I killed the crow

So I’m squatting behind a boulder on top of this mountain looking for someone I can snipe and this crow lands right next to me on a patch of snow. It’s just sitting there and I think I could shoot it with the E-11 blaster that’s good at close range. But the crow’s not real of course, it’s just an object with a packet of code that makes it resemble a crow. Just ones and zeroes. And when I shoot it it turns into a piece of meat that looks like a turkey wing and says HUNTED WILDLIFE, +40 xp on screen. And I’m satisfied in a way gambling addicts are by the sound of bells and blinking lights, the sense that all this feels so much bigger than real life. Better, even.

And that’s how it’s been with me and technology since the start of the plague. Since I quit seeing people and started playing this game. It’s a battle royale style competition where 100 players get dropped onto an island. The goal is to collect loot (weapons, potions, coins) from treasure chests, to solve quests to earn experience points (xp) you can use for new avatars, and to stay alive. The last one standing wins, gets a victory crown, and bragging rights. You do get to interact with other players, but only in the sense that you’re trying to kill them.

As the multiverse concept re-emerged to coincide with our collective dystopia from COVID, some pointed to this game (Fortnite) as one example of a multiverse. It combines characters from Marvel and DC comics universes, the Star Wars universe, Stranger Things, the Dark Knight Trilogy, G.I. Joe, Tomb Raider…it goes on and on. But it’s more than just throwing together characters from different fictionalized universes, it’s bringing together random, real people in a digitized space to compete against each other.

This idea, that real people could manifest concurrently on screen, each with their unique virtual experience, blew my mind. Video games in the 1980s pitted you against computerized things but for the most part, you were always alone. Here instead you fought real people. And for that I felt bad at first for killing them, but soon got over that.

I got invited (everyone does) to a special concert with Ariana Grande so I attended, but it was just a different screen where a bunch of other people (avatars) were flying around, emoting at one another, theoretically hanging out while an Ariana Grande avatar sang. It was kind of stupid tbh, but I got more xp for attending.

So why am I spending so much time on this game? Escapism, or another form of numbing? Is it because there’s an instant cause and effect happening in my brain, the dopamine hit gamblers get from ringing bells, instant rewards? Or is the appeal of the multiverse more of an existential desire to be somewhere else, somewhere better than here?

In researching the multiverse I learned the term goes all the way back to 1895 but was obviously not used the same as it is today. While the term was coined then, the meaning has expanded to include the theory of multiple, concurrent universes potentially overlapping, or changing (with ill outcomes) based on the actions we take.

And this theory of multiple universes becomes rich material to yield how many Hollywood scripts and storylines combining themes of fate, alternate realities, past lives and so on. It is interesting to witness, as we resurface to the cinema, what kinds of stories and themes rise to the top.

The latest Doctor Strange film features the multiverse, but more interestingly for me is the way it’s handled in the absurdist comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once. (The title alone seems to say it all, about our current society.)

What’s interesting is how the multiverse theme is used as a platform but the more compelling conflict lies in the lead character’s relationship with her teenaged daughter and soon-to-be ex husband. Without spoiling it, the multiverse becomes a place, or the occasion, for her to consider multiple identities she might possess. And which would she choose as the ideal version of herself, given the chance?

It’s been said before that every generation believes their time to be unlike any other. It is always feeling like the end or beginning of our worlds: there have been and always will be plagues. But for where we are today as a people, it is a unique time as we reconcile the existential impact of COVID and reflect on how it’s shaken our identities. And what role technology plays in our identity-making, from the subtle to the extreme. I believe it is necessary to reflect on, so we can be the best versions of ourselves as a race.

While the theme of multiple universes isn’t anything new, the age we find ourselves in feels unprecedented. Unless you believe we’ve already lived this life and what we’re experiencing now is just a simulation our future selves created, a form of virtual playback, because our future selves are nostalgic or bored—or that our future lives are bleak by comparison.

And sadly, that’s one likelihood I’d entertain.



Categories: technology, writing

Tags: , ,

15 replies

  1. I know very little about the online game world but my seven year old grandson has learnt to beat his dad at various computer games courtesy of Covid. He loves Fortnite and I’m not sure that’s a good thing at seven (which is not far enough away from ‘Now we are Six’ for me).
    The multiverse idea is intriguing.
    Cheers
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Bill
    I’m not sure how far I should encourage him. I will talk with his Dad Alex at lunch time and “we’ll see”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Everything Everywhere All At Once sounds like it might be interesting. I don’t know. I will have to check it out. There is very little “new” stuff out there that interests me. Mainstream stuff, that is. I guess. I’m sure there is great art being created somewhere. I just don’t know how to find it. And while it’s not impossible for something “great” to also be “popular,” my expereince is that what’s great is rarely, if ever, what’s popular. As for why we get into this stuff, liek Fortnite (which I am aware is a thing, but is not a thing I’ve thinged as of yet), I think it has to do with avoidance. Avoidance is universal, but what we are avoiding is unique to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That movie is so good I’m watching it again tonight with the family. Last time I did that was the Black Klansman film. Fortnite. Gosh I’ve said enough already. Feel like I’m one of the oldest guys playing it but then I bump into others who obviously share my age too. How I can tell, that’s hard to say. Hear you on the art movie thing. Also enjoyed Nope quite a bit. Seen that? Do in a theater if you still can and are interested, that’s a thinker of a film there.

      Like

  4. I love and devour multiverse novels. My favorite recent one is ‘the space between worlds’. I call it a must read. I never blogged about the crow I killed. Now that it’s in my mind, I suspect I’ll do that soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting piece, Bill.
    I’m stuck in the metamultiminiverse, permanently jet-lagged and plagued by dodgy buffering. Sigh.
    I can’t stand Marvel, hate the entire concept of superheroes. Shit. It’s hard enough to get through life without dozens of absurd models infecting us with impossible victories and slot machine highs.
    I notice you’ve changed your avatar. A happy smiling Bill. Hope it comes true, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I need to go back and reread some theories on how superheroes emerged last century, as a reflection of some curious social themes. Or am extension of those themes. But yeah, Hollywood has taken it over the top. Again, as a reflection of us. Hard to look in that mirror and feel we don’t belong there but we built it. Or some of us did and yet many don’t fit in the frame or belong there.

      Liked by 1 person

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