Ever heard of the turing test? Long story short, if you can take a computer, and a human, and let each chat with another human judge, if the human judge can’t tell which is the computer, then the test is passed and the computer has successfully imitated a human in a text based chat environment.
Well, nothing’s passed it yet. But computers have always been able to elicit very personal reactions from people nevertheless. Ever seen someone talk to their computer as if it could understand them? I must confess, I’m guilty on that count. When my computer had a noisy CD drive, I’d place my hand on the top of its case and tell it to calm down, and that everything was ok.
… Ok, so I’m not proud to share it, but that’s the truth!
Anyways, our human tendency to act as if the world around us was filled with other people can sometimes get us into somewhat compromising situations.. Like the love triangle my brother and I got caught up in while we were playing Animal Crossing.
You see, in Animal Crossing players get to live in a town with neighbors where everything happens in realtime, whether you’re playing or not. You get mail, they throw parties, and sometimes you miss a big sale if you don’t turn on the game within a 2 hour window! You’re also surrounded with neighbors, nosy neighbors, grumpy neighbors, friendly neighbors, crazy neighbors… and then *sigh* there’s Bunnie.
Bunnie is a bloody tease. She’s a blinkin’ homewrecker. Neither my brother nor I remember how it started, but she must’ve been in one of our towns to begin with (probably mine). She had a perky and playful demeanor, dotted her i’s with hearts, used a lot of pink in her interior decoration, and was really cute when she was angry. She was probably fast friends with whichever of us was the lucky bloke to see her first (probably me). And that’s probably where it would’ve stopped… just good friends… had not Bunnie decided to throw a wrench in the whole “let’s be friends” thing.
In Animal Crossing your neighbors constantly move in and out as time goes by. Bunnie inexplicably moved out of town, and into the town of my brother. With whom she became fast friends. And then she moved again, taking a train ride back to her first home… and things escalated.
If Bunnie thought she could get my attention and my brother’s attention by playing hard to get… she was right. I noticed whenever she moved out of town and into the Animal Crossing save file that had my brother’s name on it. He noticed when I started paying Bunnie much more attention than my other neighbors and regularly sent her various thoughtful presents. He started writing her playful love-notes asking her to elope with him…or something similar. I started sweet-talking my neighbors and local postal workers in the hope that they’d help me spy on the traitor with whom, in my younger years, I had shared a room with.
So my brother whipped out the big guns. He planted trees. He set down a beautiful flowerbed. And then he painted a portrait of Bunnie in-game with Animal Crossing’s texture artist and set it up on a sign. He made a Bunnie shrine! I couldn’t match that! He was the artist! He stole all of the art genes in the family! It wasn’t fair!!!
Why was she doing this to us? Was this her twisted idea of fun? She had set my brother against me, and I against him. And whereas before we were always visiting each other’s towns and trading items and frequently playing harmless pranks on each other, now the train between our two Animal Crossing towns was travelling with one less seat filled either way, and we stopped all unneccessary communication because we were too busy devising ways to convince Bunnie that she’d be better off without the other.
I guess it’s evident now that she was just using us for a lark. Of course, if you think about it, we were using her too. Why were we obsessed with her? It was more than her perky demeanor and heart-dotted i’s. It was a sort of obsessive competition of one-up-man-ship between us. It was a sort of contest, with Bunnie not as a friend but as a prize.
At first, my brother and I had anthropomorphized her, now we had dehumanized her and objectified her instead. So Bunnie had run the course of femininity. At first, she was Eve. Now, she was a trophy wife.
But there was one thing left that my brother and I still agreed on. We agreed that if Bunnie left, it would be because the other had not made enough of an attempt to keep her here. But we should’ve known better. No amount of our childish propositions could make her stay, and so Bunnie is now on that train somewhere out there in Animal Crossing, away from the two brothers who she’d first delighted in manipulating, then fled from in order to re-establish her independence. Perhaps she’d become a “modern woman,” as they say. Perhaps she’d found independence and strength and…
Well, the trick is, technically, Animal Crossing doesn’t pass the Turing test. It was a game, not a text chat. And we weren’t comparing Bunnie to a real girl (though my younger brother probably couldn’t tell the difference *snicker*). And I don’t think that despite all her intrigues, and her story arc and the evolution of her character… well darn. Animal Crossing came close enough to passing the Turing test so that before the next time I turn on Animal Crossing, I think it’d be better if I just concentrated on planting trees, flowers… and maybe practice some portrait painting like my brother... just for fun, honest.