Thought you'd get a kick out of this little dated ditty. I wrote this sometime in the spring of 1984. It was a vision of an electronic (BBS) version of what AR would become after its life as a stand alone game offering. I recall I was more excited about this than Phil. He was eager to discuss the technical aspects of moving and expanding AR to such a medium, but was more a realist about the numbers of people ready to embrace such a project at that time (hardware wise). I wasn't thinking Internet... I was thinking local area BBS. Anyway, I got a kick of reading it again 12 years Later.
INTERACTIVE ALTERNATE REALITY
As the number of home computer owners with phone modems and disk drives increases, an incredible new wrinkle to social interaction will debut on the american television screen. Computer games that places man against machine will have to make room for a number of games designed to pit man against man. They will be referred to as interactive games. Generally they will fall into two categories.
The first will encompass the traditional shoot-um-ups and board games for more than one player. No longer will you need to have three people over to get up a bridge game. Once you become a member of the local gaming network, your computer will become a terminal with access to a large mainframe somewhere in your city. You'll merely express your desire to play bridge; your computer will pass along this information to the mainframe, which will handle the request by putting you in touch with three other players. Can you believe it? You're wearing your slippers, sitting in the Lazyboy and those uncomfortable card table chairs just made the list for the next garage sale.
Shoot-um-ups will indeed be interesting. Imagine yourself in the living room watching your 19" TV as it displays a graphic 3D representation of what you would see behind the controls of a WWI bi-plane in the middle of an aerial dogfight. Your adversary is some guy who lives downtown. His TV is giving him a view of you... on his tail with guns blazing. Again, between you both is the mainframe calculating and sending data t each of the home computers involved.
There will be another group of interactive computer endeavors. The fantasy role playing games. Imagine coming home affter a hard day at the office. You're upset, things didn't go well during the day; everyone was picking on you. You feel mildly depressed and need something to feel good about. In the past, dinner and an evening of TV sitcoms was the only perscription. Never again. For in interactive ALTERNATE REALITY and other fantasy role-playing games, you could well be a hero. A character with power and stature. You will walk and ride about in the 3 dimensional world created by the computer. Again, your TV would be giving you an eyeview of this world and all of its other inhabitants. You'll move about with your joystick and carry on conversations by using your keyboard.
Get the picture? Social intercourse via the TV screen. With the exception of physical contact, virtually every social problem and gratification can be experienced through your existence in this new reality. Fantasies can be acted out; new modes of behavior experimented with.
In the beginning, you're going to see something that resembles a frontier society. Most participants will go about the business of exploration and exploitation while the Controllers see to it that the goods and services needed are available. As time goes on many of the players may find it rewarding and enjoyable spending more time in professional work or the merchant trades. In free enterprise, recognizing a need and fulfilling it can bring monitary rewards. These riches might then be used to finance an expedition into dangerous and/or uncharted areas of the realm.
Many newcomers to Alternate Reality will find it necessary to seek employment in order to survive. Searching for their place in this new society they might start out as couriers in the city. Aside from earning enough to keep their character alive, this type of job would allow them to explore their environment while on a payroll. Other more adventurous types might sign on as bearers in an expedition like the one mentioned above. Unlike reality, the jobs in "Alternate Reality" will be plentiful. This is possible due to the fact that this new reality is not and never will be a closed system. Again, as the need for resources and real property increase, the Controllers will see to it that such is provided. A kind of cottage industry revolution will commence and as it grows the rural areas required to support it will be opened up. The role of the Controllers as providers will diminish and the final result should become a textbook experiment of an open free enterprise system.
The role-playing game of ALTERNATE REALITY will begin as a benevolent dictatorship. The authors would like to think that everyone will interact in a civilized fashion, however, as this by design will be a place for social experimentation, various negative aspects of reality will no doubt appear. In order to control unlawful activities, the Controllers will hire security guards in reality to protect against lawlessness in Alternate Reality. Imagine, the Pinkerton guard, who, with joystick in hand, pulls his eight hour shift in front of a video monitor guarding a sensitive location in Alternate Reality. Still other employees of the Controllers will go about the business of apprehending habitual law breakers and seeing to it that they are imprisoned or worse. When things begin to settle down, the authors plan to try a bit of electronic democracy. Certain decisions regarding existence within the realm will be put to the people for a vote. Results from such experiments might prove interesting to people who advocate such techniques in reality.
So, the years beyond 1984 promis to bring something that George Orwell would have a great deal of fun writing about. In the past when peoples consciousness drifted from reality to fantasy, it was labeled daydreaming. We must now decide what to call it when large numbers of people have the same daydream simultaneously. Where might this reality within reality lead? I for one can't wait to find out.
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