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Howdy Stranger

In the early days of online gaming, people tended to trust one another. We visited each other not as strangers so much as acquaintances willing to be friends. We were excited to be on the interface of something breathtakingly new, a gateway that eliminated physical distance between people.

Those days, we played over long-distance phone lines. And we paid by the minute. The people you met in online games in the mid 1990s spent hundreds of dollars a month to be there. I remember sitting up at 2:AM talking to an architect in Belgium about raising kids (he had six.) I especially remember the evening many of us spent with a woman D.E.A Agent who had that day shot and killed a man. She logged online, understandably upset. But she felt comforted by talking to us quasi-but-friendly strangers. One evening, I returned to my home in Colorado to find two unexpected guests, an independently wealthy lady from Florida and a businessman from California. They were vacationing by traveling cross country, separately, and had independently dropped in for a visit. I was delighted.

That general feeling of trust was founded in self-confidence. And when prudent, it was confirmed. When I wanted to meet a woman in another state, she had three people from the game – who were local to me – invite me out to lunch. Only by the grace of their report was I then permitted to visit her. I sent her my photo and requested one of her but herself only replied, “You won’t be disappointed.” I wasn’t. We are still together but that was 26 years ago and a different story.

One insight into online gaming relationships was revealed to me by a woman about to “get married online.” (I had made an avatar that was a monk who performed Wiccan hand fastings. Heretical, I know, but hey, it was a game.) In real life, she traveled around the country selling instruments to music stores. He was an extremely shy acoustical engineer. She was vivacious. He was geek personified. She explained to me, “Here, you get to know the real person before you see them. You don’t judge on anything else.” She and her shy engineer eventually did marry and live together until she died of Lupis. Something he knew about from the beginning.

Those were the days, my friend. But that’s retro. Today, we meet on WordPress. And the future, well, the future is the metaverse. See you there soon.

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31 thoughts on “Howdy Stranger

  1. mimispeike says:

    “Only by the grace of their report was I then permitted to visit her. I sent her my photo and requested one of her but herself only replied, “You won’t be disappointed.” I wasn’t. We are still together …”

    What a charming story. I love to hear how happy you are together. You deserve it!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Mimi. 😊 Interesting to me is that had we met in a traditional way, it is unlikely we would have even noticed the qualities that bind us. We were, publicly, too different from one another. But in that magical world of online gaming, we had no expectations so we simply played the part of ourselves.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Mimi,
    The Metaverse – aka virtual reality- is something you can’t understand until you’ve experienced it and once you’ve experienced it, you can’t explain it. So, go to a store that sells virtual headsets and try one on.

    My first experience was in a Best Buy. A rep from Oculus was there. He wanted me to put on a headset. I talked with him for a moment and then I put it on. Whoa! I was instantly standing hundreds of feet above ground. I turned my head and saw the world stretch out all around me. I looked at the city below me. I looked at my feet. I was standing on top of a church spire. The illusion was complete. “Take a step,” that sadistic bastard told me. I could not. No way.

    The term Metaverse appeared in a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson about 30 years ago. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, and companies like Sony, Apple, & Google, etc. etc. are creating the equipment – headsets, or glasses, or contact lenses, or, hell, probably imbedded computer chips – and the software that induces illusions as complete as lucid dreams or psychotic episodes from a hallucinogenic drug.

    People will sit at home under the illusion that they are walking into a Domino’s Pizza. They will pay for an ExtravaganZZa with their credit card, and 30 minutes later their doorbell will ring. They will, in real life, enjoy pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, fresh onions, fresh green peppers, fresh mushrooms, and black olives — all sandwiched between two layers of cheese made with 100% real mozzarella. The interface is real.

    Scary? It ought to be. That’s normal. McLuhan said that new technologies are always suspect.
    But we humans have never invented a new technology that we did not use. Personally, I’m reminded of the old adage that there will always be a future in computer repair. Soon, there will always be a future for home care providers caring for people permanently hooked into the metaverse.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Perry Palin says:

    It never occurred to me to get into online gaming. I never had the money to spend on long distance telephone games. And later, I’ve never lived in an area where the Internet connectivity was fast enough for gaming. Maybe I don’t know what I’m missing. I met my wife the old fashioned way, at school.

    Yesterday I mowed two acres of lawn, picked blueberries and bush beans and lettuce, fed the barn cats twice, walked the dog three times, and added honey supers to our two beehives. I surveyed for bee swarms (our tenant beekeepers, who have eight hives on our property, caught two swarms here over the weekend) and checked the basswood trees for progress on the bloom. At the end of the day we ate a locally grown salad, fresh stream caught trout, homemade oatmeal bread, sauteed beans from our garden, and our own fresh blueberries over ice cream for dessert. I was comfortably tired and satisfied. I haven’t figured out how, if I had these experiences over the metaverse, the work would get done, or how we would enjoy our own harvest. Ordering a pizza? We don’t have pizza delivery available in our neighborhood, and I’d rather eat the food from our own sources anyway.

    If the metaverse is not to do our regular work for us but is to entertain, can it beat a good book? Maybe for non-readers, or people who crave an immediate rush without having to work for it. I’m a strange one, I know, but for me, there’s nothing to compare to listening at night to the barred owls calling across the forest, or laying in my sleeping bag outside the influence of the light pollution from our towns and Walmart parking lots, and watching the Milky Way turn a million stars in the sky. If I carry my gear into the woods for this, at least I get a little exercise. If I did these things while vegetating on the metaverse, I’d soon need those home care providers for sure.

    Liked by 6 people

    • victoracquista says:

      Perry, I would love to drop in as GD shared about his gaming-community colleagues. I’ll gladly do barn chores and harvest. Since I don’t travel much, perhaps Perry’s Paradise can be a nice place to drop by in the Metaverse. From the Matrix–I know this steak is not real, but it tastes so good!

      Liked by 4 people

      • Perry Palin says:

        Victor,
        The name of our place is Sorefoot Farm. This week it’s complete with a walking boot on my right foot, the result of a dog walking incident involving deer, and a greater injury while wading in a cold trout stream.

        If you visited via the Metaverse and did barn chores, would the real cats be fed? My bees are usually pretty tame, but in the heat and humid summer weather they were wild. Two were so confused and upset that they stung me the other day, an unusual occurrence. I don’t do well with stings. I wonder if the Metaverse would allow a visitor to experience several days of swelling and pain. And a quart of fresh blueberries every day.

        Liked by 3 people

        • victoracquista says:

          I do like the name “Sorefoot Farm.” I think the closer a virtual reality simulation can imitate reality, the closer we are to skipping the actual reality.

          Liked by 2 people

          • mimispeike says:

            “The name of our place is Sorefoot Farm.”

            I love that! It’s going to end up in Sly. As a babe, he had weak ankles. He forced himself to go on long hikes, to strengthen them.

            Liked by 3 people

  4. Perry,
    “… how, if I had these experiences over the metaverse, the work would get done…”
    Now that’s an evocative thought. Makes me wonder if I am not seeing this correctly. Virtual, I understand. It ain’t real. And obviously you’re right, virtual experiences don’t get work done. Hmm. Let me think through an example.

    A vacation requires that I first earn the money to pay for it. Earning money requires that I produce something of value to the person paying me. No problem for anyone producing services from a computer. Like, if you’re an agent employed by a virtual travel agency.

    Vacations involve travel. Travel requires real equipment moving real bodies over distances. Not possible in the metaverse.

    Places to vacation though, are easy to create in the metaverse. And without the cost of transportation and lodging.

    The obvious conclusion: Don’t invest money in the travel / transportation / lodging industries. The metaverse is coming. And it will change things as much or more than did the Internet.

    I agree with you 100%, that virtual is pale compared to real experiences. It is basically limited to one sense, sight. What kind of people we are producing that will go through life experiencing 20% of what humans have evolved to experience, and the dangers that could pose to them, is unknown. But it is wonderful story fodder, isn’t it?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. victoracquista says:

    Love this post, GD. I regret never developing a gaming community around Dungeon and Dragons. Of course, that would have been local and in person. Today, I am cautious about personal relationships using social media and I suspect I will feel the same way about the Metaverse.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Same here, Victor – I would be cautious about personal relationships using social media these days. I think the difference between now and then is the number of participants. In the early days, there were very few people online compared to the over three billion today. Three billion is a big barrel; there’s bound to be many bad apples.

      Which makes it certain there will be real law enforcement officers patrolling the metaverse. I mean, who needs to risk selling illegal drugs on street corners when pushers can find druggies online, and match Domino’s delivery service? The metaverse will change everything including how the drug cartels operate.

      Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam
      And admit that the waters around you have grown
      And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
      If your time to you is worth saving
      Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
      For the times, they are a-changin’

      – Bob Dylan, of course
      The Times They Are A-Changin’

      Liked by 4 people

      • victoracquista says:

        One of my favorite Dylan songs. Did you know there is an old metaverse (the new term we would apply now) themed around David Bowie called “Bowieworld?” I’ve never explored it. The times indeed are changing.

        Liked by 3 people

        • NO! 1999??
          BowieWorld
          Created by World’s Inc. in 1999, Bowie World was the first 3D virtual world now known as the metaverse which was part of Bowienet. Bowie World allowed users to experience the immersive world of David Bowie, interact with fans from around the world, purchase merchandise and meet with David in avatar form.

          Just, Wow.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Shall we watch the Metaverse evolve from the next shiny object to the greatest diversion/subversion/opiate of the masses any self-respecting, moderately ambitious autocrat could wish for? Or will it go the way of GoogleGlass? Does anyone remember GoogleGlass?

    Will Facebook’s Project Nazaré beat China’s Tencent, ByteDance, and Alibaba in the race to develop AR glasses? I’m inclined to bet not because China has a major population control issue, so their motivation is high. Zuckerberg’s impetus seems to be only personal comfort and profit.

    It does not surprise me that Mark Zuckerberg seems to be the Metaverse’s most ardent promoter. How much easier it is for the socially awkward, out-there-on-the-spectrum folk to deal with virtual unreal “reality” than it is to interact with the messiness of humanity.

    I am willing to believe there will be thoughtful people like you, GD, who will engage with the Metaverse as an intellectual exploration. But if most of us go there to escape real life by hiding in our own heads, the brave new world is already here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sue, Google Glasses were ahead of their time but are already outmoded by the metaverse. Who needs ’em when you are inside whatever they could show you?

      You nailed it, of course. This is about money and power on a scale that transcends nationality. A thought that gives rise to a story idea: Could the metaverse population become or provoke a new world government? It certainly ignores national borders. And (shudder) what would that government be like?

      Liked by 2 people

      • victoracquista says:

        I think it should be a monarchy or benevolent dictatorship and respectfully request that you consider the position. GD–king, supreme master, most holy of holies, grand poobah–has a nice ring.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hmm 😏 I’ve always liked the sound of grand poobah. I could have a future as a diminutive old man behind a curtain, talking into a microphone while pulling levers and pressing buttons, until I’m revealed and forced to yell. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” -Oh, wait. L. Frank Baum has written that story.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Thinking about it a little more, I believe GoogleGlass was designed to be worn and used throughout ones daily life. VR is more an in-house pursuit. The AR glasses companies are currently developing seem to be an advanced iteration of GoogleGlass so you could wear it say, as your self-driving Tesla crashes you into a tree.

        Liked by 2 people

    • victoracquista says:

      Excellent points, Sue! “But if most of us go there to escape real life by hiding in our own heads, the brave new world is already here.”–so true!

      Liked by 2 people

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