Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Game's the Thing: Everything You Know is Wrong

So, Terry proposed a collaboration on his new Aberrant campaign. He said he wanted to make Project Utopia believable in their role as savior of the world, removing most of the cynical and look-at-all-the-stupid-sheeple undercurrent of the canon Aberrant setting, where any moron could see that under the guise of being jerks, Project Utopia housed a dangerous, pro-human element. Sleepily, I agreed, suggesting a plot point where Project Utopia’s Team Tomorrow breaks protocol to help the PCs out, while he pitched the foundations of a ‘contact’ NPC within Team Tomorrow that humanizes the team.

Today, my boss took four hours of his morning to do his taxes. When he got back, I heard a random spiel about how the government messed up and wouldn’t start reviewing taxes until the fifteenth of April and all the returns would be late and it was all Obama’s fault, etc., etc..

Now, I can skip customer service jobs that use dishonest sales techniques to aid their pitches for their useless services (cash advance cards from tax agencies being the first example to come to mind), using pre-existing public sentiment to cover for their individual or institutional shortcomings, or who act as distribution points for one-sided, viral political discourse, but instead I thought about the debates about global warming, evolution, flat-earth theory and the whole science, religion, and politics mélange that’s seeped so deeply into the human cultural framework that right now, in the era of the greatest information availability, human knowledge is undermined by the lack of credible sources.

We rely on pipelines of information to tell us about the events around us (from a corporate newsletter to international concerns). It’s all subcontracted out and the sources that aren’t driven by capitalism, funded by generous donations, or directly controlled by their governments are anonymous users on the internet publishing their own viewpoint with unknown levels of personal interest and objectivity. The entire spectrum of our experience is funneled through screens and speakers on every conceivable frequency of credibility. For must of us, our only real connection with those things are tax hikes, job shortages, and second (or third) hand word of mouth accounts from those in the trenches, all of which are vague shockwaves from actual events of import, and all easily woven into any media narrative.

For Novas, however, light, sound, and words are putty in their hands. Putting a human face on a disaster, quotable words on twitter, or memetic views of countries and leaders into the human psyche are things they can do while putting on make-up during the drive into work every morning. While the masses of humanity could rise up against Novakind and destroy them, it can only do so if it can recognize a threat, unite, and act against it. Since the publication of Aberrant in 1998, events have shown that aligning these things is nigh impossible…for humans.

Imagine a world where every Nova-hating ideologue is upstaged by a louder, shriller, and more charismatic one. Someone better at keeping converts, navigating the political waters, and gaining funds.

Imagine a world where heated debate over ‘the nova problem’ is torn apart by vicious (sometimes murderous) infighting, mocked on every prime time programme, and plague by violent, extremist action from within.

Imagine a world where, if you look just close enough, the top blogs from Southeast Asia reveal a pattern indicating the next Al-Qaeda strike. Imagine that when you look closer still, you see a unifying style of prose between those blogs, shifted methodically from one to another, spelling out words only you could read. Words that spell your name.

Imagine a world where, when you learn to fly across countries and hear cries for help from miles away, that you learn everything you know is wrong.

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