Great Look Back by ARG Player: Cloudmaker Days: A Memoir of the A. I. Game – Jay Bushman | ETC-Press


Cloudmaker Days: A Memoir of the A. I. Game 12/14/2010
Jay Bushman

Vertices and Vortices

On the evening of May 6th, 2001, I dawdled on the corner of 4th Street and Avenue A in New York City, trying to decide if I really would attend a rally for the Anti-
Robot Militia.

I wouldn’t know anybody there. Sure, I had corresponded with some of them through an online message board. And after chickening out of the first gathering, I’d gone to the second cell meeting the week before – a dozen or so tentative geeks communing in an empty mid-town dining room, gingerly feeling each other out over our shared obsession with a strange series of websites. But this would be different. Even though the rally was taking place at an East Village bar, it was ostensibly going to be in the world of the “game.” Nobody knew what to expect, although speculation was rampant. But this would be more than just kibitzing about an online curiosity. This was the real world.

I thought about going home. It was a Sunday night. I could skip a strange evening with a bunch of weird geeks, turn in early and get ready to face Monday morning. I could read about what happened behind the safety of my monitor. Standing on that corner, I hesitated.

At last, I chose the road with the robots and the weirdoes. And that has made all the difference.

Evan is Dead, Jeanine is the Key

The “game” in question had no name. After the experience was all over, we learned that the designers – we had named them the “Puppetmasters” or “PMs” – had no real name for it either. They called it “The Beast,” at first because an early asset list contained 666 items and later because of the havoc that the ever-expanding experience wreaked on their lives. These days, it’s sometimes described as “The A.I. Game” or “The A.I. Web Experience,” dull monikers that give the bare minimum of information necessary to open conversation with a non-initiate.

In the middle of the scrum we called it “Evan Chan,” after the story’s first victim. Most often it was nameless, too new and multifarious to be contained by any kind of description we could invent. Like religion or art, it couldn’t be explained to anybody who didn’t already get it. Or at least, in the rush of spring 2001, that’s how it felt to the initial converts.

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