worth or dirt for every plunge of the shovel. For me, TradeWars was about narrative. It was about living out the kind of story that I couldn't otherwise live with a 13-year-old's resources.
There was, though, a strange breed of players that played TradeWars like a backyard shovel. These were the port-pairers.
Without struggle, any universe will get boring. (Life ain't all roses 'cause roses ain't fun.) In the TradeWars universe, as in ours, economic scarcity made our decisions more difficult and our winnings more proudly hard-won. One does not simply speak his rebel star empire into existence. One must find adjacent trading ports, and buy organics and raw ore for one dollar to sell them for two. One must do this until he can buy weapons, planets, and ships. Only then can go on killing sprees, birth colonies, capture Tholian Sentinals, join the underground, storm the Ferengi citadel, or whatever.
But every now and again, you'd find strange players who seemed to have forgotten about this second part. They logged in and simply paired ports. They traded. They made money. And when they had enough money, they bought bigger ships and more cargo holds, and continued the process on a larger scale. It baffled me. Such a strange misuse of a person's time, this seemed. I'd rather watch an infomercial. I'd rather sleep. At least in sleep there is dreaming. This was like picking up a novel so you could count the letters on each page.
I hadn't thought about TradeWars all that much lately until I was on the phone the other day with my cousin Levi. He was talking about people at his actuarial firm. The people where he works either refuse to believe him or are deeply freaked out when they learn (for instance) that he lived in a mud hut in Namibia for two years, or wants to live in a self-sufficient anarchist-agrarian commune. They also, apparently, aren't impressed by his paperclip necklaces. Me and Lee talk to each other as people with twenty years' worth of girlfriends, books, and inside jokes in common do. Lots of shorthand and metaphors. Some of these involve TradeWars.
So Levi's venting about someone at the office, and says:
"Man, just go pair your ports."It hit me. My God. That same feeling. I get it. This is why I'm freaked out by most professionals. This is why I'm uneasy. They're pairing ports. Getting a job so they can get more experience and get the next job. Buying a plane ticket so they can seal the deal so they can buy another plane ticket. Where's the narrative? When is someone going to strap on an eye patch, helm their Havoc GunStar, and try to blow up stardock? Something central to my psyche tells me that the reason that we go through the drudgery of everyday life is that we have to, to be able to purchase the stuff of real stories. Burning your career down makes sense to me. Moving to the Philippines to learn staff fighting also sounds like a great narrative twist. Instead, the world of my grown-up associates is eerie, and without story. It's surreal. Like a dead door game on some ancient BBS that hasn't been dialed into for years, populated with orphan bots, saving up credits till the sysop runs the EXE to rebang and the stars fall out of the sky.
Maybe this is what they call growing up.
I'd just as soon stop playing.
I've got enough credits for a few limpet mines and a Scout Marauder. Damn the credits. I want a story. Hail me if you want in.