Mary-Alice Daniel

My best friend’s quarter-life crisis begins

with a news article: Reality Is a Computer Simulation.

The plot-holes of our universe explained away

as design flaws: viruses, cheat codes, a market

of dim-witted alien gamers.

We’re the beta version, still in quality assurance labs.

They’re doing tests in Seattle.

If cosmic rays act as they shouldn’t, given

what we know, they’ll run more tests.

Even more if they act as they should.

So he plays SimCity2000 for hours now,

the nostalgic version, the one packaged with Scenarios, Vol. I: Great Disasters —

                               a wellspring of volcanic activity in Portland;

                                                    hordes of drunk lawyers causing riots.

SimCity’s mechanics are based on 20th century Californian development:

Cars, the default.

Earthquakes. High taxes and liberal policies.

A Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American.

“The Exodus” is the closest thing to a victory sequence:

your little people, leaving

                in groups of 300 or more arcologies

                                    to colonize distant planets.

But it’s funny — thinking of the aliens controlling us now

sitting around their consoles,

missing the days before the unpopular releases,

before the slew of expansions,

like the Cambrian:

wishing for unicellular organisms, for levels you could scale in one day —

wanting their childhood favorites, games they could see the end of

before more complex iterations

following the Law of Accelerating Returns:

versions 2.0 and 3.0 and 4.0. Before

we all got away from them …

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