Thralls of the Screen God

I am playing a 15-year-old video-game. It’s called World of Warcraft: Classic.

My guild leader is a 20-something-year-old with the thickest Boston accent I have ever heard. Our main tank is a 47-year-old who sounds like he lives in the backwoods of Mississippi. Our off tank is a Latino middle-school dropout who speaks in the increasingly mainstream urban patois of a SoCal gangbanger.

I used to be playing a 19-year-old video-game. It was called Old School RuneScape.

My clan mates were stoners living the high life. One of them had a pet skunk, a pet squirrel, and even a pet deer. He recounted a story in chat that he was bitten by a beaver while hand-fishing in Florida.

World of Warcraft: Classic is nothing new, which really goes without saying. I’m sure it’s older than some of the people reading this. The idea isn’t new either. Old School RuneScape did it first, after all.

But what is old is new again, and the players that were once young are now old. Such as myself.

No longer in high-school but in the job market. No longer captive to the whims of parents, but instead to the anxiety of adult life. Grinding to grind. A permanent captive of the monitor.

My iPhone recounts my screen-time for the week. Four hours a day. Down 20 percent from last week!

Of course that’s wrong. It doesn’t count time spent playing World of Warcraft.

It doesn’t count my time spent at work, or watching TV, or half-consciously reading the map display in the subway during my morning commute.

It doesn’t count when I tap away on the 7-Eleven credit card reader, or when I half-glance at the flashy LED advertisement above the Chinatown Metro Station.

My life is screens. But it’s not just me.

My guild leader from Boston? Living the screen life. That RuneScape guy who hand-fishes? Sure, he gets outside, but with a screen in his pocket.

How else did he take that video of his beaver bite?

The main tank who’s almost old enough to be my dad? Surely he’s captivated, enthralled, and enslaved by the screen God.

Your life is a screen too. Aren’t you reading this on your phone?

The US drone operator who blasted Soleimani? Screen slave.

Donald Trump, twittering away? Screen serf.

The richest person on earth gets up in the morning and checks their tablet; looks like the Q4 reports are in. Not looking good, time for some layoffs. The screen told them so.

The Uber driver checks her email. She’s dropped below a 4-star rating. You know what that means.

She calls her daughter on the phone to break the news. Screen screen screen screen screen.

All around the world the throngs and multitudes engorge themselves on content. A billion screens, a trillion pixels, infinite color combinations breaking minds and straining eyes.

I’m playing another 19-year-old game. I’m playing on an old CRT television because it makes Super Smash Brothers Melee lag less.

My friends and I are huddled around the screen in mirth. The screen brings joy.

I’m back in high-school. I’m at anime club. Dozens of us are avoiding the school dance. We’re worshiping the screen, and we’re not alone.

Our fellow worshipers are just going about it in a different way, at a different temple: posing for the screen, dancing for the screen, fucking for the screen.

I’m boarding a flight now. The wall-mounted screen at the airport warns me of the security checkpoint.

The TSA agent screens me for bombs and drugs. My innocence is judged by the X-ray screen.

I’m reading now. But the screen follows me. You see I mostly read science-fiction. Pirx checked the screen on his rocket-ship and gasped…

I check my bank account. I’m poor, or so the screen says.

I go to the gym. Treadmill. I look up. The Redskins are on the screen.

I’m writing about the screen. The words are flashing on the screen. The screen is mocking me. The screen is a vengeful God, and I am but his plaything.

We moderns smote God himself and are now faced with a new one, and how do you kill that which has no life?

I go for a walk. The screen God averts his gaze. I’m free for now.

But I’ll be back. He’s always watching, and I’d hate to make him mad.


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