Periscope Depth

why wait? there's a world outside

Took a sick day yesterday; sorry to leave you hanging.

Reached that part of tech week (note: buy your Gorefest tickets today!) where everything in my life but the play starts to gradually disintegrate. I need one or two good nights’ sleep to fight off the cold but I haven’t managed them yet. Dishes now sit in my sink for days on end before I wash them. I’m running low on bread, salad and other lunch necessities. And my fifty books in a year plan has fallen on hard times.

I fell into The Sims for a brief but addicted period in college. I made artificial people live artificial lives and screamed in frustration when they got stuck on their way out of the apartment (“no, you start breakfast, you fix the toilet, and … it … grr!”). Eventually I realized the sick irony in spending hours alone in my bedroom, lit only by my laptop screen, struggling to give computer characters rich, fulfilling lives. So I quit.

One of the things that stuck with me, however, were the little persona scores each Sim had. Each Sim had eight gauges that measured their needs – Hunger, Energy, Social, Room (the quality of the space they currently occupied), Bladder, etc. Walk from your gorgeous living room to your cramped, dirty bathroom and watch your Room gauge plummet. Hunger and Energy steadily diminish over time, until you have to eat or sleep to replenish them. Different Sims deplete at different rates – your introvert can top off his Social tank for days after one good conversation, but might lose interest in the TV in seconds.

I live alone in a modest studio in Davis Square. Anything in my life that I fail to maintain – groceries, cleaning, exercise, stimulating conversation – simply will not get done. I might loaf around for a while and avoid the little routines that will satisfy me in the long run. But then I remember my Sims, crying and poking the walls in confusion, and I get to work. I make my bed every morning and I picture my Room gauge going up. I cook a tasty and varied meal, rather than grabbing chips and soda, and watch little green pluses stack up next to the Hunger tank.

This private imagery came back to me recently because of this TED talk about video games breaking the barrier between virtuality and reality. I interpret life through video game cues. I visualize green gauges and happy sound effects, and that inspires me to get things done. I don’t know that making my bed because it “fills up my Room gauge” is any different than making my bed because “I can hear my mom nagging me.” They’re both outside stimuli that speak to a pre-rational level. It’s just that I can get expansion packs for mine.

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