Remember all those really cool movies from the 90’s and some from the 80’s that told us VR was coming and we’d basically be living out our fantasies inside a computer? Cool kids hacking their grades and the local bank in some alternate low-speed Mission Impossible setting. Or a big giant corporation that wasn’t just greedy, they were power mad.
All the SFX promised us was that we needed to be either suited up or digitally trapped inside these crazy worlds. Well, I think they got it wrong. Virtual Reality is here now and you don’t have to wear a full body suit and dorky helmet to participate.
Those movies kept trying to tell us that the VR experience would be total, immersive, better than life, and oftentimes quite dangerous. Even the breakout hit novel Ready Player One contemplated that people would be laying around in their own filth getting fatter and fatter while their online lives got wookie wielding a double bling light saber phat.
In books and the movies, I’ve always found the VR experience to be a bit of a rip off. Seriously, a guy is going to get downloaded from a computer into an immensely cool world for the old fish out of water “you can teach us what it means to be human” scenario? It felt like a too-easy plot device to tell that type of story.
The one in which a radical shift from the mundane to the fantastic takes place almost immediately. But that’s not the kind of Virtual Reality I wanted to write about in my new novel Soda Pop Soldier. But let me back up a sec… First off, Virtual Reality is here now.
That Ranger in WarCraft you’ve been levelling alongside your guild buddies, that JRPG you’re spending all your free time collecting power jewels in, even that smartphone game you’re tapping at furiously or competing with someone named NikkeiCutie on Words with Friends, that, all that is Virtual Reality.
Out there, in the datasphere, the interwebz, call it what you like, you’re living a whole life based on competence and reputation. You’re having shared experiences that are meaningful and affecting. You even have friends. That my friends, is a type of reality and it’s not just virtual. It’s a very real reality.
So I didn’t want to cop out easily and make my main character, PerfectQuestion, slink into a VR suit so he could dominate the digital version of a land war in South East Asia that I had set up for him in my book.
No, I wanted him to play games and compete the way I play games: Hunched over a computer, eyeballs screaming blue murder, and fighting for his life because in this future world where video gaming is a job, it means money and rent and a relationship, and some people might just want to kill you if you mess up their game.
Soda Pop Soldier is a noir ride through a future where games are more than just fun. Games are a way to control the power to tell people what to buy next. That is a very powerful power to wield.
PerfectQuestion fights by day in a Modern Warfare style digital battleground, and by night he’s logging into an illegal open source tournament called The Black. Think Diablo meets the seedier parts of Vegas. The superheated battlefield Question fights in by day, along with the gothic gloom of the fantasy World of Wastehavens at night, are as real as it gets for our hero.
There’s love, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship, and all of it’s attached to some pretty big motivations. For PerfectQuestion, gaming is as real as it gets. Check out Soda Pop Soldier this August 12th and come spend a few hours in the future of virtual reality video gaming. I think you’ll have as much fun there as I did.
About the Author: Nick Cole is an Army veteran and working actor living in Southern California. When he is not auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot, kicked, stabbed or beaten by film school students, the author of The Old Man and the Wasteland and The Wasteland Saga can often be found as a guard for King Phillip II of Spain or a similar role in the Opera Don Carlo at Los Angeles Opera.