I feel lonely when I play most video games. Even though I vastly prefer solo games, I impulsively open Facebook or Twitter whenever I hit any in-game downtime, because
Nobody’s there when I arrive at the lunar transfer station Tacoma. But when I stepped into this empty space station, I felt other people’s presence in a way that satisfied my need for human connection—especially when I got to the station’s dining area.
This is where the six person crew normally ate together, drank together. And it would feel lonely if I didn’t get a pop-up message on my AR device: “Begin playback recorded 3 days ago?” I hit play, and suddenly I see the brightly colored “body-frames” that represent each crew member. They start moving and talking, unaffected by my presence, revealing their daily lives as a recording. But I’m immediately struck by the way the body language of each crew member says more than their words. Similarly, I can hear them speak, but only when I’m standing near their location, forcing me to walk with them as they talk, eavesdropping on conversations in a way that makes the audio logs of other games feel suddenly insufficient.
“Huh,” I catch myself saying out loud as I miss what E.V., the station admin says as she walks off. So I go over, press the rewind button on my AR display, time-shuffling her back to the beginning of her out-loud thoughts that she dictates to the station’s AI, Odin (which is quite convenient to me). And I’m smitten. Not with this woman, per se, but the opportunity to hear her, see her, and yet not see her. E.V.’s violet body-frame only shows her body language, conveys her build and the way she moves. But I’m left to imagine how her face looks when she talks (only getting to see her profile photo).
This creates an imaginative playground—that opens my mind to the possibilities of this new form of interpersonal communication. While I’m more-present with this in-game character than any game experience I can recall, I’m also daydreaming about the future of communication preferences for introverts like me.
There’s something beautiful about being able to feel connected to others, while also not being forced into being present with them, but rather electing to be there. I’m sure the more we explore this method of interaction, we’ll leave more room for discovering a veritable crap-ton of shortcomings. Like we’ve all become embittered to the disadvantages of Facebook conversations (especially on your uncle’s hyper-political rants), we’ve learned to hit the hide button on things that sully the social media pool. But Tacoma’s AR recordings, still leave me in this sea of curiosity and opportunity for social interactions, and the consequences for those of us who only imagine the future of this media pool.