Yesterday, my Digital Self awaked from a coma of productivity that lasted for at least 8 months. I know this because when I logged into Dark Souls (one of my favorite games despite its somewhat absent storyline) to play the new DLC, my created character’s name took me aback.
Sir Balmus. I chuckled and selected that save game.
I had forgotten (how I don’t know) that the handle I had chosen for Dark Souls is the same as Reese’s handle in my Cyberpunk story, “The Wolf of Descarta”.
I had forgotten more than that, honestly. But traipsing about the undead killing fields with my trusty Divine Zweihander (because God gave you two hands for a reason!), slaughtering baddies in PVE and PVP, and teaming up with random gamers to beat down nigh-impossible bosses made me remember why I turned to writing Cyberpunk in the first place.
Reese, my protagonist, lives in a divided society where the lower caste is pacified through simulations, and after so many insertions into the Dream Box, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur. Extraction becomes a kind of mental whiplash. Time in the mind and clock time become discordant. Identity issues ensue.
And that’s just the first three pages.
I felt like Reese going up against Artorias the Abysswalker as Balmus, who–like Artorias–bears the title Wolf Knight. (And no, I didn’t jack this. Descarta has been around in novel form since my college days, whereas Dark Souls was released in 2011.) The bosses in the DLC are, of course, insanely difficult, so after soloing the fallen knight and beating him down to an inch of his life, then getting screwed by a hit box issue (and cursing his mother, brother, offspring, and pets), I decided to summon some assistance.
I’d like to say the blue phantoms and I made short work of Artorias right then and there, but the truth is he beat the snot out of us seven or eight times. Imagine an anime-inspired, basically airborne, possessed shell of blue armor oozing darkness whilst deftly whipping around a great sword with all the force and celerity of a jet propeller blade, and you’ll have some idea what we were up against. It was like Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife and Soul Calibur’s Nightmare had a really, really ugly baby.
In short, the help wasn’t much help. I kept wasting my Estus flasks on healing the party, who died anyway, and then there were none left for me.
So after slaughtering my well intended PCs for what seemed like the umpteenth time, it came down to a battle of flippy-flippy slashy-slashy between the Artorias and I, and I was just a little bit more stubborn than the AI. Now I have his armor and his new sword and his new shield along with his wolf ring and old sword and… The list goes on. You get the idea.
So you’d think that would be enough, right? Hell no. I was determined to finish the DLC in one sitting, and I basically did just that. The only reason I’m not still slaying undead and casting Abyss spawn back into the Abyss is that I ran out of new things to kill, and the new PVP servers that came along with the DLC weren’t working for me this morning.
I even wasted some time phantoming in other people’s games, helping them kill the new bosses despite already having every upgrade I could possibly get for my covenant (an online group of gamers with likeminded values, at least within the framework of Dark Souls).
When it was finally time to unplug, I had to take four Advil and a hot shower. (My head is still pounding harder than these keys.) There was also that weird moment of confusion when I looked in the mirror, as if I was expecting to see someone else. So Descarta. The idea that these virtual warriors who risked their lives with me online this weekend are people I will probably never meet is well represented in my fiction as well. In Descarta, the law forces a separation between Reese’s waking world of disappointments and his digital dream.
Some people (like that Slushmaster weirdo featured in Rejection: Greatest Hits) don’t understand the appeal of Cyberpunk as a genre. They claim that suspending disbelief and attaching themselves to a simulation is difficult because said simulations have no bearing on reality. Of course, I could make an argument that GOOD cyberpunk finds a way to make the virtual affect the corporeal, but one could also make the argument for a good book or movie as a form of simulation.
I mean, if none of it touches reality in any way, where does the time go? Into the Abyss?