If I were a maker of video games, here is a video game I would make:
You would awake in the darkness of space, but thanks to a handy astronaut suit you could breathe and jet about. You would find yourself surrounded by stars, and flying to one particular light, you would discover it was orbited by planets.
Only, instead of stars, I mean artists; and instead of planets, I mean their art.
I don’t mean that August Wilson is floating in the dark like some fearsome Galactacus, but that glancing at his star (don’t burn your eyes) you will know it is him; and that landing on his sixth planet, you will find yourself in the partially-fenced yard of an ancient two-story brick house, with a baseball bat leaning against a tree.
On this planet called Fences, you will not only meet the Maxons, but, if you keep walking, traces of all those who have lived here: the actors and directors, the audience and designers; each life that has been touched by this world enlarges it, becomes a park, a school, a red door on Wylie Avenue.
You can imagine what that world-without-end called Hamlet looks like; how tall the skyscrapers reach, how deep the subways run! You can imagine the gravitational pull of that bard-star, a black hole with a Dark Lady.
A Milky Way of artists orbit him, finding their own wild rotations within his gravitational tide. Look, not far from Shakespeare is that luminous solar system called Liz Duffy Adams! But here’s the tricky part: landing on Dog Act, you might walk into a vaudeville cart and when you walk out, find yourself in an entirely different galaxy, with that white dwarf Samuel Beckett at the center.
Because here, distance is funny; whole ages of light years may separate the star called Ellen McLaughlin from that red giant Sophocles, but if you walk through the right desert tent you may find yourself under an ancient sun.
Basking in the gentler light of William Inge for a Picnic, you may find your skin burning under the radiation of Nat Cassidy’s Goldsboro.
So warning: gravity can be mischievous in this game, and the fabric of space-time, no more yielding than a dream.
But you are not without powers! Hold tight to your controller, for you possess a jetpack, freewill, and a fanny pack that never runs out of power bars and astronaut ice cream.
And you can change things, you cannot help but change things; that is the whole point to this pointless game. Look, on the planet Gidion’s Knot in the Johnna Adams system, I hid a door on a subway platform called The Fields of Blue and Glow (it will take you to my own little worlds). In that strange assembled solar system called Joseph Cornell, Adam Szymkowicz has left behind a ballerina that will teleport you to Pretty Theft. (Make your own wormholes as you go.)
Oh, right, I should mention, this universe is much bigger than just plays and playwrights! Picasso’s cubed planets are orbited by blue moons; the pulsar Bach keeps perfect time; the roAp Coltrane improvises new laws of physics. And if you’re starting to feel like you’ve got the hang of things, fly to the strange galaxy bound between Joyce and Marquez, and discover you don’t know the rules of this game at all.
You will find your favorite places: I myself could sail under the uncertain clouds of Virginia Woolf’s sun for more lives than one.
But you only get one: there are a thousand thousand secret codes to this game, but none for extra life.
So find your favorites, but don’t linger long; catch a ride with some interstellar bugs from Mac Rogers’ worlds and investigate less populous stars. The bars of Eugene O’Neill are crowded now, so why not journey to the seedy alleys of James Comtois? Tennessee William’s planets are well-mapped, but there are stunning undiscovered countries in Kristen Palmer. And why cram yourself into the crowded apartments of Arthur Miller when you and a singular band of heroes can face off against the dragon Tiamat in the planes of Qui Nguyen?
You won’t regret it: here, I’ll show you. I have a bench on a stretch of road on Octavio Solis’ Lydia with a view like no other. We can dance slow in the empty club I built on Herbie Nichols’ “All the Way.” While others point towards the bright tail of poetry following the asteroid Whitman, I’ll land us on Mary Oliver. There’s a green there like you’ve never seen.
This is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game, only you can’t save or restart, and you will never reach the final level.
You may end the game never having drunk the palm-wine on Achebe or swum the story-seas of Rushdie. Who knows what I could be doing if I wasn’t once again skipping across the asteroid belt of Dickinson? (Be careful, they come at you quick and slant.)
And no matter how well you know a place, you will always be something of a tourist; even on the planets you have made yourself.
Because no single place in the game can be home.
Because the game itself is home.
All of it, the whole of it; so you can never truly be home, even though you are never anywhere else.
But you can keep moving. You can grab another power bar and take to the sky, or step through another wormhole in this riddled riddle of a universe.
This is the kind of video game I would make, if I were a maker of games. I am only kidding unless you think I’m not, and then I’m not kidding at all. I can see this game on the screen of mind, and I want to play it.
Like a weird cross between the Sims and Wikipedia, it would be open-source, so each new artist could add their own star and hang their own planets around it; each traveler would leave the planets they visit a little larger than they were before.
There would also be light saber-battles and weird-looking aliens and silliness abounding, so that we never let our star-trekking get pretentious, even if the name of the game is as pretentious as it gets:
All of Creation.
Hopefully, Sid Meier will get on this right away, since I don’t have the programming chops myself. But if he doesn’t, I may just imagine playing this game to remember what I’m playing for…
Because it would be fun to play this game with a child; it would be fun to see the child soar around this universe and discover things; it would be cool to see them add their own light to the darkness.
And if such a game and such a child existed, I would tell them that all the stars in the game already–so many that we could never visit even 1% of their planets–all that light is not the most important thing. I would say:
The most important thing is the darkness after, waiting there for you.