Monday, April 28, 2003

Blow Up Phones

After a hiatus I resumed the user testing of the phone assigned to me The hiatus was because I blew up the chips inside the phone while installing a software release. Twice. The second time was with the replacement unit. I never even got to use that one: I tried to install the system software and the next thing I knew we had to ship it back to Finland because I had done it again.

I am now on unit III. Strangely enough, I wasn't kicked out of the program. The lab manager says that I helped uncover all kinds of errors in the updating procedure.

I installed the first real game: Doom by id software. First time I ever played a first-person shooter. The old classic. Turns out I am really bad at being a special ops, running around shooting things and staying out of harm's way. Who knew?

It is a straght-up port, no massaging for this small but very colorful and fast screen, which means that there are some problems. The most important one is that I cannot read any of the written text, like how I am being scored or what the things I pick up are or what I am supposed to be able to do with them. I just try, flailing, finishing levels and shooting things and staying healthy until I take too many hits.

It is quite compelling, especially when the stereo headset blocks out meatspace surroundings: I am enthralled by how fast I seem to run, the scenery changing like I am on superspeed. I can't run in real life, not fast, not long, and suddenly I glide over the terrian naturally as if I always could. I can see the attraction of this game: you get to kick ass, be fearless, wade through poison, need only grunt, solve very basic challenges, and take 0 shit. Be strong and in control over your own destiny and something and someone you can never be. Get engrossed enough and you can swear you can feel your new mighty pecs heaving, your now deep-set eyes squinting beneath your unibrow, chomping on your cigar while grinning as you shoot your elephant gun at another inconsequential opponent. No worries, no lies, no system, no memory. Ersatz life. Fits in your pocket.

After I played it the first time, every time I closed my eyes my brain would generate the same images. I'd see the first person view of hurtling through fuzzy red & gray tunnels, taking junctions, careening into this new maze, visible all the way into my peripheral vision. No effort, just my brain using this new context to interpret the random red & black patterns formed by light hitting the blood-vessles of my eyelids.