DIANA: Welcome to the Center of the Universe!
MIKE: What do you mean by that?
DIANA: The Center of the Universe is wherever you happen to be. Right now, for us, the Center of the Universe is the Lucky Trucker. This is the stage. These are the characters. This is not a dress rehearsal. Right now is the only moment that exists, you know. It’s all we’ve got to work with. If you’re not living right now in the moment, you’re not really living. You’re just thinking about living.
MIKE: I like you. I think you’re a little bit crazy, but your company is refreshing. I’m almost glad that we met. I mean, I would be glad, if we had met under better circumstances. Thank you for being so understanding about my having tried to kill you and all. Most people would have been in their lawyers office with a fake neck brace right now, not trying to help me out.
DIANA: Nonsense. You just weren't looking where you were going. Or you were only looking where you were going, more likely. Where are you heading now, anyway? I can give you a ride to the airport, at least.
MIKE: New York City. And no, thank you. I don't fly. If I could make myself get on an airplane I would never have tried to drive across the country in the first place.
DIANA: What’s in New York?
MIKE: Business conference. I'm a software engineer.
MIKE: Actually I design computer games.
(DIANA starts to laugh, hard.)
DIANA: So you are that Michael Last! Of course you are. I was wondering what this would turn out to be about. Funny that I should run into you, so to speak. I'm quite impressed with some of your work.
MIKE: You're not exactly who I had in mind when I was working on the Deathmark series.
DIANA: Oh, I was more interested in RealVille. And Lightquest! What ever happened to the sequel that was supposed to come out last year?
MIKE: Not enough tits and guns, Alas.
DIANA: You're a few years ahead of your time.
(DIANA picks up a salt shaker and places it carefully on the table between them).
DIANA: Your turn.
(MIKE selects a little glass tobasco jar from the clutter of condiments by the window and sets it down again by the isle. They continue to play table chess with the condiments throughout the following. I imagine the actors moving nothing, and HitRECorders filling in with art props.)
DIANA: What do you think the games of the future will be like, Michael? How do you think they'll be different from the games of today?
MIKE: Well, they'll have better graphics, obviously. That means they'll look better.
DIANA: I know what graphics are. I happen to be a hacker in the technological sense, as well. As a matter of fact, I'll bet you tomorrow’s breakfast that I have a better rig in my van than you have in your home.
(MIKE retreats a few inches with the tabasco sauce.)
MIKE: You're full of surprises, Next I'll find out that you're a secret agent.
DIANA: Out to steal your precious trade secrets. (Diana moves the catsup) Tell me what kind of game you would design if you could do anything.
(MIKE folds an origami napkin)
MIKE: Do you mean if I was in charge of all of the content and I could use the best equipment in the world to write it and it didn't matter if very many people could play it when I was done?
DIANA: I mean, if you could do Anything. (As she pronounces the last word Diana raises her fist in a sign language "A" with the other hand she scatters a few sugar packets around) Think big.
MIKE: Anything. Okay. (MIKE hefts the mustard) Well, for starters everybody would be able to play the same game at the same time regardless of their experience level. That's one of the things I was trying to do with RealVille and Lightquest. In my ultimate game everybody would have exactly the challenge level his character was rated for, but he would still be immersed in the same world as other players of every level. It turns out to be demonically difficult to achieve, because powerful characters take advantage of weaker ones, and in order to challenge them you have to create dangers that would just frustrate beginners.
DIANA: Check. (DIANA rotates a menu card advertising cherry pie) That’s an excellent description of how the universe works. Everyone can play together at the same time, no matter what their experience level is. The system dynamically calibrates itself to each individual, and offers just enough resistance to make it as challenging as it needs to be in order to help that character advance. All the taking advantage and so forth is a part of the same equation. The fact that it all hangs together as neatly as it does is proof enough that something is at work that is not immediately apparent from our default vantage point.
MIKE: Do you always talk like that?
DIANA: Yeah, I guess I do. Am I hard to follow?
MIKE: No, you just sound like Mr. Spock.
(DIANA raises an eyebrow in imitation of the Vulcan in question)
DIANA: Let me ask you one more game design question.
DIANA: What would the goal of the ultimate game be? How would you know if you won?
MIKE: In the games I’m working on now, there isn’t a set goal.
(MIKE lays a bottle of steak sauce on its side and spins it around. It pointes directly at DIANA.)
DIANA: Check, check, check!” (DIANA jumpes over everything on the table with the salt, replacing each item in its starting position as she pickes it up.) You just said it all. Some people want to die with the most toys, some want to maximize their effect on other people or on the gamespace itself, some want to insure their genetic lineage or see as much of the map as they can see, and some people just want to get through all the levels and beat the game. It’s up to the individual, as it should be. I’m glad that you said that. It’s the aspect of your work that’s most intriguing to me.
MIKE: So what happened back there? I don't really even remember getting out of the car. I'm so sorry for jumping out in front of you like that. It's a lucky thing that we're both still alive!
DIANA: I don't believe in luck. I saw that you weren't going to stop and I only had a second to hack it. Sorry about your Mercedez. I'd have done better if I hadn't been so startled.
MIKE: Hack it? I don’t think I take your meaning.
DIANA: Well, that’s because I haven’t given it to you yet! If the universe were a computer game, which of course it isn’t, then one could think of me as a hacker. I mean, of course everybody does it unconsciously, but a hacker is someone who's good at it, and does it on purpose.
MIKE: Does what on purpose? What are you talking about?
DIANA: Magic! Reaching in and changing the universe, mapping your will onto the world, probability surfing. That sort of thing. It’s fun and easy, but it takes a bit of practice. You think I must be some kind of total wingnut now, don’t you?
MIKE: Um… I think that you are a lovely woman who is very kindly giving me a ride. As far as I’m concerned you can think you’re Napoleon. Just don’t expect me to think it with you.
DIANA: I am Napoleon. And you are, too. But that’s for the advanced class.
MIKE: Well, people have been claiming to work magic for thousands of years, and nobody has managed to prove they beat the laws of physics yet. Doesn’t that seem a bit suspicious to you?
(Diana stirs her water with her spoon, apparently to watch the ice spin)
DIANA: Not at all. The findings of science are quite valid as far as they go. If you went back to our collision this afternoon, for example, and watched everything in slow motion, you wouldn’t find a violation of the laws of physics. Physics is the description of what is possible. Magic is the art of determining which of the infinite number of possible futures will actually occur. (DIANA fixes him with a long appraising look) You need proof, don’t you?”
MIKE: I do. That’s the kind of guy I am and I’m proud of it.
DIANA: Okay. (DIANA stands and fishes some coins out of her pocket, looks at them for a moment, and then suddenly throws them all in the air.) Heads!
(DIANA exits, MIKE picks up the coins, becoming more and more disturbed and amazed as he finds that they are all heads. )
Created: Jan 14, 2010teafaerie Document Media