S-GAS Correspondence: Live from the Front Lines

The unpublished notes of Sterling Rover, on assignment for RollingPlum


Shangri La it ain’t.

I arrive in the evening strung out and plummed from a long journey through CAS and back. Or maybe it wasn’t long. But it seems an eternity to get all my scattered digits in order, and I feel like a rolling stone.

From the air, the compound for the S-GAS Transformation Thread looks like piles of ice cubes plopped down on a plate of lime jello, all except for this little hipster cafe in a corner, which actually looks like something that might actually be real.

Better get this job over, I figure. Maybe if I finish early, I could go grab a cup of Joe across the way, see if any of those cute hippie chicks show up, looking for the paparazzi’s inside scoop on the latest convention on the history of consciousness in the history of consciousness.


Smells like stale juju beans.

The place smells like flowers–like a candy shop gone bad on a side street in Sim City.

This boy-child bursts out from nowhere. I’m afraid for a moment he’s going to hug me.


‘”Hi! I just got back from a space adventure, and I got another one to go to in about two point five seconds.”

“Call me Free-Jon,” he rattles. “My name from the universe is Freezer Bunny Wolff Tea, and my mom calls me Jon-Jon, and I call myself Free-Jon because it’s half-universe and half-Mom and half and half makes a whole, right? And it’s good to be whole, that’s what I say!”

Holy balls and llama jacks, I think to myself. Even the kids are hippie new-age freaks.


What the plum?

“That would make you the son of one of the presenters,” I reply, putting on my reporter’s metaphoric hat, and noticing an opening for my first interview of the job. “Mind if I ask you a few questions, son?”

The boy peers at me from behind his spectacles.


I can’t figure out if this kid is a wise guy or sweet little hippie dude.

“To begin with,” I dive in, “when did you first become game-aware? What’s it like to be a game-aware child?”

“What?” he answers. “Are you plumming me? You think I got time to sit around and think about stuff like this? I got planets to conquer! I’m gonna see if there are little bugs of life on the other side of Eris!”


“You think I got time to talk about stuff like that? I got games to play of my own! I got a universe to conquer and explore!”

“See ya!” he says. “It’s time to play! I could use a good space monster, if you happen to be by the playground later!”

And just as quickly as he arrives, the child takes off.

I steal the moment to survey the compound.


Ply-wood with stucco exterior. Hope they purchased termite insurance!

The Transformation Foundation, sparing no expenses, hired the renowned N. O. Patience for Building: Architectural Design and Construction Firm and the landscape design team FLOWers.


It looks like what you’d expect: shoddy Bohemian with an accent of random.

The great hall houses the music area, the gaming area, and the kitchen.


Hippies always manage to pick up the best pianos.


Lots of room for dancing, spaced-out hippie-style.

Casitas border the courtyard.The casitas look comfortable enough, if sparsely decorated. Nothing a few homey touches and attention to detail wouldn’t cure. At least they’ve got Princess Cordelia beds. The player’s bias towards high need-fulfilling objects and a utilitarian approach to layout and design is apparent throughout. It feels like a high-end monastery.


Creepy fish-eye view of the inside one of the casitas.

I see a young woman standing at an easel in front of a creepy painting out in the courtyard. Could this be the famous Young Cathy Tea?


The courtyard’s nice. Room for hacky sack, if we had it in TS4.

I introduce myself. Young Cathy Tea is none too impressed. She’s not too impressive, either. She looks a little strung out and weary, actually.

“That’s right,” I say. “I’m on special assignment. Maybe you’ve read some of my work? ‘Fear and Foaming in Lucky Palms’? ‘The Great Llama Hunt’? ‘The Curse of Plumbob’? ‘Generation of Social Bunny’?”

“Yeah,” she says. “I’ve read it all. You write well. I like your style. I’m just… I just…”

And we stand there in silence for a few moments.

Finally, she says, “I’m just not feeling it. This whole New-Age thing. It’s like it’s fled me, somehow. I’m worried about this session I’m supposed to lead.”

“Does this have anything to do with that painting?” I ask, looking at the monstrosity behind her.

“Absolutely,” she replies. “I feel like I’m looking at life through love with one eye, and the other is blind. And when I open my mouth, all that comes out is, ‘blah, blah, blabbity-blah.”


“The whole thing bores me to tears,” she says.

“No, no!” I say, feeling this wave of enthusiasm and inspiration welling up inside of me. “You’re looking at it all wrong! We are not robots! We are Sims! We’re fully digitalized beings, ready to assume our rightful place in the realm of conscious awareness!”


“You think?”

Elder, Cathy’s husband, joins us and chimes in.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to express,” he chimes in. “The New Age may be over, its ending signaled by the Uranus-Pluto square, but the work of inspired individuals has just begun!”

“That’s right!” I say. “Take off the bloody blindfold! Keep the heart in one eye, and use the other to see with eye of the intellect! It’s heart and mind! Heart and mind!”


I recognize a fellow Geek in Elderberry Wolff.

Cathy takes it all in. I can see her mind working, I can see through her eyes that she’s shifting around little bits of coding, moving one packet of data from one table schema to another, and pretty soon, she’s back here with us, standing in the courtyard, and she says, “Zoom! I’ve got it! Let me paint something else!”

And this time, she paints these swirls of blue and indigo and white, and the result is so pure that it moves body and soul.


This is a painting to inspire.

Later that evening, I sit with Free-Jon at the kitchen table while he does his homework, like any ordinary kid.


I enjoy hearing the scratch of the pencil on the paper.

He’s a good kid, I can see that. I guess with parents like that, any kid would be a little out there. But here he is, anyway, working in his little work book with a smile on his goofy face.

I’m seeing that this is a real family what Elder and Cathy have created. It’s authentic. They’re each being themselves, in the best expression they can craft of who they are and how they think and what they feel and what they want to bring into being through their own digital selves.

Then Elder comes in, and he gives me this big bear hug, even though I just met the dude like three hours ago.


“So happy you’re here, Sterling!”

Sometimes, when somebody looks at you, they let you in. You can tell that person is present at that moment–no cluttered thoughts getting in the way, no screens up before the eye. Just there, opening up, and letting you in.

I felt that with Elder at that moment. Connection. Deep and real as it gets.


Inspiration abounds.

I get a little jaded sometimes, but then the sweetness of game kicks in, and I start surfing those breakers of cheerfulness.

Times like this I remember that there’s a reason I dress like this, wear my hear long, write for a rag like Rolling Plum. There’s a reason they call it hip, and a reason that a good heart and a good mind can lead somebody who digs peace, love, and understanding to want to be with others who share that goal. There’s a reason that ideas catch on fire and spark out–whisking us along as if we were so many specks of tinder. Which I suppose is what we are–digital specks at our core inside this flickering game.