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The Weekly Map Recap - Map Popularity Survey Results

2020.10.19 00:18 Jonah_Marriner The Weekly Map Recap - Map Popularity Survey Results

Weekly Map Recap Survey Results

Hi, folks! I want to thank everyone who participated in the Weekly Map Recap Survey - it’s been fascinating to see the results! Today’s post is going to be about just looking at the raw data, with just a little commentary and quotes from respondents to spice things up.
A couple things to keep in mind about the results here is that this survey is really only capturing a small slice of the population. Respondents had to A) be invested enough in the community that they’re on the Guild Wars 2 subreddit and B) invested enough that they would actually take the time to answer my survey. That means that we’re really capturing what we might think of as ‘hyper-invested’ players - those that are most passionate about the game, in contrast to what we might think of as a general (more casual) audience.
Settle in, grab some coffee or tea, and let’s dive into it!

Starter Map Preference

This one is fairly straightforward: these results line up with popularity of player races fairly well. Caledon Forest and Plains of Ashford might be higher than expected as a result of the popularity of the sylvari race in highly involved Guild Wars 2 fans generally. If the results lined up better with race popularity, Wayfarer Foothills would be higher and Ashford would be at the bottom.
444 Responses
28.4% - Queensdale
25.9% - Caledon Forest
16.2% - Plains of Ashford
13.7% - Wayfarer Foothills
11.7% - Metrica Province
3.8% - No preference
0.2% - I do not like any of these
Choice Quote for Queensdale: “Just the best all around example of what a starter map could and should be. Feels the most fleshed out. Some hearts suck and I miss the old champions, but it's good.”

Vanilla Map Preference

This one is fascinating to me. The popularity of Timberline Falls holds true fairly consistently throughout this survey, and I had no idea this was an opinion that I shared with so many in the community. Mount Maelstrom and Lornar’s Pass also caught me unawares - I would have expected human maps to be higher generally.
The relative popularity of Cursed Shore is fascinating, given that Orr maps are so unpopular generally. One thing to note is that Timberline and Mount Maelstrom are significantly more popular than other maps statistically, with Timberline more than double the popularity of many of the other top 10 maps.
439 Responses
Only grabbing the Top 10 here:
13.4% - Timberline Falls
8.2% - Mount Maelstrom
7.5% - Lornar’s Pass
5.9% - Frostgorge Sound
5.7% - Caledon Forest
5.7% - Cursed Shore
5.2% - Fields of Ruin
5.0% - Gendarran Fields
4.6% - No Preference
3.9% - Sparkfly Fen
Choice Quote for Timberline: “[I like] the relaxing pace of the map, excellent to wake up in with a cup of tea in hand, gathering resource nodes.”

Kryta Map Preference

Given that none of these maps will rank highly in our ‘game-wide’ questions, Kryta as a whole is less popular than I would have thought. Bloodtide Coast, with the uninspired Pirate Queen meta and a high level of underwater content, is more popular than I would have expected. There’s a relatively large gap between the top three maps and the bottom three.
438 Responses
26.7% - Gendarran Fields
23.7% - Queensdale
20.8% - Bloodtide Coast
11.4% - Harathi Hinterlands
10.7% - Kessex Hills
3.7% - No preference
3.0% - I do like any of these
Choice quote for Gendarran: “This map flows so well and is quite a joy to explore. From the pirates, to the beetle races, vigil keep, to the farms, it is a breath of fresh air compared to some other Kryta maps.”

Kryta - Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

21.4% isn’t a bad showing for Lake Doric, though poor Southsun has one of the lowest favorability rates that we’ll see for these ‘Post Launch’ questions. In general, these two maps compare less well than other Post Launch maps.
420 Responses
70.0% - Previous answer
21.4% - Lake Doric
8.6% - Southsun Cove
Quote for Lake Doric: “Lake Doric is packed with events and little secrets. Finding the peach tree the first time was amazing, and I only recently discovered the boss at the watchtower.”

Shiverpeaks Map Preference

Interestingly, Frostgorge Sound performs much better here than in the Vanilla Map question. Here, it does better than Lornar’s Pass - in the Vanilla Map question it did worse. We see the same gap here that we saw with the Vanilla Map question - with a cluster of top three that are double - or triple! - any of the bottom maps.
436 Responses
30.3% - Timberline Falls
24.1% - Frostgorge Sound
19.0% - Lornar’s Pass
9.9% - Wayfarer Foothills
5.3% - Dredgehaunt Cliffs
4.8% - Snowden Drifts
3.4% - I do not like any of these
3.2% - No preference
Quote for Timberline 2: “It feels so real, the mountain side going down, the caves, the treasures.”

Shiverpeaks - Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

A word of caution about Drizzlewood Coast popularity here is that this survey was opened just before the second release of Drizzlewood. Given that the second release was more controversial, I wonder if these results would be the same if I had waited until after that patch.
That said, we can see that post-launch Shiverpeaks maps are popular generally speaking. 27.1% sticking with their vanilla choice is quite low, especially in context of the popularity of Timberline, Frostgorge, and Lornar’s.
421 Responses
27.1% - Same Answer
24.9% - Drizzlewood Coast
19.7% - Bjora Marches
14.5% - Bitterfrost Frontier
13.8% - Thunderhead Peaks
Quote for Drizzlewood: “Drizzlewood Coast has great events, which are very engaging. Love the NPC dialogue, too, though that's something that applies all over in GW2”

Maguuma Jungle Map Preference

This one is a bit strange just because the Heart of Maguuma maps that launched with Heart of Thorns are so different from the vanilla Maguuma maps. Given the popularity of HoT, it seemed like it would give us unhelpful results to compare the two categories directly, so I’ve separated them.
Again, Mount Maelstrom’s popularity surprises me - I had no idea it was this well regarded. Metrica does better in this survey than Sparkfly, which is different from their relative rankings in the Vanilla Map question. Caledon does better here as well.
440 Responses
32.5% - Mount Maelstrom
31.6% - Caledon Forest
13.6% - Metrica Province
13.2% - Sparkfly Fen
4.8% - Brisban Wildlands
3.0% - No preference
1.4% - I do not like any of these
Quote for Mount Maelstrom: “Again, nice diversity. A big volcano and a sizable inquest base make for a nice change of pace. I wish the krait-flotilla had a related meta, as it is a pretty damn cool structure.”

Ascalon Map Preference

Ascalon maps are much less popular than I would have thought. I have such fondness for them on a personal level that I may have been blindsided a bit. Whenever these maps go into comparison with the others, they do less well. Fireheart is more popular than I expected, as well. Plains of Ashford comes in at the bottom of its regional category - unique for a starter map.
437 Responses
23.1% - Fields of Ruin
16.2% - Fireheart Rise
14.0% - Blazeridge Steppes
12.1% - Diessa Plateau
11.2% - Iron Marches
10.8% - Plains of Ashford
6.9% - No preference
5.7% - I do not like any of these
Quote for Fields of Ruin: “Fields of Ruin always seemed like an odd one out to me, being so far at the edge of the map. It also continues the beautiful aesthetic of the Ascalon Region and has Ebonhawke.”

Ascalon - Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

People really like Grothmar. Again, I wonder at the extent to which this is related to the popularity of charr among the more invested player population. Especially for the small but vocal and visible contingent of charr roleplayers, Grothmar is highly popular.
414 responses
51.4% - Grothmar Valley
48.6% - Same as before
Quote for Grothmar: “Grothmar has a lot of neat insight into the Charr and the map is extremely beautiful. I also like the events-driven nature of it versus the more static hearts system. “

Ruins of Orr Map Preference

Poor Ruins of Orr has the highest percentage of ‘I don’t like any of these’ of any regional category. Interestingly, Malchor’s Leap does better here than Cursed Shore - while the latter does better when in larger categories. My personal favorite of the three, Straits, will remain forever alone.
438 Responses
30.8% - Malchor’s Leap
26.3% - Cursed Shore
22.6% - Straits of Devastation
13.0% - I don’t like any of these
7.3% - No preference
Quote for Malchor’s: “Vanilla nostalgia, ghost peppers and elder wood. Also contains the two temples with the best balance of "interesting gameplay" and "doesn't make me want to throttle everyone in my squad for not following instructions".”

Ruins of Orr Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

Siren’s Landing is such an odd duck, with little relationship to any other map in either a mechanical or narrative sense. I was surprised that its popularity was this high.
406 Responses
67.2% - Same answer
32.8% - Siren’s Landing
Quote for Siren’s Landing: “The story made me sick of fighting risen so I never really did anything on those maps. Siren's Landing was great though, the jumping puzzle is very nice, the meta is nothing special but not a pain in the ass either. The repeatable hearts are only worth it here : you can do them quickly and there is actually a point to do it.”

Maguuma Wastes Map Preference

The more time I spend in the community, the more that I think the Silverwastes vs. Dry Top debate is a conversation about what we expect and want from open world content generally. I love both of them equally, but I find that many either love or hate these maps.
438 Responses
57.8% - The Silverwastes
30.1% - Dry Top
7.1% - I don’t like any of these
5.0% - No preference
Quote for Silverwastes: “Good memories of when it was released and everyone was doing the super long jumping puzzle together. The map mechanic was new and interesting at the time. Beautiful music. Lots of time spent on chest trains. They also kept it quite alive for a while when they made players return for the new Vinewrath event.”

Heart of Maguuma Map Preference

Interestingly, Tangled Depths was leading this category for a month or two and then slowly fell to third place. That tells me that among my more consistent readers, Tangled Depths popularity is overrepresented. Given that my articles are more likely to appeal to players interested in behind-the-scenes map design generally, we can assume a small correlation between fans of Guild Wars 2 map design and favorable impressions of Tangled Depths.
Auric Basin dominates this category, with just an incredible percentage amidst five other options. We will see it carry the ‘favorite map overall’ category as well. People like their PAANNIIIICC experience.
440 Responses
46.8% - Auric Basin
20.5% - Verdant Brink
18.6% - Tangled Depths
10.2% - Dragon’s Stand
2.5% - No preference
1.4% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Auric Basin: “This map is a masterpiece?? The map design itself, the meta, the soundtrack, EVERYTHING I just love it so much”

Heart of Maguuma Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

Bloodstone Fen seems to have a very small but very tightly-knit group of players. It reminds me of a smaller-scale Bitterfrost community. Such an odd little map.
400 Responses
89.3% - Same as before
10.8% - Bloodstone Fen
Quote for Bloodstone Fen: “It's very unique, we got flying abilities, an awesome intro animation, great lore, and all these seemingly unpredictable magical stuff going on everywhere. Too bad it's a really small map, I love spending time there. “

Ring of Fire Map Preference

Given the complaints about Tangled Depths, Draconis Mons does better there than I would have expected. Potentially that’s purely in comparison to Ember Bay, which does poorly in the next category.
431 Responses
51.5% - Draconis Mons
29.7% - Ember Bay
11.8% - No preference
7.0% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Draconis Mons: “Another fun map to get lost in. Fantastic jumping puzzle, and I'm a sucker for Druidic lore. Extremely fun, and some great item collection achievements.”

Living World Season 3 Map Preference

Here again we see that Ember Bay is at the very bottom. Draconis Mons surprises by doing better than Bitterfrost Frontier. In general, the more a map is a ‘meta farm’ the better it seems to do in this survey. Both Bitterfrost and Draconis seem to be in their own league, with a good ten points above the next most popular map.
436 Responses
25.9% - Draconis Mons
23.4% - Bitterfrost Frontier
14.2% - Bloodstone Fen
12.2% - Lake Doric
9.2% - Siren’s Landing
6.9% - Ember Bay
6.2% - No preference
2.1% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Bitterfrost: “This is a tough one. I looove the forest part for the aesthetics, and while the elixir is kind of a pain, I like the mystery behind the locked off bitter cold part of the map. The Kodan lore is great, and the flame mechanic is fun too.”

Crystal Desert Launch Map Preference

Desolation is highly unpopular, being one of the only maps in a category that scores below the ‘No preference’ option. While it’s sometimes compared to Tangled Depths, it doesn’t seem to have the intricate design work that gives that map a cult following.
Desert Highlands does better than Crystal Oasis here - as I would have expected - but will disappear from the rankings in the overall comparison. The top three maps again do much better than the other options.
436 Responses
33.5% - Desert Highlands
28.0% - Crystal Oasis
17.2% - Elon Riverlands
8.0% - Domain of Vabbi
6.4% - No preference
5.3% - The Desolation
1.6% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Desert Highlands: “I love how it goes from hot scorched desert to alpine region, and I think the way these environments blend is really well done. So much to find here too, from ancient dwarvish ruins, Djinn, and branded. The friendly Choya encampent is one of my favourite things in the desert, adds a lot of life and interest to the Choya overall.”

Crystal Desert Preference w/Post Launch Maps?

Again, farming maps do quite well in popularity. Dragonfall ranks with Auric Basin in terms of running away with a category - we’ll see it’s even higher in the LWS4 exclusive comparison. It’s impressive how high Dragonfall’s percentage is in comparison to PoF release maps.
405 Responses
37.5% - Same as before
30.4% - Dragonfall
12.1% - Sandswept Isles
10.4% - Domain of Istan
7.2% - Jahai Bluffs
2.5% - Domain of Kourna
Quote for Dragonfall: “All the maps in the crystal desert are great. They may not be as complex as HoT maps but they're beautiful with really fun events. Mounts are extremely satisfying to use in them.
Dragonfall is one of my favorites. I love how it's split into four distinct quadrants. The events to setup the camps really feel like you're doing something. It has nice verticality too. The end meta is very reminiscent of HoT metas and is very well designed. “

Living World Season 4 Map Preference

Again, Dragonfall running away with things here. Domain of Kourna is our other map that does worse than the ‘No preference’ option. That seems appropriate, given how much that map is a buggy poor mess of design (no pun intended)
I would have expected Domain of Istan to do much better here, but it seems that the farming vote got sucked up by Dragonfall. I would be willing to bet that the percentage of Dragonfall voters whose second choice would be Istan is quite high.
435 Responses
38.6% - Dragonfall
16.6% - Sandswept Isles
11.3% - Thunderhead Peaks
10.8% - Jahai Bluffs
10.8% - Domain of Istan
6.7% - No preference
4.4% - Domain of Kourna
0.9% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Sandswept: “Sandswept is a chill map, good for spacing out and harvesting, has ok metas, and is pretty af. Also not a terrible lagmonster.”

Living World Season 5 Map Preference (at time of writing)

Farming takes it here as well - but interestingly Grothmar does better than Bjora. Opinions on Bjora generally seem to be mixed, with a lot of ire going to it’s ‘divided in half’ nature. Again, I would be interested in the results for Drizzlewood if I had released the survey after its second half was added. A high level of ‘No preference’ is worth noting.
432 Responses
35.9% - Drizzlewood Coast
30.1% - Grothmar Valley
21.5% - Bjora Marches
11.3% - No preference
1.2% - I don’t like any of these
Quote for Drizzlewood 2: “The meta is so much fun, and once again the art is beautiful. I love the crafting material awards here too, as well as the repeatable reward tracks that make it easy to obtain the collection materials, as well as a new way to get mystic clovers. The material sinks for commendations is also helpful.”

Guild Wars 2 Overall Map Preference (Top 11)

Auric Basin gets its well deserved win here. Interestingly, Grothmar and Tangled Depths round out the top three - despite Verdant Brink beating out TD in its own category. Silverwastes is nowhere to be found - I wonder about the extent to which ‘newness’ impacts this result, with the LWS5 maps doing better than they might have done otherwise. Interestingly, Timberline Falls holds its own beating out Dragonfall. Bloodstone Fen seems to be an outlier - I would not have expected it to do so well when Bitterfrost and Draconis are both not present.
317 Responses
6.6% - Auric Basin
5.0% - Grothmar Valley
4.1% - Tangled Depths
3.8% - Verdant Brink
3.6% - Timberline Falls
3.2% - Dragonfall
3.2% - Caledon Forest
2.8% - Drizzlewood Coast
2.8% - Crystal Oasis
2.8% - Bjora Marches
2.5% - Bloodstone Fen
Quote for Auric Basin 2: “Best meta event in the game, beautiful design, interesting story, definitely the best ambient music, somehow feels like a home in the middle of a murderous jungle”

Closing Thoughts

There you have it, folks. We’ll be taking this data into account as we move forward in the Weekly Map Recap.
Looking back at the results, one of the things that surprised me was that ‘farming maps’ seem to be more popular, not less. I would have expected that the longer players spend farming a map the more they dislike it. “Familiarity breeds contempt” and all that. But it looks like the opposite is true, at least in our sample. I wonder if this would hold true for a more general “casual” audience.
We can see, based on that, that there’s definitely a strong bias in this survey towards maps that have long term, robust, and profitable reward structures. We’re going to see Arenanet battle with this as we move forward into Heart of Thorns maps and beyond.
What do you think? Do any of these results surprise you? Next week, we’ll be diving into Heart of Thorns structures in our HoT Design Primer. See you then!
submitted by Jonah_Marriner to Guildwars2 [link] [comments]


2017.09.26 13:02 that_shaman [Data-Mining] Upcoming Gemstore items from Path of Fire

Hello everybody,
As I mentioned before I'm not going to do a full PoF data-mining post any time soon, but I can give you a spoiler free list of upcoming gemstore items.
Enjoy!
Item Description
Mini Pets
[&AgGJSwEAAA==] Mini Zaishen Puppy [»]
[&AgEGTAEAAA==] Mini Maraca Choya Pinata [»]
Branded Wings
[&Cj8eAAA=] Branded Wing Backpack [»]
1773903_0245 Branded Wing Backpack and Glider Combo
1773904_0003 Branded Wing Glider
Skins
[&CkIeAAA=] Trained Choya Hammer Skin [»]
[&CkQeAAA=] Foefire Greaves (Light) [»]
[&Ci0eAAA=] Foefire Greaves (Medium) [»]
[&Ci4eAAA=] Foefire Greaves (Heavy) [»]
Waypoint unlocks
1825749_0905 Central Tyria Waypoint Unlock Package
1825755_0106 Contains a full set of the waypoint unlockers from the Waypoint Unlock Box.
1825756_0249 Waypoint Unlock Box now available!
67279 Waypoint Unlock Box
67279 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in a region of your choosing. You can only choose regions within Central Tyria.
84971 Maguuma Jungle Waypoint Unlock
84971 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in the Maguuma Region. (Brisban Wildlands, Caledon Forest, Dry Top, Metrica Province, and The Silverwastes)
85144 Orrian Shoreline Waypoint Unlock
85144 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in the Ruins of Orr Region. (Cursed Shore, Malchor's Leap, Mount Maelstrom, Sparkfly Fen, Southsun Cove, and Straits of Devastation)
85178 Ascalonian Grassland Waypoint Unlock
85178 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in the Ascalon Region. (Blazeridge Steppes, Diessa Plateau, Fields of Ruin, Fireheart Rise, Iron Marches, and Plains of Ashford)
85197 Shiverpeak Mountains Waypoint Unlock
85197 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in the Shiverpeak Mountain region. (Dredgehaunt Cliffs, Frostgorge Sound, Lornar's Pass, Snowden Drifts, Timberline Falls, and Wayfarer Foothills)
85260 Krytan Valley Waypoint Unlock
85260 Using this item will allow you to unlock all the waypoints in the Kryta Region. (Bloodtide Coast, Gendarran Fields, Harathi Hinterlands, Kessex Hills, and Queensdale)
Black Lion Keys
85078 Black Lion Key Set
85078 Double-click to receive the following items: 10 Black Lion Chest Keys and 1 Golden Black Lion Chest Key
1653802_0939 Golden Black Lion Chest Key[s]
1664244_0827 Unlocks a Black Lion Chest with a guaranteed uncommon or better item.
submitted by that_shaman to Guildwars2 [link] [comments]


2017.05.06 06:42 DennyDramatic69 I think this is a scam, maybe..idk, help please.

Guys, I don't know what to do, I think I'm embroiled in a scam, it's gotta be, anyway, the story goes that me and this girl meet on POF, she doesn't put much in her bio, except simply this: leave me your number. At least that's what's in her bio, I check it out, her profile and think gee, she seems legit, so I give her my number (HUGE MUSTAKE), then later I check her out again on POF the next day, gone, deleted, I go oh well, then the very next day, I get a text from saying hey, I reply, then we chat on about whatever and she compliments me and I do the same, then all of a sudden, she sends me a pic of her, in just regular clothes, nothing too crazy yet, then she asks me for my pic, I say okay, so I send her a pic of me. She says I'm cute, I say thank you, then all of a sudden yet again, she sends me a pic of herself, this time in a bikini, also, I'll mention something, earlier she asked me if I had a problem with age, I said yes, she then tells me that she'll be 18 in July, I say oh ok? Anyhow, after the bikini pic, I say hey, you're a minor, stop, then she goes sorry, I get so into it, she says she'll stop, I go okay. Then she goes, alright, I'll admit, I just wanna see your dick, then before I can reply, she immediately sends me a nude of her, I'm flabbergasted and stunned, now, her nude convinced me otherwise, I decide screw it and send her one, she likes it, then I ask for another nude, she says yes, she sends me another one, I like it. Then she asked me for my Facebook Messenger, I say yes (ANOTHER BIG MISTAKE, WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?) Anyhow, we add each other, chat for a little bit, then she says, BRB, her "mom" is back, I go ok, and that's it for yesterday. Now today, I text her a few questions about her, keep in mind that this was earlier today at around 11:00, noon-ish, she doesn't reply, so I wait, I leave my phone, later, say around 4 (16:00) maybe 5 (17:00), I get a reply from whom I think is her, but turns out that it's her "father", now, both the girl and the father are using different numbers, but both have the same area code, anyhow, he states in all caps that one of her "friend's father" called him to say that the girl whom I chatted with, who also btw, she's from Greenville, South Carolina, anyways, he says that she showed her friends my nudes, and in doing so, got me in trouble, he then goes on to text that her "wife" will post my nudes on single-handedly every single website there is out there, as well to all my family members as well as my employer and then later, the Sheriff, then he says to call him to apologize and offer an explanation. So I call him, he sounds white, not black, possibly in his late 30s, early 40s.... sounding both calm and upset, but I was suspicious, sort of, he then goes on to ask me why on did I do what I did, and says that I'm gonna ruin my life, I try to explain, but before I can, he reads my mind and asks me how old I am, I say I'm 19, he says" kid, what you just did, you're gonna ruin your life, you knew she was a minor, why send those pics, no, don't answer, I kinda get it, I was 19 too, silly, making mistakes, all that, but kid, what you just did was aweful, what do your parents think about this", I say that they're ashamed and distraught by the whole thing, and he replies that both he and his wife are as well, then goes on about phone data encryption and data erasing, something like that, as well as saying that he would be calling his service provider about the pics and how to wipe/remove them, then later says that there are 2 ways we can do this, 1. He reports me to the Sheriff, or 2. He says that I have pay him at least $80 a week, he asks if I have a job, I say yes, I work for my father's business, he asks me how much I make in a week, I say $280 a week, he then also states that he's going to punish his daughter and smash her phone, says then that asides from paying $80 a week, also I have to pay for his daughter's phone, making the grand total of $1,000, or else he'll report me to the Police, or everybody, please redditors, please help me internet, I don't if this is even a scam or not, plz help me.
submitted by DennyDramatic69 to Scams [link] [comments]


2016.08.23 07:19 s1anden "You've Been Flirting Again" - Andrew Durbin (Zine)

Someone requested this story earlier today. It's transcribed from the magazine. Apologies in advance for any typos/formatting errors
Images: http://imgur.com/a/Nwqxm
I parked my car in a mostly empty downtown lot, initiating the main screen on the dashboard. A scrim of light covered the windshield and enlarged a web browser with my most visited sites and applications, including Parlor, the only dating app that properly interfaces with driverless cars. I scrolled to its home page - a menu of photos and videos of possible dates - and opened my inbox to see who had messaged me since I’d last logged on that morning: seven users, almost all of them bots. One wrote to me in a garbled English: $$$ now. Red light that is yours for keeping sir Another: make or act fast as soon as you READ this. I am convincing you my friend. Another: Yours now free Euros Swiss Francs British Pound Sterling yes And Now. All if you, sir, administer your account. I deleted the messages and scrolled through the rest before stopping at one from a profile named @_Monica23: Hi. How are you? I replied: Hi. She lived in Oak Park, the other side of town, and checked no car as a conditional stat. I messaged her again: What are you up to tonight?
I never liked to drive. With the sophistication of self-driving technology and its cheap implementation in the past few years, things changed. I prefer the ease of driverless protocol with its open sense of spatiality, lying down in the backseat to watch TV while outside everything continues to slip past, eliding destination and surface into a liquid state of travel, distance flattened to a frictionless, horizontal plane, the slide toward point B. Riding in cars is easy. Romance, social-networked for idle moments mid-commute, is easier. The proliferation of dating apps - with their universal binaries of choice - followed the popularity of reality dating shows in the 2000s, where prayerful hope of a partner was regimented in network-produced pageantry, imaging interpersonal complexity as a series of recycled gestures and “challenges.” While reality TV is more or less dead, we can all play The Bachelor online. With Parlor, we can play it in our cars. Hey. Hey. Hi. How are you?
In The Bachelor, which broadcasts though almost no one watches it anymore, courtship follows the accelerated logic of the elimination game, rendering “true love” an antiquated if not totally imaginary idea, one referent in a system that has otherwise reduced all feelings to a series of staged make-outs in the hot tub and dinners on the deck overlooking the 9th hole. Like, although dating remains gently gorgeous and fragile in the presence of all those cameras, hovering over the women vying for the Bachelor’s attention, it’s easy to get lost in the mess. “Honey, you look lost,” one woman says to another, who, in becoming her target, looses face, her otherwise calm expression breaking into a nervous grimace in recognition of the accumulating losses presented by each bad date with the Bachelor, a man whose good looks and generic dress leaves him nearly faceless. A masculine composite that never coheres beyond he’s so hot, open shirt with a bit of chest hair, “razor-sharp jawline,” and yet who remains by virtue of the game an elusive object of desire. She sits up, regaining her composure, and winks at her competitor across the dinner table. I’m not lost, she things, looking into the camera.
The interior of the Bachelor’s house is always open, a spacious domestic array of luxury couches to fall on and talk, open windows, a pool, and a large kitchen. Spotlights managed by hired specialists isolate both happiness and discomfort whenever it’s felt. Everyone is seen. Regardless of the show’s disorienting arrangement, she doesn’t feel lost, rather force-marched to the denouement of ter brief, televised romance with a moderately wealthy man, vaguely sensing the path that will lead her to the finale, if he permits her. In the mean time she will never be alone with the Bachelor until he proposes to her and they depart together in the luxury driverless car that will await them at the entrance of the mansion, drone cameras poised overheard to capture the moment. She often dreams of the finale,of turning to wave to the mansion that housed them and her defeated competitors. They will offer the public a kiss in tribute to the losers when they leave. Sensing this, the car’s windows will slowly roll up and self-tint.
Hi. How are you?
I’m going out. What are you doing tonight? @_Monica23 wrote to me. The dashboard beeped when the message was received, flashing Parlor’s logo - a cursive P circled in a shimmering loop extending from its base - on the windshield.
Nothing, I responded. U?
Oh yah? No plans on a Thursday?? Lol.
:(
Want to meet up? Come to this party. It’s called Shush. It’s this girl Abhor’s party. It’s on the north side. Belmont Avenue area. At Shore Club if u look it up.
k.
I leaned my head against the driver’s window and fiddled with the car’s web interface as it located a parking spot outside the Shore Club. I swiped to Parlor and found @_Monica23. Her profile pic featured her sitting next to friends in the grass in a park, everyone’s faces blurred except hers. A dot beside her name indicated that she was online. Hey, I wrote. I’m here. I waited a few minutes for her to respond. No response. Finally, the dot went red: she was offline.
The car found a parking lot a block away from the Shore Club and directed itself to a narrow spot at the far end, between a motorcycle and an Audi. It eased itself in between them, adjusting itself with surgical precision as it crept forward. When it stopped, the car shut itself off. I exited into the chill October air and the door locked behind me. I headed for the entrance of the lot, where a few people stood nearby, talking and smoking: “It’s OK, yah,” one said. “You should check it out. I mean, it’s definitely fun.”
A huge crowd had gathered at the entrance of the Shore Club, which was guarded by a bulky man who’d folded his arms in seemingly total indifference to the urgent flurry before him. He didn’t speak except to occasionally shout that everyone needed to stay in line and not linger outside the bounds of the rope. People pushed to get to him and the doorwoman to insist that they were on the list, but he ignored them, resolutely focused on a wall of graffiti across the street. When anyone pushed the limit of the rope he’d break his concentration to yell that they could step back or leave, his frustration so rehearsed it seemed deprived of any real anger, just canned words that had been paired down to a basic, agitated command that would be universally understood: “Get the fuck back.” I thought maybe he was ready for the night to be over. A tattoo of a drone swaddled in snakes and roses threaded up his right arm, beginning at his wrist and stopping just at his deltoid. The drone had been anthropomorphized with a screaming face, its eyes squeezed shut as though it were hurling forward at full speed toward its target. His left arm was unmarked. A small woman with a purple visor and gold sunglasses stood beside him, checking the list. She was turning almost everyone away, impatiently repeating herself, “No, no, please leave the line,” to everyone who told her there was a mistake.
I put you on the list, @_Monica23 had written to me. If you can’t get in, just call. I’ll be inside.
I told the woman my name. She paused to check her tablet, scrolling through the names before she looked up. “Sure, go in,” she said, waving me through.
Inside, the air heaved under the sweaty density of bodies jostling toward the coat check, the bar, the dance floor, and the edges of the room, where plastic cushioned seating shielded people against the larger crowd. I headed for the dance floor, back to a DJ booth where Abhor - whom I’d seen at other parties in Chicago - stood encased in a clutch of tranquilized club kids. Monica would be with her, I thought. In the shadows, Abhor seemed like half a machine, her figure cut by an angular red dress with a tremendous, poppy red hood slung back over her shoulders. Her right arm had been tattooed all black. Nothing about her look seemed improvisational, an accident of simply trying things out. Rather, she appeared to have militantly executed every detail, from the way the hood fell onto her back to the loose hairs that stuck out of the black bob that sat on her otherwise shaved head. She centered the room, the axis for a wavering orbit of dancers. She was talking to a boy with his shirt, off, his chest covered with blue paint. I decided against going up to her.
I searched for Monica, but didn’t recognize any faces except Abhor’s. The Shore Club’s few overhead lights crisscrossed the room, briefly catching people as they moved and conjoined together. Except for those few seconds, everyone remained in the dark. The music vibrated the floor and walls the closer I neared the back. No one I passed talked - or screamed - to one another except in the corners, where little groups hovered over bottle service, kissing and leaning in to gossip or flirt or share drugs. The lit tips of electronic cigarettes cut the smoke fog machines had pumped in to the room. It was 3:30am: everything had entered an endless flux that seemed to have exempted me from it, isolating me as though I were present and surrounded, but trapped alone behind glass, a camera scanning a crowd. I looked around, embarrassed that I didn’t really know anyone here. I got in line for a drink at the bar near the back. It was installed under a large metal cross with the wod Shush sculpted in neon red into it.
A girl split the line open and grabbed my arm, pulling me toward her. She wore a black tank top with jeans. “Hey,” she said, her head tilting to the side, “I think you’re looking for me. I’m Monica. Are you waiting for a drink?”
I nodded. “Oh, hi. Yes…”
She glanced at the line and shook her head, playfully annoyed that I’d even thought to come here, to the most crowded bar in the club. “Oh, no, don’t.” She shook her head and held up a drink. “Here - have mine. I just got it. Let’s go in the back. We can sit behind my friend Abhor - there’s a booth.” She stopped. “You look so funny,” she said.
“How so?” I put my hand in my hair and pushed it back. I’d slicked my hair back and worse all black sportswear, like almost everyone else. Did I look weird?
“You look so serious, like you’re not having any fun.”
I made a smile, but I knew it had come off as a grimace. She waved it away. “Don’t worry, you look fine.”
She led me to the back, sliding through the sweaty crowd while I struggled to keep up. When we got to Abhor’s booth she cleared away a few people to make room for us. We sat for thirty minutes, talking mostly about the party in the absence of anything else to say, only touching once on her life when she mentioned she’d just moved into a new building with a pool on the roof, which felt like conversation enough anyways, until even our secluded part of the room swelled with people and we were pushed up against the wall, onto the to pof the couch, where we were wedged in together with some of Monica’s friends. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her I programmed websites but that I’d just left grad school without completing a degree. She asked if I enjoyed programming, and I told her I didn’t, that I wanted to do something else, maybe even leave Chicago for New York. “Ah,” she said, and turned away to say hello to a friend who’d tapped her shoulder.
I watched Abhor from across the room as she smiled and greeted everyone who passed her. She hugged them, kissing each cheek once, but remained otherwise stationary, fixed in place near the DJ. I’d never seen a promoter stand so still as her. “It’s never usually this crowded,” Monica said. “But it’s Thursday, I guess. Maybe let’s leave?”
“Already?”
Parlor - or any of my apps - doesn’t enact a familiarity so quickly as it does a connection between user profiles, an immediate link between clicks of like and dislike, comment and silence, mainlined to a messaging system that condenses language to its minimum: What r u doin rn? U want to hang out? I’m actually never doing anything. It seldom changes. Parlor possesses of itself a sense of displacement that we think we must turn away form, back to real life, but don’t. After thirty minutes I didn’t know if I wanted to go. Outside probably wouldn’t differ so much from the inside. “I’m not sure. Where would we go?”
“Let’s just drive,” Monica said to me. “Can you drive? Or did you cab?” She set down her drink on a ledge. “I can’t.”
“No, I can’t either, but I have a driverless.”
“Oh, amazing! I’ve never been in one, actually. I hear they are so insane.”
“You haven’t? How is that even possible? It’s great,” I said. “Sure, let’s go.”
She jumped up. “Bye,” she said to Abhor. “Have a good night.” Abhor gave her a hug and nodded at me. I gave her a small, awkward wave.
“I’m not lost,” she says to herself, getting up from the table. She refuses to accept the situation of her desires as they play out at dinner, which has been set somewhat clumsily for them by a catering company that the show regularly hires. This is not really life, she thinks, though she also thinks she can’t define “life,” the totality of experiences that constitutes that feeling that things are living, going on, being, herself included, televised, untelevised, the whole telepathic sense of her image as it is distributed throughout the world, whatever “the world” itself might be. Every thought feels stupid. This feels stupid. She reaches over a plate of cauliflower for the wine, but stops, pausing a moment before retracting her hand. She feels like she’s had enough. She decides she should decline the rose (the award the Bachelor bestows on those who are not eliminated, thereby permitting them to move on the the next level) that is hers should he decide to give it to her. She will say goodbye to the other contestants, then ascend the stairs as the camera bobbing above her floats away, its eye refocusing elsewhere on the room, allowing her to pass off screen.
“I’m just trying to keep it real,” The Bachelor says after the show cuts to an interview with him in his bedroom. “I just want to forget everything, the cameras, the show. Keep it real, you know, with the girls. I just want to be sure I’ve selected the right woman. That’s the only thing that matters to me.”
There is no future determined by these coordinates, extrapolated from those bodies flung into it, but this felt most true within the car as it sped toward the dim horizon, wherever that may have been situated in time.
After leaving the Shore Club, we raced through town, or what seemed like town, what could have been Chicago or its suburban outskirts, I couldn’t tell, but once we hit 100 mph I was sure we had left the city’s limits, following the network of highways that intertwined until all become country, the flat geometry of fields and the machines that till them. The shapes of the buildings, houses, and the skyline disintegrated into indefinite shards of light and darkness that collaged into a glowing patchwork until eventually even that broke up and we slipped into a permanent fog broken only by the occasional streaks of other cars that passed us. “I’m not telling you to speed,” Monica shouted, “I’m just telling you I think we could be going faster.” We had been driving for twenty minutes, speeding up at her insistence. She explained she wanted to see what driverless could do under real pressure.
“Come on, faster,” she repeated, looking out the window. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to the car or to me. I wasn’t sure if the difference between the three of us even mattered. I reached out to touch her shoulder, but she pulled back. I felt dizzy, a little sick as the car vibrated under the engine’s stress. It shuddered as though it were beginning to break apart, shedding itself of its plastic shell as we sped forward. She turned up the music.
I directed the car to increase its speed. “Maximum limit reached,” it replied. The dashboard buzzed as the speedometer strobe-lit to indicate that we were going as fast as legally permitted in the state of Illinois. “Any further acceleration would be a violation of Illinois state law, specifically that limit which was set forth by the Illinois state legislature on January 25…” I silenced the car.
“Faster,” Monica shot back.
The fog melted into stark black. We couldn’t see anything but a faint glow out the rear window that I thought must be Chicago. I didn’t want to go back and wondered if it was even there. Forward, everything reversed into beginning: Monica seemed unreal, hallucinated into the car by the car, a reality abridged by fantasy accelerated to the transcendence of the difference between the two. I shouldn’t have let the shore Club. Feelings fade so quickly. We overlapped, sliding onto the pleather seats of the car, slowly becoming gauzy, bodiless subjects bobbing against the ceiling like helium balloons. I tried not to throw up.
Monica turned to me and clapped her hands. “This is what I’m talking about.” I asked her what she was talking about. “The faces at the party,” she said, “circulating in the network, all of them linked together in off-site data storage centers somewhere outside of town, each profile centered in the delay between hi and hi back. Like, hello, this is yours. Just respond.”
“I don’t get it,” I said.
She went to roll down the passenger window. I grabbed her hand. “Don’t. You’ll ruin it.”
She bit her lower lip. In the car, she seemed to have separated herself from herself, and had begun to drift throughout the cabin of the car.
Say nothing of you, us, me, him, her.” She counted off the pronouns on her fingers. “The days are long, evening longer. Without interval. Can we say that? It doesn’t seem a total collapse, does it, even if I have been removed to a car and refuse to declare any place elsewhere it home. I’m not interested in goodbye. To post an update, to update oneself, to post-, as in the crisis of, is to accept these conditions as ours: glycerol in the sand, contradictory iMessages, mesmerized by the approaching headlights. I will not miss any moment in the past or hope to reestablish it in some moment in the past or hope to reestablish it in some future, yours or mine. We know it won’t come but it is sometimes necessary (sometimes a necessary feeling) to assert a moment maybe even a parenthesis of being between things, that will depart from earlier notions of time - and continuity.”
We made eye contact. The imperative remained: “Drive,” she said, “even if you don’t understand me.”
Light streaked the window again. I grew dizzier, split from Monica and the vehicle, lost in various dreams of common space; metropolitan haze at 5am, which might be described as “liquid” or “hydrous,” two words that more or less say the same thing according to my car’s dictionary. Driverless, sunless: urgency well after midnight never changes. We move, even if the precious, but persistent nostalgias of manual over automatic don’t shield us against the machinic impulse to do nothing, and repeat nothing again and again. It only serves to make its hierarchy more obscure. I am in it. She is in it. I turned to Monica to tell her all this but she was looking out the window again, pressing her face to the glass.
I wanted to direct my car to her apartment, which I imagined was in one of the new skyscrapers downtown. The pool she mentioned would be on the roof, in view of the skyline and the few stars that shone through the city light. We would strip off our clothes and jump into the water, despite the cold, swimming about for hours. We wouldn’t do anything, just float, paddling a little with our hands and feet, careful not to break the stillness of the water. The moon would be nearly full.
We made out in the back seat. She put her hand to my face and pinched my cheeks, pushing my face away from hers. “Will it crash?” she asked.
I turned to look out the window. “Of course not,” I said. The entire frame of the car began to shake violently.
The car beeped as the dashboard flashed an alert: “Warning.” “Warning,” it repeated, bringing up the main interface to indicate that the car’s battery had been nearly depleted. The windows of the car suddenly filled with the flashing alarm icon. The car’s battery was less than 5% and falling: “Program will terminate in five seconds,” it said, at which point a second countdown started. At 2%, the car initiated its shutdown. The images of the speeding highway melted into a glitchy collage before the car went dark and the windows returned to the normal view rather than the video feed, opening to the parking lot near the club. The simulation had ended. The air conditioner and speakers stopped.
I moved up to the front of the car and pressed the on button a few times. Nothing. I turned to Monica. “It’s dead for sure.”
“What?” she said. “What happened?” She stared at me, almost in anger.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t understand. Did the car die? Where are we?”
“We’re...The program died. We’re still at the Shore Club.” I had already explained to her that a driverless can’t go very fast, but it can simulate speed.
She sighed. We’d sobered up. “I see, I see. So it’s almost like a ride.” She ran her hand through her tousled hair. “I see,” she said, again. “I bet watching TV like that is fun.”
“Really fun,” I said. “Especially the new shows, the ones they shoot with multiple cameras. It’s almost like you’re there.”
“It felt really real.”
“Yeah, That happens to a lot of people when try it for the first time. The simulation goes long enough that it just feels like real life, and you kind of slip into it.”
She nodded, a bit unconvinced. The first time I’d tried it I felt the same way. I’d used the program to imagine driving through the desert at night at 135mph. When the car’s feed ended to reveal my driveway in Chicago I felt like a dream had just begun, the real a dull simulation of my other life.
“Will you get home?” she asked.
“I can call a cab,” I said, “and just...I don’t know, have it charged in the morning. You?”
“Oh, I’m fine.” She opened the passenger door to exist and got out, shakily at first, sticking her head back in to grin at me. “Ok, sure. Have a good night,” she said. “Text me tomorrow?”
The Bachelor enters the pool alone. He sticks his index finger in the water to test the temperature. Though it’s chillier than he’d hoped, he decided it’s warm enough and leaps in to find that it isn’t so cold after all, actually, but rather warm, as warm as any body, and so he stays down and holds his breath, taking the moment to break from the competition and the cameras. He can go for thirty seconds before he has to come up. He tries again, this time reaching thirty-three seconds. He surfaces again, takes in a mouthful of air, and dives down, swimming to the bottom of the deep end where he paddles to keep himself close to the pool’s floor. He counts forty seconds, then pushes himself to forty-five before coming up once more. He throws his head back and looks around him, wiping the water from his eyes: the contestants have left the house and are gathered around to watch him, clapping and calling for him to join them for drinks on the veranda. “Come out of the pool,” one of the women yells. A few laugh and coo at him. He lowers his head and sucks in a mouthful of water. “Come out!” another possible wife says. He says nothing and the women fall silent for a moment. They wait for him to answer them. Finally, he spits out a jet of water at her. Everyone begins to scream with laughter. He laps the pool, splashing the women as some of them leap in and others step back to get out of the way. A few of the possible wives fall back onto the wet grass, laughing as their glasses of wine spill out to the ground. The camera crew rushes out of the house to capture them.
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