Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Serious Simulation (Final Paper)

"Battle Room Scene" from "Ender's Game" comic
We may by thinking that what we are doing is a simulation or preliminary, but really we have all ready become apart of something real.

  “The enemies gate is down”(pg. 172) is the famous line given by Ender to his army when they are about to embark into the “battle room.” The reason Ender said this line was to expand his armies thinking. In the “battle room” there is no gravity, no friction, and basically the only rule is to win. It pits each "kid" army against each other in a laser tag battle, last person not tagged wins it for their army. It is just a game to these 7-16 year old kids. But the real truth is that this “game” is real and has real implications. It is a simulation to help these kids train for a real war, commanding, deploying troops, and coming up with strategies to defeat the enemy. Much of the digital culture that we have studied relates perfectly with this analogy. We may by thinking that what we are doing is a simulation or preliminary, but really we have all ready become apart of something real.

            At the end of the book in Ender’s Game the adults use Ender and his “jeesh” (team) to win a war that he has no idea has already begun. Ender has been tasked to destroy and entire race of aliens who threaten invasion on Earth. Ender thinks he is playing a simulation, a game with fake ships and an opponent who he thinks is his teacher. But in fact he was winning the war he thought he was preparing for. He was commanding fleets, with tangible lives and wiped out an entire race of aliens, but the only way the adults could ensure that Ender would not get overwhelmed at this responsibility was to lie to him and tell him it was a simulation. This scenario is how the digital culture operates as well, especially when it comes to the modern use of comics.

            Comic books are not just comics any more they are the BETA (BETA is the preliminary or testing phase that many internet sites or software companies go through before launching the real thing. It gives room for changes and tweak's according to the user's preference and feedback) to the system for movies. They have become a treasure map to finding gold. Comics are not profitable, well at least the $2.99 version. So why continue to make comics? Because comics are a means to an end, like Ender’s battle room, comics are a simulation for the real war. Marvel for instance, releases comics in order to see which character and story arc have become popular. They use this information to create multi-million dollar grossing movies.

            Marvel started to use comics as a gauge around 2005. Marvel had already come out with its big hitters, “Spider-man,” “Fantastic Four,” “Hulk,” and “X-Men.” They did well, but Marvel also had some busts and they didn’t know what character should be put on the silver screen next. Meanwhile Orson Scott Card wrote a comic called “Ultimate Ironman” which quickly became one of the best selling comics. Up to this point Ironman had been a background character with not a big following. Marvel made “Ironman” in 2008 and they turned a $2.99 comic into 300 million dollars (total grossing of “Ironman”). So every time I embarrassedly sneak a comic into the house past my wife and read it alone in a dark room where no one can find me, I am really contributing to society! And who say's comics are useless?

            In the same vein as comic’s being a BETA for movies, the digital culture is full of BETA’s that we need to take seriously. Everything we do in the digital culture has an impact. We may think we are in the kiddy pool but in fact we are swimming in the middle of the ocean. The first MP3 player wasn’t hugely popular and didn’t really catch on, but it was the first of an evolving system that led to the “iPod.” Once the “iPod” took over it evolved into a “smartphone.” The digital culture is constantly evolving because of us and it is up to us to determine where it goes.

            I didn't realize how many "mainstream" websites are actually still in BETA form. According to the MoMB (Museum of Modern BETA's) some of the top 100 BETA's include such websites as,,,,, and so many more. This means that the gmail that I use everyday is still in it's testing phase and will continue to grow and change according to how I (and millions of other users) use it.

            "World of Warcraft"(which I do not play and if you do that is a OK. I am not one to judge... I read comics) started as a BETA. The BETA is basically the first game. Once the people at Blizzard saw the flood of people wanting to play they made significant changes to it and now it is the world's top selling computer game and currently 12 million users are on it.
            Another MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game, you should probably learn what this is since it is taking over everyone) like "World of Warcraft" is "Second Life." "Second Life" is exactly as it sounds, it is a simulation of your life (but you can fly if you choose). This "simulation" is not a simulation to the players, it is real.  They have real currency and a real government with a real elections. People will sell things in "Second Life" on Ebay for real money. Crazy, I know.  This is the purpose of "Second Life" according to, "A place to shop, a place to work, a place to connect, a place to love, a place to explore, free yourself, free your mind, change your life, love your life." To these people the statement to "change and love your life" is a true one and they love their "Second Life" better than their first one. This is exactly my point, these "simulations" that are all around us are real, we need to take them seriously and realize that they are real.

            One person who knew that these simulations were real in "Ender's Game" is Bean.  Bean understood that they were commanding real lives, so when Ender was about to sacrifice an entire fleet to beat “the game”, Bean was the only one to say “thank you” to the men who were about to give the ultimate sacrifice. We need to be like Bean. We need to be aware that we are apart of something bigger.

            Before I blogged I thought like Ender. I thought that as a college kid things I did were inconsequential and that I would make an impact on the world in my 40’s and 50’s. I for sure thought that my blog would only be read by my teacher and that no one would appreciate and entire blog dedicated to comics. But now I realize that it was all a facade, and that my blog was being read and appreciated, and secretly, I had just been given a voice on the Internet.

            The more I gained a voice the more I realized how serious comics need to be taken. This all came to fruition when I went into the basement of our University Library to the Special Collections Section. The Special Collections Section of the library is dedicated to holding only the rare and valuable. To get a book from the Special Collections you practically have to pass a background check. Well imagine my surprise when the comic book I was looking for was in this holy of hollies section of the library. It hit me when I was sitting in the designated "reading room" (can't take anything in) and I look around me, sheepishly, waiting for my comic book and everyone else in their has gloves on and they are studying ancient manuscripts. I knew then that comics had become a thing to be reckoned with and then I considered donning white gloves to give respect to the comic I was about to read (I didn't and I think I might have even ripped a page on accident, don't tell the library please).  

            I have forsaken my Ender ways and now I think like Bean. We should all “awake” and realize that this class, this e-book, everything we do is not an assignment or practice, but real and important. We are all part of a test and we need to realize that we are taking it in order to pass. I now know that the "enemies gate is down." (pg.172)

Orson Scott. Ender's Game . Rev. ed. New York: Tor, 1991. Print.

Research, Linden. "Virtual Worlds, Avatars, free 3D chat, online meetings - Second Life Official Site." Virtual Worlds, Avatars, free 3D chat, online meetings - Second Life Official Site. N.p., 13 Apr. 2003. Web. 10 June 2011. 

No comments: