Friday, September 1, 2017


I play video games. I don't really know other people who do so with any avidity. Sometimes a bona fide adult will check out a couple of games at the library I work at. When I say something conversational about the games, they just say to me "These are for my kid. He's two." Ouch. But I'm not sure how much I really like the "game" part of video games anyway. I like the miracle part, the part that embodies the quote by Arthur C. Clarke: 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 

I like the magic. And a little part of me who has "walked" in Portal 2, or Uncharted 4, or the Witcher 3 (decidedly unlike movies and books, games often improve through sequels) wants to proselytize when I encounter all the many people who have no idea what any of those things are (they're, um, video games). And when most people are uninterested in my subject that same part of me just says resignedly "Eh, muggles, what can you do?"

But in the course of living with technology that is indistinguishable from magic that technology becomes more and more familiar to us. It becomes harder and harder to get to that magic feeling. I doubt you spend much time at this point watching a movie on some personal screen marveling in astonishment that you can see people, and that they're talking, almost like real life! I do, occasionally, for fun, if I can, but I might be a special case.

Luckily, depending on one's perspective, the technology of games has been sort of doubling itself for decades. So there is always an opportunity to chase the magic. Sometimes it lags for awhile. Rarely, there is an enormous leap, so extraordinary that the magic is inescapable to hardened acolytes and barely interested dabblers alike.

Now is one of these times.

I recently bought an Oculus Rift. This, in case you don't know, is a device one straps to one's head, maybe like a scuba mask. And then, moving one's head around, and looking about naturally, one sees, well, whatever world the filmmaker, or animator, or game designer, has made for one to see. Look back, look forward, up, down, it all encompasses you. Done well it might as well be pure magic. But, as I said, this is a technological leap. So even done mediocrely it's pretty magical. It's called virtual reality, which you have heard of, and I really like it.

No, I kind of love it. But I do recognize its source. I do know that it works off the same principle of magic I have followed my whole life. You yourself are dabbling in one of its older variants at this moment. Where are you really? In the hard world, or in the tiny spell I get to weave out of writing? Maybe both.

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