Op-Ed

Op-Ed
AGDC 2007: Inside Garriott's Playground

Russ Pitts | 6 Sep 2007 17:00
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"Something to Write About"

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The various shills who'd been party to the magical demonstrations were called onto the stage and asked to touch a silvery orb which appeared to be floating in mid-air. Sparks shot from their hands. The man holding the microphone (he claimed to be a professor) got very tense and practically screamed at them to keep touching it. They did. It looked painful. And then the lights went out.

Sparks erupted from nearby computer consoles, explosions went up and a siren went off. The glowing obelisk changed color. And then ... nothing. It was as if something was supposed to happen, but didn't. Perhaps someone missed a cue, or perhaps that's all there was. I started wondering when the buses were leaving for the hotel.

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Garriott took the stage and sheepishly explained that we'd activated a control point, just as we would be able to do later this year in his game. He again explained the importance of this activity, the meaning of ley lines, and how it all related to the six hours of demonstrations we'd been given all night. Then he thanked us and told us good night. As far as climaxes go, it was very "anti." And that's when the aliens invaded.

A projection of an alien being appeared on a section of wall near Garriott's head. The alien told us we were all doomed, that activating the control point had allowed him to pinpoint our location and that soon a squad of alien commandos would arrive. And then there were flashing lights, and rocket explosions and laser beams and a genuine honest-to-Vishnu alien appeared out of a cloud of smoke and shot a guy holding a camera. The guy fell to the ground, sparks erupting from his chest, and the alien trundled toward Garriott's castle, I assume to destroy his new pool house.

Gigantic balls of flame erupted from the parking area. The heat so intense we could feel it hundreds of feet away, sweat beading on our foreheads. A helicopter flew over the scene, shining a light on the castle below, searching for the alien. The gunfire increased. A few more things exploded. There were screams. It was quite a lot like a gunfight in a Hollywood action movie, except it was all happening right in front of us. We could smell the gunpowder.

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Finally the alien was felled. The soldiers rejoiced, the caution tape came down and Richard Garriott thanked us all for coming. It was as close to a fitting climax to a (now) seven-hour kidnapping/marketing event as I could imagine. Garriott announced that the helicopter was being flown by his brother, Robert, CEO of NCsoft America, and that the actors, pyrotechnicians and crew would all be available near the refreshments table for interviews. He also announced the buses would be leaving soon. It was 1:00 a.m. The last announcement was the only one I heard.

"I hope we've given you something to write about," he said. There was a general murmur of assent. He had. But it was definitely time to go home. Luckily, they'd managed to procure another bus.

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