Lightspeed has a new Tobias Buckell short story up: A Game of Rats and Dragon, from Buckell’s upcoming Mitigated Futures collection.
He’s exploring a couple of ideas that really interest me: first, the idea of digital companions as equivalents to stuffed animals or pets–things to which we can have a deep emotional connection even when we know they’re not real.
The video game Dreamfall (which, sadly, was awful, in spite of being a sequel to The Longest Journey; one of my favorite games of all time) comes at this trope more directly, with actual stuffed animals that are given to children with some basic learning apps (speak and spell type stuff) and ‘grow’ with their owners to become personal data assistants. Even though they’re just computers stuffed inside plush toys, it’s easy to see how their owners anthropomorphize them and grow attached to them as if they’re actual creatures. After all, they talk. They walk. They play, sing, dance, teach, listen. Even without most of those traits, most people would still read humanity into them–just ask anyone who’s ever cussed out Siri.
The other thing Buckell’s getting into here is Live Action Role Play. My own experience with LARPs (yeah, I used to dress up and hit people with padded sticks. Judge me all you want; it was fun) has taught me that the more realistic the world–in terms of costume, props, setting, other players– the easier it is to get into the game and actually play a character without feeling silly. Buckell’s taking that one step further to posit that if augmented reality technology were good enough, LARPing would become a really popular pastime.
On top of that, he’s also telling an entertaining story. I heartily recommend giving it a read.