February 15, 2010
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Social, or Something

I dabble in Vampire Live!, a Storm8 iPhone game. It is, to be frank, a lousy game, which is to say that I’m a level 62 vampire and I’m still waiting for a game to break out. No competition, no narrative, just enough new stuff to try to keep me stopping by occasionally.

But life intrudes. In this case, Ambrosia, who is one of the 94 members of my "clan" — a low-level vampire with whom I’ve had almost nothing to do — broke her arm. Turns out she’s an actress, or maybe a stunt person; she was in a swordfight, her arm broke, she went to the hospital. All in the day’s work.

Except it turns out she broke her arm because she has bone cancer, and so very suddenly she’s a very unhappy camper. And, suddenly, a bunch of vampires from all over the world (one mentioned that they’re from the Vatican – stick that in your pipe and smoke it) are trying to think of useful things to say. Someone else in the clan had a nasty cancer scare last year a couple of months back. Someone’s a nurse. Someone else had a childhood stroke. And everyone can say, “there, there.”

There’s a terrible discord between the interface (140 character texting, names like “Bast” and “NurseVamp” and Skittles) and the events (arguments with her mother over surgery, the Mayo clinic, outcome statistics, whether it’s all worth it.) And of course in the Internet no one knows anything.

But it’s a moving, unfolding narrative. And, interestingly, it’s emergent and collaborative. These things never work in fiction; people try them all the time, they always peter out incoherently. This is incoherent but that’s what you expect. We’re playing a game, and if it’s ultra-casual and has a lot of chat, that’s probably just fine from a hospital bed.