Saturday, March 24, 2012
By Nara Malone (Guest Blogger)
I arrive in the city via computer, spit out by a server rack. It looks deserted. Dystopias always do. But I'm not alone here. I don't need my scanner to tell me there are others. You know that feeling you get, fine hairs lifting on the back of your neck, a hyper-awareness--as if your skin has thousands of invisible antennae? I have that feeling and know I'm watched. I keep an eye on shadowy corners as I move forward, reading the rules and regulations of the city, looking over the role play board for a position that suits. Then I see a small poster, almost missed among the bolder ads: Wanna play hard and dirty? I smile and click it to take a tag that labels me prey.
I could be anything here: a soldier or a corporate operative controlling this world, a club dancer using sex to gain some power, or hook up with a rebel gang. I choose the bottom card in a stacked deck.
Why would I choose the role of powerless female in a society where almost everyone has the power to grab and use me for pleasure or take out their powerlessness on me?
You know those nature shows where you see a prey animal, like a rabbit, and a coyote is chasing it? The rabbit dives in a hole and the coyote barks furiously, starts digging. Meantime the rabbit pops up from another hole. It watches the coyote still digging and yapping, enjoying the joke it played and then quietly hops away. That's me. I’m the rabbit.
The collective brain power that goes into building a role play sim is amazing. Looking at a snapshot of a world strictly as a piece of 2D art is impressive, but these sims are more than that. They’re incredible 3D art you can walk through and interact with, art you can live and die in. There are weapons-- chainsaw watches anyone? Some worlds are scripted with health meters that sap your physical strength over time. You have to find food to gain strength. You have to find medicine and a place to rest and heal when you're injured.
You learn how to survive here in the dystopian sims, much the same as you learn to land a plane with flight simulators. Here you get to imagine the world at its worst and come up with ways to deal with it. Problem solving, assertiveness, cunning, are all skills you can draw on in your real life. Researchers say what we do successfully in virtual reality can have a positive impact on our real life. What better way to build a strong psyche that to take on a role where everyone has more power and you can still beat them?
I suspect that's the lure of dystopian novels and movies. Earth’s environment is reeling under the impact of overpopulation and corporate greed--in between wars, political games, plagues, and natural disasters--we all wonder what will become of us. We need stories about people who crawl out from under the bottom of a stacked deck and not only survive but triumph. It may be hard. It may be dirty. But we need to believe it's doable.
My newest novel, Snatch Me, is the story of a young who escapes her real life problems by playing the role of prey in a post-apocalyptic virtual world. You can see shots of the dystopian world I used for the setting and learn more about the story in this trailer:
Or grab a copy and read about her adventures: