Schrödinger’s law: the painful uncertainty of a work of fiction necessitating comparisons to our beloved cat in quantum superposition, until finally observing if it was useless or not. Usually when Schrödinger’s cat is brought up, and its application in The Uncertainty Machine is no exception, the potential superposition, the life or death instability that the cat theoretically exists in, is mostly glossed over. The cat is dead in a box, or the cat isn’t, but you can’t know until you observe—now that’s not really physics is it? Of course, everything is a matter of physics, but our reliance on observation is science, it is philosophy, it is existence itself. The crux is always opening the box and finding a cat, but without an unstable superposition it’s just a cat in a box.
Ever muddled, whiffing references, hinting at things without fully understanding their consequence: this is essentially why I found The Uncertainty Machine so appealing. It’s a big bite out of sociology and ideology, like any dystopian fiction, but without drowning in ennui or morality judgements, simply by neglecting to ground the actors or the setting enough to pull off a morality play. In what is one of the most unnecessary intro text scrolls, it’s established that in some western country, people are separated into two castes to guarantee at least some amount of the population lives comfortably. There’s no explained reason for this scarcity. No clarified difference between the castes. It just is; there’s sanctioned, approved citizens, and then there’s people and places deemed ‘off-limits’. I like that any possibly subtle application of this model-as-metaphor is just blown out with a glib statement that things are only slightly different from the present.
Few videogames admit that dungeon crawling is actually terrible and inhuman, preferring to idealize the journey with brightish colors, interesting routes, and often short lengths. I’ve hiked through caves. When I did I wasn’t dweeb enough to compare them to a videogame, how times have changed… Anyway, real caves are long, mute, and repetitious. Being in the dark for that long is harrowing, sight stops being familiar, senses shift from regular to trusting what you can feel with your hands and feet. Thoroughly dreary and disorienting—of course that’s what makes it so entertaining. Coming out of a cave you’re not really sure what you’re supposed to do with your head or eyes anymore. It takes a bit to remember what living is like.
I first played Thief Gold because it has a vague reputation of being an ‘important classic. It’s the first game to bring traditional stealth mechanics into 3D, supposedly laying out blueprints for all of its successors. In that regard, the game is done very well, with reactive guards, gradients of light to shade yourself, and different levels of noise that will give yourself away. It’s honestly surprising that so much is implemented so well on the first pass at a stealth game. But what really impressed me in Thief was the experimental levels and aesthetic.
tw: anxiety, death, agoraphobia
Listening to drone around friends and family has elicited reactions like, “Do you actually enjoy listening to this?” and “How is this even music?” (Which is a brief reminder that “not an [art]” isn’t necessarily a videogames problem (though in games people have a consistent indignation and a noted immaturity, blah blah etc.)) I understand the absence of immediate appeal. Drone is unmelodic and very slow. Noise music in the first place counters the purpose of pleasurable listening and drone adds a lack of momentum. It’s like a progression and smoothing of fan sounds, a molasses distortion of a motor, a pop and crease of a heater. Sounds that aren’t meant to strictly hold someone’s attention or to entertain. Drone presents a space to subsist in, to bring texture to the frame of mind alongside contexts and processes that result in listening to it. Meditative music, in other words, but especially toward existing in the present and being with machines.
This softening of futurism is of course exactly why one would listen to drone. A music which focuses on a consideration of progress, rather than common expressions of lashing out against, or celebrating, the conditions we’ve found ourselves in. Minimalistic and unharsh, it’s music that beckons in a listener, to allow one to float and feel each slight change. Feel the reverberations of our modern world. I think drone music actually avoids pressing in on our conscious boundaries, avoiding the aggression and overwhelming expression in other styles of recorded noise. Because it’s constructed to hold in slight terror, sensations of being suspended, it effectively cradles modernity. Drone is truthfully gentle music despite what it tends to evoke, allowing someone to expand their feelings with it, instead being held hostage or lectured to.