writing chapter 4.5
yes, i’m working away at my nanowrimo goal of 50,000 words, and so far it’s going well, and i’m ahead of the game. but difficult parts are soon to come, because as soon as i finish chapter 4, i’ll move into the quagmire of a new chapter, and things’ll slow right down. at this point, i still have the family to write for the end of this chapter, and that should go well, because i love writing the family.
So they all bummed out about their own ineptitude and foolish ambitions for awhile. Anomia worked longer hours on fancy sales pitches for Big Behemoth, Inc. Josh retreated into videogames and porn with beer chasers. Fairy slept for 28 hours three days in a row. Nobody was sure what Snake did.
Fairy was the first to come around. She was no stranger to depression, and in fact had a good working relationship with it. Depression is suppressed anger. Depression is a great excuse to toss all your responsibility out the window for awhile and really indulge yourself in a childlike state of rest and sleep. But Fairy had learned that depression is also a form of emotional compression, and can be used to move things, like force field power.
So she began directing her energy back to the task using affirmations. “Let it be easy and fun to create the most ingenious world-changing and unexpected consciousness-raising evolutionary videogame possible of all time. With healing light and delightful blessings for all of creation.” Fairy liked to cover her bets, and used a lot of affirmations, but in general she didn’t give them enough oomph and took their power for granted, so she fell a little flat on her goals.
Anomia inwardly cringed when Fairy started talking about cognitive shifts and affirmations. She felt that she somehow deserved to be depressed, like a punishment for thinking she’d been chosen to perform some mighty task. As if she was worthy of more than the life of a corporate droid, limping along at a hundredth the salary of the guys her own age who ran the place.
It was actually dangerous for her to make a cognitive shift, as a droid. When you reframe the problem from a new angle, it can look completely different, and you can see new pathways thru what looked impassable before. It can empower you to feel hope and relief, and tolerate fewer feelings of self blame and guilt. And then your self-talk changes, and your mental environment improves, you attract better outcomes, and you rise to take a more assured position in your world, broadcasting the vibes of a newly invigorated and infectiously joyous soul. And that kind of attitude can get you fired.
Josh couldn’t understand how affirmations worked because he didn’t believe in psychology except where it involved pharmaceuticals. He was happy being depressed, because he secretly relished being a loser and felt anxious about giving it up for the rigors of success. Playing videogames all day was his idea of paradise, and since his whole life was a waste of time, he didn’t see any problem wasting it on creating a videogame, and happily worked on it, or not, as it suited him.
Snake scoffed at the idea of affirmations and teased Fairy about it every chance he got.
After several conference-skypes, they faced the fact that they didn’t know how to teach real superpowers. The closest they were going to get to a school of magic was teaching a different way of thinking. Josh started by suggesting they could short cut the whole process if they all did a lot of mushrooms while they played the game. Anomia knew from her experience painting pictures that you don’t need drugs to get to an altered state, and Fairy actively meditated most days when she was in the mood.
They decided that the best thing they could do was encourage players to think differently. And they could best do that in stages, changing the physics in each level. First classical physics, and then relativity, and finally quantum physics. Josh and Snake hated the idea. But Anomia was intrigued. She once played a platformer that used altered physics and was really rich in player choices because of it. To her, more complicated was better, more reflective of the world the angel wanted them to design than the corridor setup the boys kept arguing for.
For once, Snake and Fairy put their heads together on it. They added on a couple of amusement park levels, where the marks would take rides and play games with everyday classical physics like gravity and centrifugal force, and the carney players could do relativity tweaks on the settings, like throwing a black hole into the center of a tilt a whirl. They finished it off with a cloud level, where players would learn the basics of quantum physics by making things out of cloud fluff.
Then Snake presented it as if it was all his idea and Fairy went back to hating him.
“The constants on each level are mere variables on the next level,” he pronounced as Anomia and Josh looked on.
Fairy explained. “On the carnival level you can physically change the roller coaster track, you can change the height and path, and even the weight and shape of the cars. Those are your variables. But on the carney level you can change gravity and dilate time. And on the clouds you can just manifest it with your thoughts.”
Josh nodded. “The physics of each level is exposed and turned on its head by the discoveries of the next one.”
“A new understanding allows new possibilities,” Anomia mused.
“Whatever,” Snake said.
“Yeah,” Fairy said, ignoring him, “you start at a mechanistic level where there’s one way to do things, where everything’s based on conventions and rules, and everything makes sense, or it can be figured out. And it all breaks down into simple, repeatable parts.”
“Mass, speed, momentum,” Snake offered. “Vectors. Things everybody uses to throw a ball, or drive a car.
Fairy added, “The principles don’t change, so you can predict them.”
“The amusement park is an illustration in classical physics. Like roller coasters,” Snake waved, “and arcade games, tilt a whirls, bumper cars, merry go rounds, the hall of mirrors, even the funhouse.”
Anomia doodled on her tablet. “And you have to complete those rides before you can move on?”
“Right,” Fairy said. “We can grow the avatars when players gain experience points, and then when they’re tall enough, they can level up.” She made a note. “So the players start the new level one as kids.”
“What,” Snake asked, “they’ll be teenagers in level two? Like being chained to their desks in science lab? That’ll go over well with 13-18 year olds. Drudgery. You want to go shoot aliens, but no, you have to learn fucking physics. Stand here and pull this lever. Because you’ll need it when you grow up. Please.”
Fairy drew herself up. “We can surprise ourselves by finding a creative way to ingeniously and unexpectedly succeed. We want to go for the best possible outcome, not just a minimum survival, but thriving beyond anything we expected.”
So they reorganized the game, archiving many gigabytes of work and starting over with a different structure. The levels they’d been designing were shoved to one side and cannibalized when needed to design a game of games, tutorial levels that would eventually win a nobel prize, after certain initial, mostly political and moral, objections.
They each stuck to their old tasks. Anomia tried to get the artwork right, leaving the layout to Josh (constantly urged by Snake to make it more battle friendly), and the design to Fairy, who wanted way too many pink tchotchkes for Snake’s taste. Anomia kept reminding Josh of the real meaning of the game, and Snake kept reminding Josh that angels were figments, and the real meaning of the game was market share.