I don't play videogames, but I have discovered for myself the meatspace equivalent: driving in commuter traffic.
It is primarily a game of subtle optimization, measured along two distinct vectors -- the honing of navigational heuristics and the conservation of fuel. The first is an exercise in observation, in which zones of known traffic compression are memorized and preemptively avoided. The second is an exercise in efficient use of the engine, scored numerically by the real-time mileage readout in my dash display.
High scores are likewise determined by a dual metric. Navigational heuristics are scored in terms of the total minutes of travel from point to point, and fuel conservation is scored in terms of affecting the number for the overall fuel efficiency reported by the car's computer.
Since actively playing I have managed to shave an average of ten minutes from my journey, and saved an average of 0.1 litres of gas per 100 kilometres driven (equivalent to about 14 cents per day).
So, I have a first person perspective into a world of impossible speed, little numbers at the bottom of my view that reflect my performance, and if I screw up I die.
"Ah-ha!" I said to myself, "so this is why people play videogames."
Coruscant on Earth
It is clear to me that Ben Burtt drives the California highways on his way to Pixar and Lucasfilm, because the sounds generated by the streams of flying traffic on Coruscant are such obvious cousins to the Dopplered moans, swooshes and chortles of actual freeway travel.
I drive with the window open, even when it's brisk outside. I would rather wear a scarf than stay cooped up. I like the sounds and the fresh wind. Now I have a sunroof so I open that, too.
Three quarters of the way through my journey the countryside becomes fractures and falls away, replaced by warehouses and outlet stores and cheap office space for startups with stupid names with "tek" or "dyna" or "e-" in them. After that the highway splits into several fatter ropes, and we swoop beneath bridges and over coverleafs.
The horizon turns ochre, then grey.
And we are swept into the city, the gateway flanked by billowing white clouds of industrial effluvia, the sky criss-crossed by jetplanes, their high-pitched whines rising over traffic's din as their soft shadows lick across the lanes.
Coruscant is one of the few images that created an impression on me from George Lucas' oft maligned fantasy prequels, and I think it spoke to me through the same channels that would speak to anyone with an intimate relationship with one of the world's megalopolises. When I feel the city wash up around me and over me as it does when I enter in the currents of a commuter morning, I know Coruscant's relevance. The city-as-everything is a welcomed nostalgic terror because it gives us some ownership through artistic appreciation over the vast proportions and frenetic energy megalopolises exude.
Sunrise through the smog is beautiful.
A cargo jet drops out of the sky at such a rate that it is hard to believe it is under control. Its silver belly flashes orange morning sunlight through my windshield, winking on the glass. Tons of steel and plastic and goods touch down with a bark of smoke and coast down the runway. In the sky intersecting con-trails fade as a backdrop to the slow, throaty rise of a blue and white 747.
At this stage, navigation is a matter of following the current. There are enough of lanes going in each direction that contests for position occur internally to each vector. Those on their way further south jockey in their lanes as my lanes draw away west. Everyone knows where they are going. We hug the corners like speeding ballbearings.
Busy, busy, busy.
An Unfortunate Phenomenon
While I drive I tend to think up inspired stories that I tend to forget when the driving is done.
Posted by Cheeseburger Brown at 14:55