The Weight of Worlds

World Balloon

I imagine a giant, immensely powerful but unwilling to move because of the unbearable inertia of his massive body. He has such power, but he gives it up every day and chooses instead to tell his servant to fetch him things. It gives him no more power in the world around him than any other man, but all he must do is speak the word. It is much easier that way, for him.

He sits there in his castle and wonders, when he never has to raise a finger to support himself, when he has the power to crush worlds at his fingertips, why he feels so weak, why he feels so powerless.

I imagine a man sitting at home in a dark room in front of a glowing monitor. He has an advanced degree which it was guaranteed to him would bring him a well-paying job, but finding such a job means defeating the massive inertia of his life. He’d much rather order the avatar on his screen from place to place, have them live a fulfilling and adventurous life in his stead.

He sits there in his room alone and wonders, when he never has to raise a finger to support himself, when he has the power to crush worlds at his fingertips, why he feels so weak, why he feels so powerless.

The most terrifying gift that games have to offer is their effortlessness. Even difficult games tend to offer up to us a world where a flick of our wrist or a tap of our finger causes our avatar to do something majestic, incredible, improbable.

It is addictive.

Games like QWOP are important because they challenge this paradigm. They posit a world where movement is more difficult even than in ours, where we are outweighed by our inertia even more than in our normal heavy lives. And the effect of this inversion of the design philosophy of most games is often an inverse of the effect those games have on us, where instead of feeling heavy and sluggish we, for once in our actual selves, are made to feel graceful by comparison.

Most games are not willing to take the burden of being clumsy for us.

How many people, now, have been trapped by the perception of their bodies as unaccountably and immovably heavy? How many people have found shelter in worlds without mass, where all things bear equal weight in their weightlessness?

We all float down here.

As easy as it may be to feel that it is infinitely removed from our real lives, our dream lives, we cannot forget how to move our own selves. They say that in the dead sea you it is difficult to swim because the buoyancy makes it difficult to gain purchase on the water, more or less what it feels like to be trapped in a virtual space.

Given the choice, would you rather live in your own head or someone else’s?

Given the choice, would you rather live in your own head or in your own life?

Fake worlds are easy to perceive as infinite only because they are so poorly defined. Our own, where the boundaries between what is and isn’t, between possible and impossible, seem so clearly defined, actually holds true infinity.

Maybe we just want a more manageable infinity.

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