Musings on a world gone
It seems odd to me – but twice now in my miniscule time on
this big blue orb, it is a “mere computer game” that has caused me to dig
deep into my thoughts.
In this moment, at this time – events have shattered many.
Violence seems everywhere. Differences between people, between factions,
between families – between us and them. It resonates through out all that I
seem to touch, read and even breathe, on a consuming level. I am one of
those, who revels in the mundane, in the simple touches – the subtle sight
that somehow breaks through that barrier we erect to shield ourselves from
the pushes and shoves of the world at large.
It is in the surprise of a song I had long forgotten, but
loved at one time, dancing through my speakers – driving along a quiet road
in the fading light. It is in looking up and seeing a child shyly touch
their parent’s arm, and seeing that parent softly pull them a little closer
as they walk through a parking lot. It is private and small, but it speaks
volumes and gives my heart a lift.
Which brings me to URU Live.
I passed through the beta, at heart, a solitary gamer.
Though the testing, for a variety of reasons, was done all online, I was
slow to enter into much contact with others. Though many who know me –
perhaps view me as outgoing, somewhat fey and even boisterous. With things
that matter, with personal discoveries – I am shy and concealing. To reveal
what truly matters is the biggest risk there is. Perhaps because I traveled
through URU in a replicant form, I intuitively behaved truer to myself. I
pulled myself to join a guild. I thought this would hasten my involvement.
Even then, though I was a member of a Guild whose charter task was to greet
new explorers and aid them in their adventures, a shyness prevented me from
frequent postings and camaraderie. Instead, I found myself reverting to type
and acting as a roving helper. I would find myself walking along a ledge and
see a person calling out for help with something in another age and chat
them through. This one on one quiet contact suited me well. I was also not
one who ever gravitated to the “hoods” which grew by leaps and bounds once
URU went officially live. In fact, the nomenclature of live, truly didn’t
grab me until shortly after the release, when I ventured back to the city..
Ahhh here was something I had not anticipated and reveled
in. I ran everywhere. Why – not really sure, maybe if I ran fast enough I
could observe without chatting. But the small, the normal, all the little
things that reminded me of the world – the part that I love was there.
People chatting in alley-ways. Others walking or running to some destination
all their own. Sometimes I would just sit and watch the URU world go on
around me. A swirl of movement and passing faces. A cacophony of sound. URU
I wasn’t even really interested in finding the markers that
appeared, though I did get the first 15 so I could go and sit by the great
zero – a marvel of crystal, light and energy. I suppose like many wanderers
do, I felt that there was plenty of time to get into quests, to join in the
game. But as with life, things are not always certain or assured. Not time,
not tasks – not even worlds.
But here is the rub. URU, virtual and hand crafted though it
was – was not just a world of life – it was a world apart. I did venture
into the city late and engage in group encounters, as I became more at peace
with the city and my place there. There was a commonality within people that
was expressed in a wonderful engaging way. Here all their happy pure hearted
parts came out to play. Hide and Seek. Storming barricades – well like when
we were kids – just because they were there. If there was nothing seemingly
to do, we amused ourselves, People concocted games to play, things to do.
Maybe we could climb the tent rope and sit up on the tent. Maybe if we all
jumped up and down at the same time – we would break the world. I have not
known such pure pleasure in such a long time. There were probably conflicts
somewhere, but the whole time I romped around the place – I saw none. No
fighting, no disdain, no jaded sense of what “grown ups are supposed to do.
Who hasn’t looked up at a nice low branch and thought – Wouldn’t it be nice
to just see if I can still climb up there and swing through the branches.
But our stature in the world or status as “all grown up now” stops our
thoughts short and we return to responsibilities. Not so in URU. It was as
if we could shed our skins and play again.
Do you remember what that felt like? To play? To spend a
whole day walking around and do nothing more important than lie in the grass
and watch the clouds, or build a stick dam across a stream and see if you
could finally fill a jar with tad poles? Or swing so high, it felt like you
were in the sky? In URU Live, in that world apart. I could just be, run,
listen, spin in circles, whatever chanced into my mind and that was ok.
Everyone else was doing the same. In URU you could just play. It was so
Then, came the unexpected. A scant few months from release
of Prime, URU Live was to be quieted, turned off, shut down. Her lights
turned off, linking books shelved, nexus points removed, the great zero
turning in a city gone to silence.
I had viewed my involvement in URU as somewhat passive, that
I was not that deeply immersed. But as with many things we encounter, the
threat of sudden loss – caused me to recognize how entangled in this world
apart I had become. I recalled a chorus from a song, “I came to recognize,
that I don’t know how to let you go”. At that moment I felt a true sense of
loss wash over me. So, I pocketed my awareness and took it to URU. I
resolved not to waste one moment. It has been quite some time, when I threw
all my responsibilities to the wind and with total self-interest rambled in
an adventure of my own choosing. I didn’t view this as obsessive, but a
practical embrace of getting the most out of my world apart while it was
What a wondrous 4 days. It was a frenzy of people, coming
and going – gathering in groups, helping each other finish some last quest,
even sitting at midnight atop the Grand staircase one night.. Gatherings of
two would quickly grow, as others would see them stopped and come up to see
what was up. I spent more time talking to people – sometimes standing in
place for hours. I loved every second of it. I took pictures of everything
and spent hours labeling them. Last night on Atrus, last time at the great
zero. last great top of the tent dance and so on. Somehow – I had this
thought, that if I recorded all the people I saw, every place in the city –
it would stay alive, never die, be there in my memories, brought to mind
like the last whisper of an old song.
Then there were the death watches. Confusion reigned as to
the exact time. Was it 12:am Monday – meaning 11:59 Sunday night? No, well
then perhaps noon on Monday. Standing with a group atop the grand staircase
in Atrus, we all realized the clock ticked on and we were still there. Then
it became clear, midnight that night was the correct time. I grabbed a few
hours of sleep and returned. People were nervous, edgy, giddy and sad all at
the same time. It was madness, it was silliness, it was grief, it was
everything – it was wonderful. In the end, it was like what I sometimes
imagine death might be like. The seconds ticked by at the appointed time,
then minutes. We were all still there and still could talk to one another.
Then without a sound or warning, I realized that though I could still run,
climb, shout and hear the city, all those around me were still. I was like a
ghost in my world apart. SO I moved and then ran up the stairs, nope still
here. I decided to take pictures of everyone in the city on that night - at
that moment – for as long as I could. It took me two hours to get all the
shots. One, I had to climb the tent rope to get, others I had to scale
rubble. Finally when the last avi was recorded, I went to the edge of the
rubble field at Tokatah alley and thought about one last panic link off into
the abyss. Suddenly it all froze. Then it went black. However, I could still
hear the city all around me. I stopped and listened for many minutes. Then,
when I had said my final goodbyes – I left my world apart and then I came
copyright © 2004