Dear readers, tonight with us is a man on his deathbed. His only hope for a cure is to quit his job and enter a fantasy computer game full-time, where he must battle murderous invaders threatening to devastate the lands.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up in Connecticut, with my older sister, mom, and dad. Winters are cold and summers are mild, full of games and adventures I played with my best bud Jonesy and our neighborhood friends. Our neighborhood wasn’t in Connecticut, it was anywhere we wanted it to be—alien worlds, vast jungles, lost civilizations, and home base. My house tended to be where everyone gathered and I was inside that we played our video games, thanks to a sweet setup built by my dad. From the ancient portal of my living room, we entered even more far away worlds, whether they were in a galaxy far, far away, or in a virtual world—which became all the rage as we left for college.
Did you have any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
Action figures were on the way out when I was born, so Jonesy and I pretty much played video games, watched movies and anime every chance we got.
Our favorite game to play was the Rebel Lion: we started when we entered college and played the entire time. Sadly, life gets in the way and we don’t see each other much anymore.
My sister and I are very close. My dad—an IT guy—would find us hacks online to use in our video games. He didn’t play very much, but said his friends played tabletop games when they were young. My mom is a retired reporter, she would travel for stories, but I don’t remember her being away that often—maybe because I was playing games so much and with dad’s tech, she was always in contact with us.
Some of the best memories are playing Rebel Lion in VR—that just seems timeless, not the because of the virtual reality, and even if they say time flies when you’re having fun. My childhood seemed to have been forever, but that was eighteen years—we were only in college four years and it felt longer, much longer. Those were good times.
What do you do now?
What I did until a few days ago, was work as a salesman for United Foods. The company was bought by a larger corporation and I saw that as my opportunity to get the hell out of there, taking a job with the Conglomerate for Gaea’s Greater Good. They run the Lenscape Online Game and took me on a probational role as a game moderator, within the Lenscape, looking for hackers. I didn’t trust them at first, still not sure about them, but I’m sick and they’ve promised a cure by cultivating (channeling life force) to purify my body from within Lenscape.
What can you tell us about hunting hackers?
These “hackers”, they’re not hackers. Something else is going on. How does cultivating inside a game like a Kungfu master heal my body in the real world? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to find the hacker or hackers, but I’m enjoying the ride—battling random monsters and a whole mess of ice-age creatures. That’s right up my alley: exploring the ancient Earth during the twilight years of Atlantis. Megaliths and standing stones, ley energy and mythic creatures are a passion of mine—I’ve got tons of books on it, brought home by my mom from her trips.
What did you first think when the game instance activated?
When I first ran into a game instance—some sort of quarantine to contain Grim Reaper-like invaders—I knew something more than computer hacking was going on. Why and how are there “intruders”? Not figurative hackers, but physical intruders? Are these Scythe Warriors as I call them, bots or “avatars” created by the hackers to create havoc within the game and bankrupt the Conglomerate? I think it is a lot more than money, something else is of value here.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
The Grey Zone creeps me out: I have no idea what it is, or how I end up there. At first, I was afraid that it was an error in the game interface, or even a bad trip—we’re talking about DMT type stuff that preps us for game immersion. I’m starting to think of the Grey Zone as a limbo of sorts, where players that die are held before respawning. The thing is, respawn is supposed to be instantaneous.
What is the worst thing about the Lenscape?
The worst thing about the Lenscape is the endless questions. My nervous system illness gets worse when I’m anxious, and even immersed in Lenscape, those waves of nausea and pain take over and I feel trapped—lost within the game or whatever it really is. And that is the absolute worst: the questions, endless questions and few answers. I battle for answers as much as I do against the mobs.
What is the best thing about it?
The thought that Lenscape might heal me is a blessing. I can experience foods and adventures I can’t IRL. Bacon, I can eat as much bacon as is available. I met someone too—Lisa, she is kind, direct, and fierce when needed.
I don’t feel the ill-effects of my sickness in Lenscape. Well, not usually, and the freedom from pain and the possibility of a cure? That hope is the single best thing about it.
Tell us a little about your friends.
My name is David and my best friend is a Jones—that’s his last name. At some point after kindergarten, teachers and other kids started calling us Davy Jones, because we were inseparable. That’s not really true anymore, not since he left United Foods to become a cop—of all things—before getting our dream job as a celebrity chef. See, in college, we studied hospitality and culinary arts. We trained to run a restaurant and club—that was our dream anyway.
Paul is and always has been Jonesy’s friend from college and I do consider Paul a friend, but almost an acquaintance. Paul serves as one of our healers, as a novice Stellar Knight.
The other people in our game party are all Jonesy’s friends from the hotel industry, but I’m stuck in the retail food industry, selling to grocery and convenience stores and chains.
Granger plays as our tank: his avatar and personality suits the role. He doesn’t speak too often and loves to smash things. His favorite weapon is his War Hammer, despite the fact that we focus our ley energy channeling with our batons. He plays as Vi-King.
Kona and Malcolm play as rogues, with alien Setec shapeshifter avatars. Kona met Jonesy in Hawaii and Mal is her boyfriend.
Lisa plays as what she likes to call a novice Infinity Knight, but no one else calls the class by that name—it’s officially known as a Celestial Infinite. She’s our second healer, close range compared to Paul’s ability to “ley cast” at range.
All of them had to respawn when we joined the beta tester program, but I still blame myself for them losing their levels waiting for me to join. We entered Lenscape as level one—novi—and began our climb through the levels searching for the hackers. Along the way, I met Remy, another mysterious rogue who helped me out when I was still training with my imp—Ex—in the Lemurian Enclaves. I won’t even start on the imp.
Any romantic involvement?
Well, I’d like to think Lisa is starting to feel the same was as I do about her. I don’t know, I can see myself living with her, maybe in the game.
What do you really hate?
Most of the time, in the anime Jonesy and I watch, there’s an over-the-top villain for the hero to take his frustrations out on. I don’t have that. I suspect the Conglomerate and Julia Beechum who offered the probationary job to us. I hate the illusive hackers, but I don’t know if they really exist or something more is going on.
I hate the mystery.
When I find out who is behind all this, I’m going to find a way to kick their ass.
What’s your favorite and relaxing pastime?
Gaming was my downtime, cooking became my thing, but after Jonesy left United Foods, I pretty much zone out with the tv watching me. I pick some new show or movie to watch when I get home, but the job is so demanding, so exhausting, my downtime is literal.
What does the future hold for you?
I’d like to live within Lenscape with Lisa, to settle down into settlement building and crafting. I always liked those aspects of gaming, but when we were younger, we just wanted to f*** s*** up. Now, with Lisa, the hope to heal myself within Lenscape seems the most natural thing—how did I not see this before?
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I’ve learned a lot more about Lenscape, the hackers, my imp, even Lisa, but the biggest reveal was the relevance of the sedes—the soul boxes everyone is so obsessed with me collecting. Basically, components of the soul box that appears over your body to be reclaimed by you after you respawn.
Lenscape is no game!
Ed White grew up drawing and writing. Creating his own characters, he soon started creating whole worlds, whole universes for them to explore and creatures, monsters and villains to fight. In the mix came love and friendship, loss and pain—for the characters! Today, Ed publishes fiction novels out of the A First Salvo studio.
You can find David on the pages of the Battle Avatars series.
Join us next week to meet a teeneaged girl from the 11th century, travelling to a land of legends. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.