I preferred my old skin to this one, but don’t know where it went…
At any moment, my screens have sixteen different surveillance feeds, and just beyond, there’s a wall of a hundred or more. I watch the intersections of avenues, the pathways through parks, the car lots in ceaseless motion and rest. I’m not watching so much as waiting—for a rip, a split, a trouble, a crime.
Yesterday, a wrinkle: On the south end of the park, two figures slowly crossed my feed, neither talking nor touching, but clearly enmeshed. They were performing for the camera, even toying with me. Perhaps it’s a game for three.
One player spread his palm wide like an interrogation light, which appeared to move by its own volition. The other twisted about as it dipped and rose, thrust and withdrew. She had fallen under a spell, her head slave to the hand. Wherever it went, she followed.
Suddenly, they switched roles. Her arm grew as tall as a skyscraper; his head crooked to admire the height. She toured him from spire to foundation, until he found himself splayed on the ground.
As the game continued, their bodies grew loose, the flexible matter of designing hands. And what had seemed like a familiar conflict began to suggest something else: each had latent senses that only the other could form.
The players left the edge of my feed, and I wanted to follow.
I become oblivious to sound when I monitor. The murmur, the noise that once filled my head is replaced by the back of my brain.
Periodically, I return to the scene of the game. My camera toggles left and right, punches in and pulls back. The woman in the red trench, the loitering car, the toppled garbage bin, the biker: they may be rips and troubles, or they may be keys and clues.
A game is a formal agreement. As players, we consent to rules that build the world anew.
A game is more the polish than the mirror: less the reflection than the gloss. Its ideality, its futurity are rarely experienced elsewhere.
Yet this city is designed as if it could, by master plan alone, gloss the world anew.
How, then, to play a game in a city designed like a game?
Periodically, I walk the path of the game. I’ve heard this is common for monitors: gaining firsthand knowledge of a site can help one later surveil it. But my Center aims to shave minutes, not add them. A year ago, my training took two days; now applicants skill up in thirty minutes.
This likely offsets the high turnover rate, though my boss claims it’s preparedness for war…
The south end of the park was completed in the first phase of development. Residents of the adjoining skyscrapers have learned that the chic skins of undulating glass offer little protection from the elements, if sweeping views of the vacant lots, the construction cranes, and the ocean from which the city was reclaimed.
This place, for many, is a testament of capital’s ability to dredge and clarify form. The Boston developer envisaged a sister city in the east and built this park as its Common. A tourist ferry crisscrosses the artificial river, driven by a man who once fished on that very spot.
In 1887, a writer imagined utopia as Boston in the year 2000. In 2001, a Boston developer began work on a project of comparable ambition. There the connection ends. Ours is not a salve for the ails of contemporary capitalism, but a prototype for industry to come: ubiquitous city-building as a service. Its planners have solved the problems of the social by excluding them from the master plan.Looking east, I can see the final skyscraper of the parkview row, an eyesore of squinting windows and white concrete. There’s talk that the builder strayed from his original design, of trouble among the city’s partners, causing some unceremonious exits in recent years. But one doesn’t need much to know that concrete is cheaper than glass; indeed, since the global financial crisis, new construction embodies this fact.
Westward is my Operations Center, a tower that jags and cuts the sky. At this moment, a colleague could be watching, waiting for a wrinkle…
The moment I leave the Center—on the thick of my thigh, or against the drum of my knee—I’m typing. Under the table at dinner, on top of my bedsheets: I’m typing. My eyes never lose their insect enhancements; I see sixteen, a hundred screens (or more) from one edge of the day to the other.
Periodically, I consider the form of the game. Nobody won, and nobody conceded. It had no beginning, middle, nor end.
A game is more a contract than a mirror: less reflection than regulations. To design a game for critical play, its very terms must be open to change.
My city is designed as if it, too, could regulate the world anew—but there the connection ends. Empires, after all, can rise and fall, yet their games often persist. They’re trivial and slight; insignificance is their greatest strength.
Someday, the city will turn back into sea, a sunken museum of technologies past. We will move slowly on a glass-bottomed boat, making our hands into metaphors.