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December 29, 2005

'Demonlover'

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Ever since I read Craig Nova's little–known but powerfully prophetic 2002 novel, "Wetware," I've been very interested in the onrushing collision of the "real" world and the virtual version(s).

Nova's book made vivid what such a world might be like to live in: a world where you paid money to inhabit the life of someone whose experiences you wished to have from the comfort and safety of your own home, body and mind.

Such individuals are the equivalent of actors in our present–day world, but with the difference that they make their living by being themselves rather than impersonating someone else.

Then there are the millions of people today who, either via video games or other avenues have avatars whose actions they direct and whose identities they create.

Edward Castronova's new book, "Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games," is attracting all manner of strong reactions, from great admiration to loathing.

In it, he takes perhaps the most scholarly and penetrating look yet at the burgeoning world of on–line multiplayer games and the fact that real–world currency is being spent to purchase virtual goods — and vice versa.

Among the many interesting reviews of the book I've read — I've not yet ordered it — was one which noted that for many heavily–invested game players, the real world has become simply a place to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom — these intense gamers believe their real, meaningful lives are online.

This shift is only going to accelerate as games become ever more realistic and will truly reach an inflection point when it becomes impossible to tell if you're in a game or watching something "real."

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That's probably five or fewer years ahead.

Anyway.

I watched the 2002 film "Demonlover" last night on DVD, once again only having learned of the film's existence in one of those Friday "What's new on DVD" newspaper features.

The movie stars Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny and Gina Gershon; it was directed by Olivier Assayas and features a soundtrack by Sonic Youth.

Ostensibly the story is about 3-D anime and massively multiplayer games, with bleeding edge companies attempting to gain an advantage over one another in a frantic race to gain exclusive access to the most realistic imagery on the planet.

Far more interesting is the sense the film creates of uncertainty, a shifting ground on which none of the characters really has firm footing and where everything can change in a flash.

No one is loyal to anyone no matter what they say; no one can be believed; no one cares about anyone but themself and their own advancement.

This is life, says the film — but how remarkably like a game it is, in the end.

The DVD comes in a 2-disc set, with the second disc containing the usual interviews with each member of the cast, a Q&A with the director, the making of the soundtrack by Sonic Youth, etc.

I found the movie completely absorbing: an excellent checkpoint, if you will, for where things were four or five years ago, when the film was made.

The headlong plunge toward virtuality may be decried but it cannot be stopped.

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Note added after completing this post: when I visited Amazon just now and saw the fantastic cover of Castronova's book I immediately ordered it.

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Who says you can't judge a book by its cover?

December 29, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

When we become obsessed with online games we lose the best part of ourselves...our individuality..our identities also get stolen. Yet I do have to think in REAL life games how many times do we get obsessed and lose ourselves by becoming what other people think we should be? Just a thought. Another thought is...why are we wanting to be heard? Either online or REAL life? Do we all think we have that much of importance to say that everyone would want to know it? Keep some part of yourself ...to yourself. Happy New Year!

Posted by: Rhonda | Dec 30, 2005 9:17:40 AM

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