This little comic, which is nifty and really makes a lot of sense, has reminded me of a story or two from my youth. Particularly about the idiocy of my middle sister. So here goes…!
In order to understand this story you must become familiar with a term I’m going to throw around a lot: Sim. That is short for Online Role-Playing Game Simulation. It’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but less pen and paper and more typing and forum-boards.
As a youth I was very into these kinds of games; going so far as to design and develop my own and later merge it with a larger organization’s game which I helped to develop and run for several years (game development companies, I am currently available for hire!).
What makes these games unique is that they aren’t single-player games like one might imagine playing on a computer. They aren’t pseudo-multiplayer like most Facebook games wherein you’re playing a single-player game that forces you to interact with other people online to progress who don’t inherently actually play with you.
No, these games were all being filled with real people doing the same thing I was: Playing and Role-Playing.
I was in a position of rulership, in that I ran an entire group of players and they all depended on me to submit a ‘Turn Post’. That is the list of actions each character performs on a given ‘Turn’. A turn represented one month of game time, and usually lasted about a week in real time to give players the opportunity to role-play a bit and to figure out what they were going to do for the turn.
My ‘kingdom’ (the set of players I ‘ruled over’) had about 20 players serving in it. I had prepared the turn post and it just needed to be checked over, some last minute changes made in case we got spy information saying we were going to be invaded or anything like that.
Suddenly something comes up and I’m taken along to a family function on the day the turn change is due (at midnight). At ten in the evening it comes down to the decision of whether we will stay there for the night or go back home. My vote was to go home…because I had 20 people depending on me to post up our turn post in two hours.
If we left now, at ten, I could get home by eleven…which would give me about ten minutes to piss and grab a drink and find my calculator, then I’d have about 45 minutes to make changes and double-check my work, and maybe another five or ten to actually get it posted and do any possible troubleshooting for a problem that might arise.
This is when my sister’s stupidity really started to shine.
She told me that I was silly for wanting to go home to play my game because “those people weren’t real”.
Take a moment, let that sink in.
These people, an international crew from New Zealand, Canada, various European nations, China and Taiwan, and various locales around the U.S….these were not real people, simply because I didn’t know them in person.
As if the whole game was just populated by my schizophrenic ‘voices’ and I was actually just playing it alone, the whole time. She stressed to me that these people did not exist in real life, because they were just in a game. I stressed that she was an idiot and explained the way the game worked to her, that it was all real people playing the game.
She reiterated that I was probably insane because real people don’t play online games together. Which begs the question of what she thought I was. She didn’t believe that you could play games with other people on the internet, because if you weren’t in the same room with someone…they didn’t exist.
Keep in mind…she is religious and believes that God does not have the ‘burden of proof’. He exists simply because some man with a black shirt and white collar tells her that a very old book claims he exists.
But she doesn’t have the ability to understand that the internet is populated by real people, all converging at their respective computer terminals. She, apparently, believed that the people you talk to on the internet are all just computer programs, Artificial Intelligences, and that the internet is just a computer program that everyone’s computer comes with nowadays.
Also keep in mind that she is the person who introduced my mother and I to e-mail years prior to this discussion taking place. So she understood that you could use the internet to connect to other people and send them virtual postcards and such.
But she found it impossible, or at the very least implausible, that you could interact with other human beings on the internet, outside of e-mails. Certainly you can’t play a game with them.
This whole story leads me into another one. As I said, I was very into these Sim games and actually worked as a developer and administrator on one in my younger days. We used forums to communicate during development, since we were all over the world (I was in Pennsylvania, our head developer was in another state, one guy was in Britain, and another was in Taiwan; if I remember correctly). I knew that the head developer was supposed to be online at a certain time and I wanted to be on at the same time to get a few things hashed out with him relatively quickly.
I expressed this to my sister (whom I lived with at this time; long story…we’ll skip it for now) and she laughed at me and told me I was stupid to want to do that. When I asked what made my desire to communicate with our lead was so weird she brought up something you probably won’t find strange: He went by his username. As such we’ll call him…Nourd. Keep in mind that I went by a username, as well; which we’ll say was…Nash.
So I, Nash, wanted to speak to Nord; a guy I’d been working with/working for, for about two or three years now. She thought this was a ridiculous idea, because (once again), he didn’t exist. I pressed for why she thought he didn’t exist and this was her answer…
“What’s his real name?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted; he didn’t know my real name, either to be fair.
“That’s because he’s not real!” she claimed.
She believed that if you didn’t someone’s real name, it meant they didn’t exist.
So tell me…how many of you, off the top of your head, know my real name? How many of you just scrolled to the bottom of this post quickly to check my signature to see I give my salutations as “~RCS”? How many are racking their brains right now, because you know it’s on my ‘About’ page but want to challenge yourself to remember my name? How many of you don’t care and just refer to me as Dickjutsu, or just simply Dick?
My name is Richard C. Shaffer.
There, now you know my real name…which magically transports into the realm of existence, right? I don’t feel any different now that I exist, it must be something gradual, perhaps?
Oh well, I guess now that I exist I’ll have to do something productive with my life. I can’t just sit around and play online computer games and produce blog posts and youtube videos anymore. Not like when I was just a figment of your imagination.
Now if only one of my books would magically transport to the realm of existence and I could actually make some money from my writing!