The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


Bios Online

By Arri Kafoor

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“Damn it.” a teenage boy slouches at his desk, tired eyes locked onto a loud computer, with a large, welcoming screen reflecting both the morning sunlight that creeps through a pair of purple, drawn curtains, as well as the invasion of modern day digital spam.

“Every god damn time.” the boy seems agitated, fractiously staring deep into the bright white screen, set at a resolution that defeats the naked eye. The beam of light from the screen not only tries to break through the boy’s thin glasses, but also succeeds in lighting up a somewhat depressing, flat-tinted room. The dark theme of the moderately sized room hides the majority of various pictures and frames scattered across the wall and ceiling, including old-fashioned Japanese Anime and Manga animations, film stills, oriental rock artists and a collection of electric guitars. The vast shadows that lurk between the walls feel comfortable at home, laden with stacks upon stacks of litter and broken computer parts, half-empty plates of food from previous dinners ally with chipped cups and coffee-stained mugs to form a carpet of waste. Adjacent to the window stands a towering grey computer that dictates the room and manipulates the teenage boy. Motionless, his eyes are flickering between every pixel of the hypnotic screen, downloading digitalism into his brain to replace an older file that is the mind. It is safe to say his clothing relates well to the murky nature of the room. A large, green t-shirt effortlessly hangs from his shoulders to meet a pair of baggy, light blue jeans that replace the tissue’s function, stained with breakfast leftovers. Apparently he hasn’t left the room since his morning awakening, his short hair pays dividends to the messy bed behind him. In fact, one could have a strong case in suggesting the boy hasn’t had a wink of sleep yet, with evidence of his red, lazy bloodshot eyes.

After a few clicks of the mouse, like meditating music to the ears of the young boy, the screen displays a series of flashing colours that force a squint to his eyes. Considering sleep, and the lack there of, the bright colours of the screen pierce through the boy’s mind, poking at his eyes, hurting his brain, like a clan of needles tormenting a rooted, helpless individual. It is this sacrifice that he makes every morning in order to gain digital pleasure from the very words about to appear before him, ‘Bios Online’, the latest of a number of massively multiplayer online games to be released. A soothing wave of tranquillity overcomes the boy, his mind is finally at rest, as if a clean slate has been granted to him. He softly smiles, his fingers gently hover and stroke above the keys of the keyboard, teasing every letter into euphoria, before gradually releasing himself into a tantra of touch-typing.

Sorry I got disconnected…damn spam.
I now have 27 online poker programs lol.
Re-invite me please.
What level are you now?
I cant, got classes soon. I’ll catch up tonight.

“Matt!” a screeching voice suddenly disturbs the boy from his meditation, arriving unwelcome, exterior to the room.
“Matt!” the same wretched voice vibrates the room again, but only louder and longer than before. It can only be the boy’s mother, or a sister with a husky voice, the former seeming the more plausible.
“What?” the boy finally manages to slur out a word in reality. It doesn’t seem to be his favourite thing, especially after adopting his own mind to Bios Online.
“You’re going to be late for school, hurry up and come downstairs!” it’s definitely the mother, shouting from the bottom of a shallow set of stairs.
“Alright, alright. I’m coming.” Matt releases a reluctant sigh of disappointment. Nothing else matters much to him at this moment, no more than the thought of school disrupting his online gaming experience.

I gotta go, I’ll be back tonight :)
Me too my girlfriend is dragging me off lol.

“Breakfast is ready, come downstairs!” Matt’s mother persists in her mission to descend his son from the prison that he resides in for eighteen hours per day.
“I’m logging off now, jeez.” an irritated Matt replies, as he pushes back on his chair, rolling across what’s left of the wooden floorboards of the room. The chair hits the unmade bed, as he finally raises from the sitting stance that occupied him through the morning, clicking the discs of his spine as he straightens and stretches his back. He yawns like a lost caveman crying for his desired home, and as he opens the bedroom door he is embraced by a flood of daylight, banished from these walls for some time now, cleansing the foul stench of a mood, ridding the shadows that cling onto a depressing ambience to the room. He treads carefully down the set of creaking stairs, finding every step more of a struggle, since he’s moving away from what he desires the most. However upon seating himself at the dining table, he finds his mood suddenly elated by the welcoming smell of fresh eggs cooked over easy, the tangy whiff of fried crispy bacon and pork sausages, and best of all, the morning smell of buttered golden brown toast, perfectly set on 2-and-a-half minutes in the toaster, not to mention a warm, sweet pot of tea.
“Thanks.” acknowledges Matt, as he begins to dig into a fine morning breakfast.
“You were up all night again, weren’t you?” the mother notices her weary son, “That game will be the end of you.”
“It’s just a game.” he muffles a reply.
“Yes, it is. And playing a game for 23 hours a day isn’t exactly a life-style.” argues his mother.
“I like my life.” declares Matt, crunching the fried bacon, liking it as much as his life.
“Can you seriously call that a game? A game is something you spend a respectable amount of time on, not all god damn day.” she continues to lecture Matt.
“A game is something to do to have fun, it doesn’t matter how long I play it for.” he attempts to justify his addiction.
“It does matter, because it’s affecting your studying. You need to learn how to balance work and play.” his mother advises.
“I’m doing fine at school, I’m almost graduated, remember?” he replies.
“Even your friends call, asking why you’ve been quiet all year.” she persists.
“I said I’m ok, mum.” Matt’s eyes remain focused on the plate, cutting into a piece of toast accompanied by scrambled eggs.
“I’m just worried about you, that’s all. I’ve been worried ever since you stopped talking to me, since the first week you locked yourself in that room.” she says in a concerned tone of voice.
“You don’t need to be worried. I’m getting my work done at school, and I’m having fun with what I do at home.” replies Matt, his mouth half-full.
“Be more social, Matt.” orders his mother, while handing him a napkin.
“With who?” he places down the cutlery, “My friends spend all day talking about which pub they want to go to, they compare biceps in public, they talk all day about how the world is dying, yet they do nothing about it. They smoke in social groups, they drink together only for the sake of their insecurity, and when they finally run out of pointless conversation they decide to roll a joint and start the whole cycle again. I like my online friends better.” he finishes the rant, with a sense of relief, going back to his much-enjoyed breakfast.
“They do drugs?” she gasps.
“Along with every other person in the town, yes. Wake up, mum. We’re a long way into the 21st century now.” Matt opens her eyes to a pinch of the world today.
“Well, I’m sure you can find other friends, real friends to hang around.” she seeks an alternate route of advice for her son.
“Maybe after I realise I’ve wasted years of my life on a computer game.” replies a sarcastic Matt.
“I’m only trying to help, dear.” she looks at Matt, still portraying a worried look.
“I appreciate it mum, but I’m happy at the moment.” he acknowledges her words and finishes his perfect start to the morning, carrying the last few gulps of tea with him as he throws a backpack on his shoulders. Walking towards the door he turns around to wave goodbye to his mother.
“Just be careful, one day there may be no turning back.” she adds.
“From what?” Matt ponders.
“The future. Technology, addiction, games. I don’t know. It’s all very worrying for parents to see their children growing up around such fast times, you know.” she answers.
“We must be hard to maintain.” Matt jokes with a slight smile.
“You know I’m here if you need anything at all.” his mother replies with an encouraging thought.
“I know, thanks.” Matt appreciates her words, “It may be a good thing, though.”
“What’s that?” she asks.
“Future technology, future games.” Matt opens the front door.
“I don’t think so.” she refutes.
“Soon enough they’ll produce graphics so real, you wont be able to tell the difference. They could use that to their advantage, you know, fulfilling desires and all.” claims Matt.
“Or they can use it for control, which would be more likely.” his mum replies with a differing opinion.
“That would be far too Hollywood. That’s fantasy, that’s a game.” he argues.
“And you wouldn’t enjoy that?” she asks.
“I probably would.” Matt goes to step out of the front door, only to be stopped once again with a question.
“Why?” asks his mother.
“It’s like in class, we were arguing; if there were a machine that we can plug ourselves into, a machine that delivers every single pleasure that mankind seeks, to it’s absolute maxim, wouldn’t you be willing to enter the machine rather than continue daily chores and struggle with real life?” Matt describes the choice to his mother, to which she finds herself deep in thought about what she would actually do. She thinks for a moment how she cannot grasp full happiness, and absolute pleasure, because the limits are unknown to her. She considers that perhaps the machine’s ability to deliver a chief good, a truth, an absolute, is the wiser option to commit to, rather than to continue the difficult task of life, for such little pleasure ratio.
“Me too mum, me too.” Matt closes a front door that mediates a satisfied son and a mother lost in the moral thought of right and wrong, good and bad, and pleasure and pain.

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One Response to “Bios Online”
  1. Chris Carter Says:

    An insightful and provocative take on teenage angst fifty years from now, using as a point of reference I would say, the theory of “hypereality” as proposed by twentieth-century Jean Baudrillard to describe the boy’s “virtual” friends as being more valued than the “real” friends he has ceased to talk to. It is the boy’s online friends that are the “real” friends and the virtual games that are the “real” games that he enjoys. In a sense, the boy is using a virtual interface, typical of the lives we increasingly find ourselves living in the twenty-first century, to escape from the more mundane aspects of his school friends and the “real” world. This is a short story that leaves us with more questions than it answers.