It began as a dream. One of those clear ones, with strong visuals, like an immersive Fifth Element.
I was in a futuristic city, in an apartment. With me were some people of varying ages that I know from playing Aion, a MMO. I recognized their voices from hearing them over group voice chat.
We all had items, like doorstops or candy bars, emblazoned with a lightning bolt and a number. When pressed, the number lit up, and we became Activated. For a period of time, we were smarter, all our “things are right with the world” receptors were turned on, and we gained points. These points accrued to our overall score, that hackproof account with the points that you get from what you do in Real Life. The ones that count most for the Big Stuff: getting things you need to live, keeping loved ones safe, going down in history…
The damnable thing was that the Activation only lasted for about 45 seconds on most of these items. There was a warning on the other side about doing certain things beyond the Activation time. There were penalties. Ones that could reduce your Real Life Points.
This was highly demotivating. I sat with my friend “Keith” (name changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty) who has been a powerful and successful film executive, Native American rock art teacher, founder of a rock guitarist’s museum, psychic to the stars. He too was surprisingly dull in affect. We were only allowed to use older computers in this state, and I was unable to play any of the music I had collected to get his opinion.
Two of my friends from the MMO sat, chatting to each other, wearing rubber chicken suits of fine design. The beak animated authentically to their speech. They had discovered they could earn Activation points from this activity.
I ventured out. Everyone moved around the city sluggishly except for the staff, whose activation items looked different. Why? Because they were on. Always on. No timeouts. No Disactivation. It seemed patently unfair.
So I returned to the room of the Disactivated Activated.
The feeling has its own life, or death, that does not seem directly connected to the amount of opportunities that are not open for us again.
The city is futuristic, but it is also like exactly where we are right now. The velocity of human activity as well as the rate of acceleration of change makes the deactivated periods shorter and shorter now.
Been down so long it looks like “up” to me – Richard Farina’s mantra and book title never seemed so true.
We’re learning what the New Normal is in this city. Yes, it seems there’s less to life. Long periods of Disactivation. But we’re getting adjusted to it. Each game activator I trigger benefits eight other players, someone told me. That’s motivating. Even if it seems too short a time to get any good points racked up for myself.
Our adjustment is a way of making the rate of the decline into depression appear to slow, which makes it feel like a recovery. As anyone knows who’s been in an airliner that hits turbulence and drops thousands of feet will know. It’s when you stop plummeting ever faster that you feel the first relief. The engine note changes. Gravity begins to return.
A complete rewind to the beginning of my gaming career. Paying dues. Dues that I never knew I still owed.
What to do. The pool of losers grows. And they’re peeing in it. The dye that is put in the pool to reveal who is peeing by turning purple has been activated so often that the whole pool is purple. Pavlov’s dog would have something to say about this. I don’t want to be in this pool.
Then I wake up. And realize thankfully that life has gotten much better for me lately, so I don’t feel like I’m living in Disactivation very often at all. But a lot of people around me DO feel that they’re Disactivated. I’m glad I had the dream to remind me that I’m still tuned into that spirit, even if it’s a place where I don’t want to spend too much time.