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Author Topic: EP124: Save Me Plz  (Read 53760 times)

Russell Nash

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on: September 20, 2007, 07:02:01 PM
EP124: Save Me Plz

By David Barr Kirtley.
Read by Mur Lafferty (of I Should Be Writing and Lulu TV).
First appeared in Realms of Fantasy, October 2007.

Meg hadn’t heard from Devon in four months, and she realized that she missed him. So on a whim she tossed her sword and scabbard into the trunk of her car and drove over to campus to visit him.

Rated PG. Contains sexual innuendo, some mild language, and fantasy violence.


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mattatarms

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Reply #1 on: September 20, 2007, 07:41:28 PM
First time poster...been listening to the podcast for months.

This one connected with me enough in such a way that i felt compelled to come here and post...

I am a former MMO addict (Star Wars Galaxies), and during the height of my time in the game.  I really had the feeling that it was my life.  When I was working (the little i was) I would want my life to be that swaggering smuggler/fighter pilot that I was in game.

I was involved in a RP guild, and the stories that we had in there just felt more real to me than real life did.  There was I time where if I wanted to change the world to fit the unverse I was invoved in game I would.

Its been a world of change since I decided to "unplug" though...  I've turned my life around, and found the love of my life.  Moved to a new city and started a new and better life.

Anyway...my point...  The end of the peice where they found the car in their fantasy world that Devon created rung some sort of bell, along with Meg's emotional reaction.  That this peice of the old world that she had mostly forgotten would bring her back in that way..and then cry for help, makes me wonder in my own personal situation reminded me of "reality" and made me cry for help.

Anyway...great podcast...keep up the awsome work!



Swamp

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Reply #2 on: September 20, 2007, 10:58:48 PM
This reminds me of the kind of stories that attracted me to EP.  Just good geeky fun.  And it was great to hear Mur again.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #3 on: September 21, 2007, 02:02:23 AM
Well, Eley has always said the main editorial criterion is "fun," and this definitely qualifies.  And the "it's all a simulation" explaination for the quantum behavior of sub-atomic particles gave me chills.  Good story, good reading.  I don't have much more than that to say here.



Pink Shift

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Reply #4 on: September 21, 2007, 02:55:04 AM
This Escapepod was
 very good.
Mattatarms hits on the key point
 of missing out on real life
 when engaged in a fantasy computer games.
If there was a weakness in the story
 it was that it did not contrast
 the two worlds as well
 as Mattatarms does.

I would add that
 television is very similar
 to fantasy games.
The average USA home
 watches over 8 hours of TV a day and
 the average person watches over 4 hours per day.
I think of TV as I do of drugs. 
It affects them negatively
 in all aspects of their lives.
Life is much better
 without it


Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.

I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

e. e. cummings


BigDrahma

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Reply #5 on: September 21, 2007, 06:02:18 PM
This is one of those stories I'd call "old skool Escape Pod" if I were cool enough to get away with it.  Of course, I'm a sucker for Mur's readings, and they almost always end up being highly regarded; her voice lends itself well to the cute, geeky heroines of cute, geeky stories.  There may be a pattern.

I like that the twist was neither overblown nor the climax of the story.  Meg's decision got the weight it deserved, and her reaction at the end was handled well.

All in all, good stuff!  It made me regret not doing Retrieval Detachment anymore.



mattatarms

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Reply #6 on: September 21, 2007, 07:01:29 PM
I have to agree with Mur.  I couldn't get myself into her other podcasts as much, mainly because I can just sit and listen to her voice and her readings forever, which makes for a real unproducitive work day.



DKT

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Reply #7 on: September 21, 2007, 07:11:40 PM
I would add that
 television is very similar
 to fantasy games.
The average USA home
 watches over 8 hours of TV a day and
 the average person watches over 4 hours per day.
I think of TV as I do of drugs. 
It affects them negatively
 in all aspects of their lives.
Life is much better
 without it



I don't know.  I think there's a big difference between television and being addicted to MMO games.  I've heard very disturbing stories from friends who's kids went nuts on MMO games because of how interactive it all is and how you do get to create your own world and characters and everything.  TV (in general) doesn't have that effect on people anymore than reading does, IMO.  It's escapism and it can be very good for you sometimes.  Maybe it's me fighting against my Baptist heritage, but I just can't get behind the arguement that there's a one-eyed devil in my living room with horns and a tail.

Edit: I realize I didn't say much about the story.  I enjoyed it a lot and will probably listen to it again.  Mur's narration was excellent, as usual.  I hope we get to hear more of her soon.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2007, 07:46:01 PM by DKT »



CieBird

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Reply #8 on: September 21, 2007, 09:31:11 PM
I am SURE that I dated that guy in college...brilliant programmer, always spouting some self important wisdom, never went to class, got high a lot, WAY into gaming, dropped out...
I am sure that was him the story was about.



Reggie

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Reply #9 on: September 21, 2007, 09:33:02 PM
I also have to agree that the story was just a whole lot of fun to listen to, both for the story itself and for the outstanding reading.

That being said I'm pretty big into video games and computer games, but I've avoided playing MMO's and will continue to do so.  Not so much because I'm afraid I'd get completely addicted to them (although I know there's always that possibility), but more so because I don't want to have to deal with the people out there that already are that addicted and into them.  That may be a bit unfair, but I've read the stories about what goes on.

I do think that video gaming can be used as a social experience, though. It's a lot of fun to get a house full to play Halo on multiple screens, and I'm trying to get a group together on Steam to play some TF2 in a really relaxed not too overly obsessive manner (if anyone's interested, PM me). And I realize that MMO's, when used responsibly and in moderation can accomplish the same things, but locking yourself in your own world can be very destructive, and I really don't want any part of that.  I have a hard enough of a time with social situations to begin with, I'm not going to make it worse by withdrawing even more than I already do.

And I'm wondering, is TV still that big of a problem?  I remember those same figures from when I was much younger about how TV was destroying America....maybe it still is. Maybe it already has. But I would think that with the sheer numbers of people who play games like WoW, TV is quickly being replaced as our means for brain rot.

(not to mention social, relationship, health, and finance rot)

I think the story illustrates these points with a pretty twistedly happy ending.  That is, the characters are happy with what their world has become, Meg still seems to have a hint of her questioning attitude, but all in all, it seemed to work out pretty well for them....but are we as the listeners happy for them, or for what their world has become?



DKT

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Reply #10 on: September 21, 2007, 10:16:03 PM
I just wanted to add, in case I wasn't clear before, that I don't think there's anything wrong with video games, including MMO's.  They can be a lot of fun.  But there's some people who react to them in a way that seems unhealthy to me, where they shirk off most of life.  That's what I was talking about before.

I'd probably play more video games if I had more spare time (the new Wii lightsaber game has me drooling), but right now, I have very little spare time as it is.


Monty Grue

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Reply #11 on: September 21, 2007, 10:58:54 PM
Does any body else remember when RPGs were dice, paper, and imagination?  I still lost many years of my youth to gaming without computers.

At first I thought the story was going to be too college centric and too much fantasy games within a fantasy world, but it ended up rather cleverly. 



ajames

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Reply #12 on: September 22, 2007, 01:45:59 AM
Does any body else remember when RPGs were dice, paper, and imagination?  I still lost many years of my youth to gaming without computers.

I spent some of my youth in RPGs, too.  Falling through the trap-door in the original basic D&D game and being scared s***less on the second level is still a vivid memory for me.  Didn't play for many years after high school but I just finished a five year campaign through Middle Earth with a group of friends [meeting once or twice a month].  That was a treat.

Like the first poster in this thread, I was heavily into an MMO for a time, too.  Lots of fun in the beginning, some very pleasurable memories, but after awhile it was more of a habit then a source of enjoyment.

At first I thought the story was going to be too college centric and too much fantasy games within a fantasy world, but it ended up rather cleverly. 

I had the same initial reaction.  The story did grow on me as it went along, and I went from "Meh" to "Hmm, this isn't bad".  Going to let it sink in now.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2007, 10:15:06 PM by ajames »



Planish

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Reply #13 on: September 22, 2007, 04:29:37 AM
Hokay... I do not play any RPGs, and the closest I'll get to a computer game is the Myst franchise, but I have friends (and sons) who play paper-and-dice RPGs, DDO, and WoW.

At least with dice and paper RPGs you have to arrange for a group of people to convene somewhere/sometime in meatspace. They don't have the instant and endless gratification one might get from firing up an MMO, where people don't slide the chair back and say they gotta work/go to classes early tomorrow morning. Maybe they do, but there's always another group to join, who don't. MMOs can be abused much like video lottery terminals. I'm sure we've all heard the cautionary tales of lost university degrees, health, jobs, or mortgages.

Once you get more than two gamers in the same room, or around the same bonfire, all meaningful conversation grinds to a halt. *yawn*

I'm thinking TV's role as a time monopolizer might be lessening because nowadays (as opposed to in the '50s and '60s) we can record shows and watch them at a time convenient to us, rather than when they're aired.

back to the Episode...

Having our heroine pack her sword in her car before going off to visit a friend was no surprise to me, I do the same thing myself on a regular basis. Here are some of them:



Although ... I seriously question the wisdom of her packing it in the trunk, and having to stop and get out in order to retrieve it.

Having her encounter a giant spider... okay. This is some sort of SF/Fantasy story.
Having somebody say that there was no such thing in Real Life as "knights in shining armour" or "pirates on the seas", that piqued my interest.

That was pretty much the high point for me. I thought it was going to decay into Tron (not that Tron wasn't cool for its time), but it turned into more like an update of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven.

Still, it was okay enough, and I really enjoyed hearing Mur read again.

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robertmarkbram

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Reply #14 on: September 22, 2007, 04:55:53 AM
Brilliant!

Reminds me of the Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 138: Ship in a Bottle (1987) where they trick the holographic character Moriarty into thinking he is roaming the galaxy when in fact he is in a holographic gadget, forever running around in his own simulation. At the end of the episode, Picard says something like "Who knows, maybe we are all stuck in a simulation." Reg Barclay is left alone in the room, looks around him and then nervously says "computer, end program!"

I particularly loved the giant spider and bats a very cool twist to the narration.

Mur Lafferty's reading is always brilliant, and this was up to par. I enjoy how earnest she makes the protagonist sound.

There is of course, one other sci-fi movie this strongly reminds me of, but I will not mention it here. David Barr Kirtley - brilliant story, but please please please don't make a sequel.. Not a second. Not a third. This is perfect just as it is.


robertmarkbram

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Reply #15 on: September 22, 2007, 04:59:41 AM
Although ... I seriously question the wisdom of her packing it in the trunk, and having to stop and get out in order to retrieve it.

Heh. :)

I love the pics Planish - that sounds like so much fun!


swdragoon

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Reply #16 on: September 22, 2007, 06:06:46 AM
Woot Mir

oh and the story was good too

and i agree i would never leave my blades a place so easly damaged.

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Loz

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Reply #17 on: September 22, 2007, 06:34:05 PM
That was quite a fun little story, though I like the dark ending when Meg has ended up being turned into Devon's fantasy woman. Put's a different spin on all his nonsense about how he's making the world better for everyone, he's really just doing it for his own jollies.



Peter Tupper

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Reply #18 on: September 22, 2007, 06:49:22 PM
A good riff on "The Lathe of Heaven".

I think just about everybody who's been into science fiction/fantasy has thought, "Why can't reality be more interesting, not to mention just, beautiful and otherwise to my liking? (And I'd be in charge, of course.)"

The problem is that most people imagine a hackneyed fantasy novel or something equally cliched as their perfect world.

Ultimately it just shows that our world can be magical and beautiful and challenging, if you're lucky, or maybe if you just look for it.



bolddeceiver

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Reply #19 on: September 22, 2007, 10:59:59 PM
I find it interesting how many people will wish to live in [insert fantasy world/sf world/historical period], even when, on a bit of analysis, the world in question wouldn't be a very fun place to actually live.  A couple of prime examples would be Middle Earth, or on the historical side medieval Europe.  In both places, the lives of the vast majority really suck, and even the very best-off mostly live way under the standard of living for your average lower-middle-class modern American.  It's "exciting" to be attacked by giant spiders in a videogame, but if one jumped out at most of us in real life, I'll bet most of us would prefer to be at home in front of a computer screen.  The real joy of escapism is you can turn it off whenever you choose; if you really could stick yourself into most any fantastic world of print or screen, you'd probably want to read books and play videogames about working in cubicles to forget, if only briefly, the cold seeping through the castle walls and the dire wolves outside the gate.



Planish

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Reply #20 on: September 23, 2007, 12:49:01 AM
It's no accident that in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) we pretend to be living in "the Middle Ages as they should have been" - no plagues, no famine, no inquisitions, and the wars have resurrection points to walk back to. It's by no means a "re-enactment" group, in the strict sense.

--
Quote
Ultimately it just shows that our world can be magical and beautiful and challenging, if you're lucky, or maybe if you just look for it.

Ah yes - the business with Meg wondering about a world with cars, cell phones, and cinema. That was nice.
--
Quote
I love the pics Planish - that sounds like so much fun!
It is.
I got to teach myself how to make those bucklers (top and bottom ones started out as flat sheets of steel plate) and then I get to use them in combat. Sorry I could not get the html "img" tags to display them at a smaller size. Here's how I made the top one, in stainless steel: http://northernelectric.ca/medieval/armoury/buckler_stainless/ss_buckler.htm
But I digress. Back to your normal programming.

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600south

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Reply #21 on: September 23, 2007, 08:30:33 AM
I really enjoyed this one, and I've never even played a RPG of any kind (unless you count my job).

All my favorite elements were in there: reality as simulation, a splash of quantum physics, a time loop... but most of all, I'm a sucker for any story where the main character is trapped in a nightmare, but the nightmare isn't revealed until the end.

oh, and Mur's reading was fantastic as usual.



Loz

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Reply #22 on: September 23, 2007, 11:50:15 AM
I find it interesting how many people will wish to live in [insert fantasy world/sf world/historical period], even when, on a bit of analysis, the world in question wouldn't be a very fun place to actually live.  A couple of prime examples would be Middle Earth, or on the historical side medieval Europe.

Hell, I wouldn't have wanted to live fifty-one years ago, when choosing a sexual partner could have landed me in jail in the UK. It does seem as though most people in this world are looking back towards some idyllic golden age that never existed, then letting that define how they move forward.



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Reply #23 on: September 23, 2007, 03:55:01 PM
This one was great!

I too had a progression from sword in the trunk ("Cool, a geek after my own heart"), to dog-sized spider ("Wait, what?), to pirates and gnomes and goblins ("...Ooooh!"). I thought it was fascinating that pirates and knights were listed as things that had never existed in reality--leaving me to wonder whether someone had already used a Wand of Reification on us.

Great reading as well.

I did wonder, if he already had over a thousand wands yet reality had been changed, how many times Meg had actually been back and forth. I was glad that at the end Devon was finally satisfied and stopped running her on the quest and they could actually have a life together. I was also glad that the story didn't end with the first sentence again, and there was more to it than a simple loop. I also had a sinister thought that Devon could have used the wand to make sure that Meg would always choose the quest over again--since by running the quest over and over again, she is copping out on her ultimatum of "the game or me, I mean it."

I'm a little frustrated because I'm working on a story involving the "world is a simulation" concept and I don't want five million other stories with that concept to crop up before I'm done! But I doubt I will manage it with the finesse that this one has.

I did think it was a little too neat that one of Devon's drug-induced theories actually turned out to be true, and that Meg just accepts it with seemingly little internal conflict--which is another point in favor of the wand being used on her mind as well as her body at the outset.

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Russell Nash

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Reply #24 on: September 23, 2007, 04:05:00 PM
This one was just a lot of fun.

Mur's reading was excellent. 

I don't want to change the world to some fantasyland, but can I have a couple of those wands??


edit: typo
« Last Edit: September 23, 2007, 06:06:50 PM by Russell Nash »



milo

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Reply #25 on: September 23, 2007, 05:56:39 PM
I didn't like this story for two reasons.

First, stories about video games are inherently shallow. While a video game may be a way to tell a compelling story, a story about the story someone else experienced by playing a game doesn't help me feel caught up in a story. The only point I could relate to was Meg's boredom at dinner listening to Devon blather on about the progress of his character.

Second, I think this story gives short shrift to the amazingly mysterious universe we live in. Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy. Who needs goblins and swarms of giant bats to make life interesting when we live in a world where one photon can exist in two faraway places at once, where many atoms at the verge of absolute zero can coalesce into a super-atom, and even time itself can be bent by gravitational forces? Teleportation between galaxies, made-to-order black holes, and time travel are just a few of the possibilities.

Despite all of this, I’ve enjoyed most of the fantasy run on Escape Pod and look forward to the launch of Podcastle. I’d especially like to hear more by Tobias Buckell and N. K. Jemison.



Jim

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Reply #26 on: September 23, 2007, 06:33:35 PM
I liked the story, as it was entertaining to try and guess what was really going on.

It reminded me a bit of the not-that-good SF movie The Thirteenth Floor, but Save Me Plz is, I think, the superior story by far.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #27 on: September 24, 2007, 02:31:45 AM

Hell, I wouldn't have wanted to live fifty-one years ago.

I was engaged to for a time (and dated a long time before that) a type 1 diabetic, and any time I ran into someone talking about the "simpler times" of the past I would point out that she would have most certainly died at the age of 15 eighty years ago, and would have driven her family into abject poverty to keep her alive a little over twenty years ago.



Swamp

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Reply #28 on: September 24, 2007, 03:40:23 AM
I forgot to mention that I haven't heard or read a story by David Barr Kirtley that I haven't liked.  That's 5 for 5.  Below are the stories I have heard, listed in order of my most favorite to my least (but I liked them all):

1) "The Second Rat"
2) "Veil of Ignorance"
3) "Save Me Plz"
4) "Blood of Virgins"
5) "The Disciple"

His website liked to on this episode has many more that I plan to seek out.

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Reply #29 on: September 24, 2007, 03:41:55 AM
I really enjoyed this story.  it was tons of fun, and it gave me yet another reason to not play WoW! (Guild Wars FTW!)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #30 on: September 24, 2007, 05:14:55 AM
Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy.
Oh yeah. that bugged me too. Conscripting quantum mechanics as a kind of applied phlebotinum, because it is so insufficiently understood that even if the author does understand it, their readers probably do not. If you're going to apply phlebotinum, you should invent either your own name or use handwavium, or use a generic public domain SF term.

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Reply #31 on: September 24, 2007, 05:59:31 AM
This one was fun to listen to, and having Mur (a well-known MMO addict) read the story gave it a nice touch of irony, above and beyond the fact that she just did a great job with it.

The ending, though ...

<shiver>

In the end, this one gave me a feeling very similar to that of "Just Do It" -- it's basically a story about a selfish bastard imposing his will on another human being and getting away with it. Mind control stories can often be humorous, entertaining or even arousing, but they usually make me feel like I need a shower.

The power of the Wand of Reification is just about the biggest temptation that could exist in the universe. I would normally say that I don't care about having power, in the sense of political power or economic power or military power. The types of power commonly available in our world are primarily destructive, and they double as a set of shackles for the person who bears them. This sort of power, though -- the power to quite literally change the world to your liking -- this would be truly seductive. One reason the ending is so unsettling is because there is a part of me that would want to change things, to make them "better" -- and because the story shows us that one person's wish fulfillment is another person's nightmare. "Lena" might be happy most of the time and soon forget about the incident with the ruined truck, but the truest part of herself will still be trapped inside, screaming. I shudder to think that my own actions with such a Wand might end up doing the same thing to someone, and it makes me glad that I'll never be faced with that choice.

The idea of quantum mechanics as, essentially, the "pixelization"  or "granularity" of a simulated universe at fine scales is one that I've heard before, and I do find it to be a fun thought experiment.  (Dr. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford, has gotten some headlines for seriously proposing the "our universe is a simulation" idea.) My mother, a long-time Star Trek fan, once referred to the Bible verse that says that "in Him we live, and move, and have our being" and said that we must be on God's holodeck.  ;D Yes, it's a program with its own (mostly) internally consistent rules and subroutines, but he could always change the parameters, or even turn it off...

Oh, and as for why he has the armory full of wands: My guess is that he uses two of the wishes from each wand to make changes, then keeps the last wish in reserve "just in case." That would be consistent with the in-story comments about his reluctance to use up magic items, while also accounting for the fact that he obviously has been making changes with each iteration of Meg's "quest."

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Reply #32 on: September 24, 2007, 11:54:32 AM
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one creeped out by the ending.  It's bad enough to have another girl on the side, but turning your girl into that other girl?  That's pretty low.  So much for, "I love you just the way you are."

That being said, I liked the story, even if the end did leave me thanking god that, while I've dated some losers in my time, none of them were busily orchestrating a devious plot to turn me [and the rest of the world] into something else.



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Reply #33 on: September 24, 2007, 12:57:13 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

On the positive side, the reading was compelling, and I really like the world Meg lived in -- the existence of swords, certain monsters, Cheshire Gnomes, etc.

But for the most part, I was disappointed.  Though a casual reader might say this story is reflective of our times -- MMOs, txtypng or whatever it's called, etc -- from a critical reader perspective, this was just a story of wish-fulfillment.  I don't know the author personally, so maybe it's not, but to me it read that way.  I kept expecting to be shocked by something, made to think, etc.

I was a little surprised that Devin didn't have to force Meg to restart the quest.  But otherwise, meh.  And even that surprise wasn't much of a surprise, given the M-Night-Shalamalamadingdong trend of contemporary SF.

Also, the coda felt unnecessary.  I think the story would've been just as good if it'd ended with the first few paragraphs being repeated.  Too many authors, I feel, are writing unnecessary codas.

The writing also felt a little juvenile -- "she felt x.  she felt x.  she said x in x way."  There wasn't very much diversity to the language, at least not that I recall.

So, overall, I liked the idea of the story, but it wasn't anything new, and in the end, it just didn't feel right to me, like the story needed a few rounds of editing to really be all it could be.  A story with some of these ideas in it deserved a better trip through the word processor than it got.

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BigDrahma

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Reply #34 on: September 24, 2007, 05:43:38 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

You may have a point, and it may come down to the reading.  First, it was refreshing to have a reader with a microphone that didn't sound like a tin-can tied to a string (I sometimes have to skip stories, they sound so poor).  And, I'm coming to the realization that Mur could read a Red Robin menu and I'd enjoy it.



VBurn

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Reply #35 on: September 24, 2007, 09:28:01 PM
I always say that the only thing these kinds of games make you is a loser in reality, mainly as a joke because most of these games have no "YOU WIN, GAME OVER" point. But having seen some people "disappear" because of these games, there might be a deeper truth to that thought.

Good story, easy to relate to in today's society, and I have yet to hear a story Mur did not do a great job on.



Listener

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Reply #36 on: September 24, 2007, 10:05:32 PM
I'm very surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to this story.  I kept expecting something better.

You may have a point, and it may come down to the reading.  First, it was refreshing to have a reader with a microphone that didn't sound like a tin-can tied to a string (I sometimes have to skip stories, they sound so poor).  And, I'm coming to the realization that Mur could read a Red Robin menu and I'd enjoy it.


I'll give you that.  But not everyone can have a professional-grade microphone.  (Hey, Steve, I happen to have one, if you're looking for more readers... Ben Phillips has a demo I made last week if you want a copy too...)  Still, I can separate the reading from the story, and while I really liked the reading, the story overall was still... eh... better than "Ishmael in Love" and "Reggie vs Storm Chimera Whatever" but not as good as many others.

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Reply #37 on: September 24, 2007, 10:46:44 PM
Hi all. First time listener, first time poster.

I agree with those who liked the story and found the ending somewhat creepy. I don't agree with Listener that it's wish-fulfillment. If anything, it's a cautionary tale about where wish-fulfillment could take you.

Some things were elegantly done. I liked the way the encounter with the giant spider (and Meg's matter-of-fact reaction to it) showed us that we're really in a somewhat different world. Before that bit I suspected that Meg was a LARPer of some sort and her ex was a gaming buddy as well as an ex boyfriend.

The one thing that didn't quite work for me was her feeling about living in someone else's dream. It rang true, but struck me as just a tiny bit too obvious. I'd rather the reader be left with Meg's feeling of unease. That would have let me conclude for myself that she was unhappy because she's in someone else's dream.

All in all, though, I think I'm going to like it here. I'm already downloading my way through the archives and eagerly awaiting next week's installment.

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ScottC

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Reply #38 on: September 25, 2007, 01:51:16 PM
Long time listener, first time poster.

What struck me was how the fantasy elements were introduced so you assume this is some alternate reality with magic tossed in, but later find out that those elements are much more significant than just 'local color'.

The story also made me think of Disney.  I read (well listened) to the recent biography and the theme was that Disney wanted to make a perfect world (Snow White, Disney Land, the original concept for EPCOT).  But the difference was Disney invited you into his world, Devon forced everyone including Meg into his.  I bet Devon is still fine tuning his world, still thinking the problem is with reality and not with him.



sayeth

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Reply #39 on: September 25, 2007, 11:49:44 PM
The thing I liked best about this story is that "bad guy" wasn't really what most people would call evil; he was just trying to make the world into what he thought would be a better place. I don't think he would have considered himself selfish (though he was), rather he was just so myopic he believed that by remaking the world he would be helping everyone out.  This gives the story resonances with not just multiplayer games, but politics as well. Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but I think most of the political battles are not good vs evil but people trying to reshape the world into what they think would be ideal, not grasping that their view of the heaven is the other man's hell.

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Biscuit

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Reply #40 on: September 26, 2007, 03:40:26 AM
I agree with "Listener" in that the exposition, twist and writing in the story felt basic. Despite these drawbacks - which I'm VERY picky about - this story really struck a chord with me because it is SO close to the bone.

At some times in my relationship with my husband, I have had to say "Me or the computer game".

And now, I'm fully on the other side. Having watched on the outside for so many years, I decided to find out what all the fuss is about, and now I am a complete Guild Wars fanatic, to the point it IS pushing aside some of my aspirations in life (I want to be a writer, but am "crippled" by the amount of time I spend playing during my free time. Even all my other hobbies have suffered to the detriment of GW).

I sound like a freak, but I'm actually a very well centered human being.

There's a whole lot of emotional Ouch in this story. And after all, isn't that one component that makes a good story?



Bright Lies

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Reply #41 on: September 26, 2007, 03:43:35 AM
I was amused by the story (luv u Mur) but overwhelmed by the comments.
As a  webizen, i realize that using my valuable comment space to its highest potential is critical.
Let's get started with the review of the review awards!!!!

** REST OF POST DELETED **

EDITOR'S NOTE:  No.  Let's not.  Ever.  I'm sorry, Bright Lies, but this isn't cool.  Every opinion on a story is valid; you can criticize the story all you want, or engage in polite debate on ideas, but we will not tolerate insults or criticism of other people for sharing their views.  This is the sort of provocation that turns discussion communities toxic, and I will not have that here.

Questions?  PM me, or post to Metachat.  This isn't the place to discuss policy, either.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2007, 04:23:32 AM by SFEley »



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #42 on: September 26, 2007, 04:13:35 AM
My favorite part of the story: the breadth of its scope which feels more impactful than most short stories, without making the text itself feel drawn out.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2007, 04:26:26 AM by palimpsest »



eytanz

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Reply #43 on: September 26, 2007, 04:38:52 PM
Second, I think this story gives short shrift to the amazingly mysterious universe we live in. Explaining away quantum mechanics as some sort of "mistake" in a giant meta-game makes me suspect that the author lacks the grand scale of imagination that the story supposedly promotes. Quantum mechanics is far stranger than the spells and magic of most run-of-the-mill fantasy.

Ah, but is it the story that gives short shrift to the mysterious universe we live in, or is it just Devon? It's not the narrator that calls quantum mechanics a mistake, it's Devon. The fact that he cannot appreciate the world is a major plot point; as is the fact that he's always looking for loopholes and errors that can increase his own power, to the expense of actually enjoying the world. I definitely didn't feel like the story was taking his side here , especially not towards the end.



Roney

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Reply #44 on: September 26, 2007, 09:15:57 PM
For me this story was as much Pseudopod as EscapePod.  Game rules are inherently limited to the imagination and the talents of the designer(s).  Not only does Devon give up the possibility of succeeding at anything himself (it can't count as success if he uses a cheat wand) he also denies everyone else in the world the opportunity to do anything meaningful outside the game rules he has chosen.

Even if the characters' reality is just a bigger simulation, perhaps a more complex game with more obscure rules, I don't think it changes the fundamental immorality of his actions.  At the very least, the original game allowed a lot more freedom for the players to define their own goals and live their own lives.  And if he hadn't warped it through repeated application of a simple script-kiddie hack, smarter minds could have investigated similar glitches in the simulation to understand more about their universe, maybe even why the simulation had been created.  Rewriting reality as the fancy takes him seems bound to introduce bigger bugs that someone could use to rip it apart.

With simple selfishness he turns our world into a hell.  It's a cute morality tale.



wakela

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Reply #45 on: September 27, 2007, 12:27:01 AM
I liked the story, but I did think it took a while to get going.  In the beginning I didn't care too much about this girl chasing after her loser boyfriend.  I wasn't to gripped with the fantasy tropes, either.  At the mention of the giant spider I figured we were in some kind of alternate universe and was eager for an explanation. I also thought the writing was sometimes clumsy "She felt an inexplicable dread as if something something something."  i.e. "Her inexplicable dread could be explained by ...."

But I was won over by the end of the story, and I liked the creepy ending.  I was afraid that the story would end with the reveal that it was a game within a game, and I was relieved that there was more.  But I would have liked to see more hints of the creator of our world.

Will brave Sir Lovestospooge have to come rescue these people from Lord Devon's Empire and return them to their cubicles and mortgages?

My favorite part of the story: the breadth of its scope which feels more impactful than most short stories, without making the text itself feel drawn out.
impactful? C'mon. ;)



sirana

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Reply #46 on: September 27, 2007, 04:13:37 PM
Liked the ideas of the story and the end made it all in all a good story for me, but I had problems with the changing style and narrative voice.
Starts out as a subjective third person narrator [not sure if you can call it that in english, free translation of what it's called in German][edit: I checked with wikipedia and it seems to be called 3rd person limited in english] , but after she slays the car it turns to an omniscient, fairy-tale style narrator. Changes back to the subjective style when she meets the prince in the fortress and the last part is again omniscient/fairy-tale style.
I can see why the author would change styles (mainly to keep her voyage short for the reader) but it was a big turnoff for me.
If you change perspective or narration style during a short story you better hava a good reason for it and for me the reason wasn't good enough in this case.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2007, 04:15:10 PM by sirana »



Listener

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Reply #47 on: September 27, 2007, 04:17:50 PM

Will brave Sir Lovestospooge have to come rescue these people from Lord Devon's Empire and return them to their cubicles and mortgages?


Now THAT would make an interesting alternate-universe story... someone trying to turn the world more like ours, instead of more like a fantasy world.

Hmm.

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Reply #48 on: October 02, 2007, 04:49:15 PM
I was listening to this story on the Atlanta subway while headed to the airport to pick up a friend.  As I was watching the boring, Atlanta scenery swish by, I could easily imagine wanting to reify it.  Here are my thoughts, and they are five:

#1: Yay, Mur! I loves me some Mur.

#2: I thought this was going one place, and I was listening, and then...what? Dog-sized what? Goblins? Hmmmmm! :)  I love it when a story goes somewhere other than where I think it is.  And I liked the ending.

#3: I, too, was strongly reminded of the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Moriarty and the movie "The Thirteenth Floor."  I'm not saying that's a bad thing: I enjoyed both of those.

#4: I have friends I don't see for months because they are almost continually playing WoW.  When I do talk to them, they say things to me that make no sense or continue conversations they thought they'd had with me, but I point out to them that I don't play WoW, and there's no way I could have known about whatever it was, and this leaves me out of the loop, much of the time.  If I would just play, they say, then I wouldn't be the last person to know stuff.  It frightens me just a tiny bit just how totally immersive these games get.

#5: Yay, Mur!  I loves me some Mur. (It bears repeating.)

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wakela

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Reply #49 on: October 02, 2007, 11:37:36 PM
Maybe this is old news to you all, but I know a guy who is working in WoW.  I know nothing about WoW, but from what I'm told he's achieved a high level of weapon smithing.  So he spends all day in the game making weapons, then he sells them on real world eBay.

Things like WoW and Second Life are becoming so sophisticated that when the day comes when we can fully download our minds into computers, it will be a much smaller step than we think. 



Listener

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Reply #50 on: October 03, 2007, 04:04:01 PM
Maybe this is old news to you all, but I know a guy who is working in WoW.  I know nothing about WoW, but from what I'm told he's achieved a high level of weapon smithing.  So he spends all day in the game making weapons, then he sells them on real world eBay.

On that topic...

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/10/02/charlie-strosss-halt.html

A novel about a bank robbery in a MMORPG.

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gedion_ki

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Reply #51 on: October 03, 2007, 07:08:00 PM
Two solid concepts I enjoyed from this story were, one the total immersion into a game and how it becomes the only reality once inside. That and how those not in the game really do loose touch with you.  I've been there and in many ways, falling this deep into a game smothers you as a person. I know that by abandoning MMOGS I discovered SF and that I have artistic talents both of which are much more satisfying to me then days in game.

The thing second thing that really struck a cord was the final part of the story where the girl finds herself feeling a hint of longing for what use to be reality. This says a lot about human nature, fantasy or mundane world, we tend to long for what is different. The grass isn't really greener on the other side of the fence so to speak.



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Reply #52 on: October 03, 2007, 07:13:35 PM
The grass isn't really greener on the other side of the fence so to speak.

Or maybe it's always greener.  She chose (maybe) to change the world to a "better" one, then when she's there, longs for what she's lost. 



Hatton

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Reply #53 on: October 05, 2007, 03:19:41 PM
Second post on the forum - EP addict since almost the beginning.

The first thing I thought of in this story was when I used to teach at ITT.  We *constantly* had students drop or be absent because they were always playing WoW.  The instructor's nickname for that game is World of Warcrack.

Granted, as a kid I would stay up with my friends for entire weekends eating pizza, drinking coke and playing DnD.  Now that i have a wife, children and most importantly a job, such activities are no longer an option.

As much as I loved the story and the characters, the thesis of the story did not change my impression of the MMORPG environment.

Cheers!
Hatton

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #54 on: October 07, 2007, 04:32:21 AM
I believe it's been announced that this story will be appearing in Rich Horton's Years Best Fantasy, 2007. Congratulations, Mr. Barr Kirtley!



Loz

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Reply #55 on: October 09, 2007, 08:03:32 AM
The thing I liked best about this story is that "bad guy" wasn't really what most people would call evil; he was just trying to make the world into what he thought would be a better place.

Well, he was removing people's right to self-determination without their consent and, apparently, turned a woman into his sex-kitten, sex-elf, whatever. Fits into 'evil' in my value scheme.



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Reply #56 on: October 09, 2007, 01:47:58 PM
First-time poster, longish time listener!  Love the Escape Pod!

For me, this story was o-kay.  Honestly, it was a lukewarm mash-up of World of Warcraft and The Matrix.  Kind of amusing, but didn't thrill me like "Sundial Brigade" or some of the others.

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Reply #57 on: October 10, 2007, 03:11:29 PM
I love the way this story ended: very light sounding, but in reality (uhm, well, as far as reality goes in this case...) very, very very dark.

Loved it!



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Reply #58 on: October 17, 2007, 11:20:40 PM
I really liked this one.  I was hoping that the twist in the end would be that everyone was living in The Matrix.  That is to say, the online world had grown to take over most peoples' world, to the point where the only way to get the real-world work done (educating people, doing drudge work) was to have it controlled from within the game.  Then, so much drudge work has to be done in the game that people wrote a game within the game to give themselves a place to escape to.  My assumption was that, because "real life" contained evil goblins and quest-giving gnomes, the heroine was actually within a game, and had been her whole life.

I think the author's ending was better (although having the inner game affecting the outer game makes more sense to me in my version).

Fun, geeky, timely stuff.  Mur did a great narration.



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Reply #59 on: October 25, 2007, 08:54:28 PM
Two points--

First, where did the original wand of reification come from?

Second, and slightly more disturbing, how did Meg come to be Lina?  We know he may have changed her at least slightly over the course of the quests, and I'm willing to bet she didn't complain.  Who'd complain about being magically thinner, or magically better-looking?  Thing is, though...at some point he made her stop being Meg, and start being Lina.  I'm pretty sure that crosses that fine line between selfishness and evil.

Anyway, it was a good story, and I was trying to figure out what would happen right up until the end.  Also, Mur reads brilliantly. :)



Roney

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Reply #60 on: October 25, 2007, 09:47:37 PM
I'm pretty sure that crosses that fine line between selfishness and evil.

I know what you mean by this, but the more I see of selfishness and the more I see of evil, the less I see a line.  Selfishness is the root of all evil.



Loz

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Reply #61 on: October 26, 2007, 06:01:47 AM
at some point he made her stop being Meg, and start being Lina.  I'm pretty sure that crosses that fine line between selfishness and evil.

Isn't that rather the point. He claims that what he's doing is for the good of everyone (without everyone getting a say) but he completely changes Meg, and it's not made clear whether she's aware that she's changing, but I took away a feeling that didn't know that, especially as each time she completes the quest he wipes her memory.



Listener

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Reply #62 on: October 26, 2007, 05:48:30 PM

First, where did the original wand of reification come from?


IIRC (it WAS over a month ago), it was one of those artifact items that just show up in games.  The guy heard about it, quested for it, found it, and pulled an eight-year-old-with-a-genie, but because the computer can't say "you can't wish for more wishes", he got another Wand of Reification when he asked for it. 

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Reply #63 on: January 24, 2008, 08:54:43 PM
As an experiment, I did a "video picture book" (as in the old TV show Reading Rainbow) adaptation of the first scene of this story, using Mur's audio (with permission), and posted it on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohq_V-WkHFc










Also, I've made the full text of this story available on my website:
http://www.davidbarrkirtley.com/plztext.html
« Last Edit: January 24, 2008, 10:33:20 PM by davekirtley »



Roney

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Reply #64 on: January 24, 2008, 11:21:17 PM
As an experiment, I did a "video picture book" (as in the old TV show Reading Rainbow) adaptation of the first scene of this story, using Mur's audio

I was pleasantly surprised by how well it works.  My mind has a tendency to wander when I've just got the audio to listen to, and I tune back in realizing that I've missed five minutes of a story and now have no idea what's going on.  There was just enough substance to the pictures to keep me concentrating entirely on the story.  Particularly with the (intentional?) comic effect of the quite literal depiction of words in the text: every time "sword" is in a sentence, let's have half a second of a picture of a sword.  I imagine that this could be exaggerated to very funny proportions, a la Zero Punctuation, although "Save Me Plz" probably isn't the right story to undermine with that kind of silliness.



davekirtley

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Reply #65 on: August 07, 2008, 02:04:53 PM
> I believe it's been announced that this story will be appearing in Rich Horton's Years Best Fantasy, 2007. Congratulations!

Thanks! The book is out now. This is my first-ever appearance in a year's best anthology, so obviously I'm really excited. Here's the cover:



In addition to me and the authors listed on the cover, this book also includes stories by people like Karen Joy Fowler, Kelly Link, Ian R. MacLeod, Daniel Abraham, Theodora Goss, Benjamin Rosenbaum ... and PodCastle editor Rachel Swirsky! View the complete table of contents at:
http://www.davidbarrkirtley.com/plz.html



zZzacha

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Reply #66 on: August 07, 2008, 02:52:43 PM
Thanks! The book is out now. This is my first-ever appearance in a year's best anthology, so obviously I'm really excited.
..
In addition to me and the authors listed on the cover, this book also includes stories by people like Karen Joy Fowler, Kelly Link, Ian R. MacLeod, Daniel Abraham, Theodora Goss, Benjamin Rosenbaum ... and PodCastle editor Rachel Swirsky!

WoW, congratulations, David! And Rachel too!

I really loved this story and have listened to it a few times because I love the tiny bits of fantasy that dribble down in the 'real world'. Real nice!

Of course, the experience of this story in print will be very different from this EP version, since it will lack the wonderful voice of Mur... I'll just have to listen to my own voice then

It is never too late to be what you might have been.


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Reply #67 on: March 03, 2010, 06:18:56 PM
LOVED it.  And not only because I've also written a story (as yet unpublished) that takes place inside an MMORPG.  :)

I was interested from early on when the giant spider showed up, and when they were talking about the game world and how it had some normal stuff like monsters and swords of cleaving, but threw in stuff that never existed like pirates and knights. That was a really cool way to introduce everything.  At first, I was a little skeptical about the world--how could we end up in a world so much like our own but without having originated with a world that had knights and pirates.  But of course that makes perfect sense from the final view of the tale.  That guy makes a great villain, apparently convinced that he's doing the world a favor while twisting everything to his will.  Creepy!

And, on to some philosophy:  I liked the explanation of quantum observation through gaming concepts.  It made sense to me, but then I'm a software engineer not a quantum physicist.  The story struck home on some philosophical musings I've had from time to time.  I know I'm a gamer geek because I have, from time to time, noted in my mind when seeing something in real life "wow, that's an impressive rendering".  Something as simple as a waterfall, I ponder how each water molecule is moving independently of one another, individually too small to see but creating a beautiful whole unit we see as a single thing, a waterfall.  Even when done well in a computer graphics display, water isn't stored down to the particle, it's more likely represented as a warpable reflective surface which acts as a boundary between different settings for the physics engine, MAYBE with a few water droplets splashing on the viewscreen, but not on the particle level as a whole.  And if you leave the area, it does not continue to exist in any dynamic sense, only continuing on as some stored values that can be brought up by the graphics engine when you come back.  In the real world, all of these infinite interactions are happening ALL OF THE TIME.  This is possible because there's no central power coordinating the atoms, each exists because it exists, not because someone REMEMBERS it to exist.  In this way, a simulation world is sort of analogous to those religions/cultures who believe that the world is a dream dreamt by some sleeping god--In this case the god is the CPU and the dream is the game.  The only things that exist are those things that it keeps track of.

And on to my intentional avoidance of MMORPGs.  I avoid them for several reasons:
1.  Subscription-based games would drive me to play more for the sake of efficiency.  Though I'm many years out of college, I still have a college economic mindset--stretch my dollar as far as I can.  If I paid a monthly fee and didn't play, then that would be wasted money.  If I paid the fee, and played 10 hours, then I would think that I could've gotten more for my money by playing for 15 hours.  If I played 15 I would think that I could've gotten more for my money by playing 20 hours.  And so on.  I could probably resist the urge to play above a certain amount of time, but it would drive me nuts and I would be constantly irritable.
2.  My schedule is weird.  I rarely ever play games in long stretches or at the same time of day/week.  Most of the potential fun would be hanging out with buddies, and I just don't think I'd ever be consistent enough chance to play.
3.  There will always be someone better.  No matter how much time I devoted to such a game, there would ALWAYS be someone I'd meet online who would be more experienced, more devoted, and more powerful in every way.  To me, that kind of takes some of the fun out of it--because I'd try to not be obsessed, I would be automatically inferior (in the gameworld) to most everyone I came across.
4.  I am inclined to game-binge.  I've managed to avoid this for a long time, but I know the potential is still there.  I did this from time to time in high school.  One week I rented The Legend of Zelda:  The Ocarina of Time over Christmas vacation, and played it pretty much nonstop until I beat it 5 days later.  Literally, sitting in one place for 16 hours a day, joints aching, eyes bleary, only getting up to use the bathroom or to scrounge up just enough food to stop my stomach from growling. 



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Reply #68 on: March 03, 2010, 11:51:11 PM
And on to my intentional avoidance of MMORPGs.  I avoid them for several reasons:
1.  Subscription-based games would drive me to play more for the sake of efficiency.  Though I'm many years out of college, I still have a college economic mindset--stretch my dollar as far as I can.  If I paid a monthly fee and didn't play, then that would be wasted money.  If I paid the fee, and played 10 hours, then I would think that I could've gotten more for my money by playing for 15 hours.  If I played 15 I would think that I could've gotten more for my money by playing 20 hours.  And so on. 

This one alone keeps me out of any subcription MMOs.  I'd feel compelled to cat-ass just to get my money's worth. 

And even the totally free Hello Kitty Online failed to keep me for more than a week.

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising