The Russian Dolls: A Short Science Fiction Story by Extropia DaSilva

The real fun began when your character was taken out of the initial design stage and placed into the world proper. One did not control WeePeeple directly. Instead, each character acted autonomously, driven by basic needs such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, restlessness, need for companionship (or solitude). On top of that, each character had personality traits, modelled on the ‘Big Five’ (extroversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism) and, depending on the settings of these underlying traits, your character could be a companionable, sociable type (or introverted and reserved); friendly, empathetic and warm (or suspicious and egocentric). All kinds of personality types that fell between these extremes were possible.

Although Emily did not control her character directly, she did have an indirect influence over his life. Most importantly, it was she who had to design and build a home for him to live in, and fill it with furnishings, appliances and whatever else she considered might be necessary. In a very real sense, every design decision a player took affected the development of the character. Walt Witworth once said, ‘a child went forth every day/ and the first object he looked upon, that object he became’. This was literally true for WeePeeple. Adam’s AI was primarily concerned with path finding — being able to navigate his way around any room and any obstacle without getting stuck or confused. All other abilities that he acquired as time went by were actually scripts embedded into every object. When Emily bought him a cheap microwave oven, the instructions contained within it directed Adam, so that when his hunger drive was sufficiently high, he would seemingly operate the appliance as if he knew how to microwave a meal. When his levels of fatigue were high, his bed told him how to turn down the sheets, lay down, and sleep. Every design decision that Emily made — what color to paint his living room wall, what flowers to set upon his kitchen table — affected Adam’s state-of-mind, shaping his personality.

Since there was no set goal in WeePeeple, there was no proper way to play it. It was not so much a game with fixed rules, more like a sandbox, a toyset that encouraged experimentation. People had devised their own games; their own reasons for playing. Some people tried to create ‘icons’. In other words, they designed their character to look as much like a famous person as possible, and then set about creating a living space that would direct their evolving personality traits into becoming just like the person they were meant to be. Other people seemed to enjoy killing their character, and routinely posted online videos of ever-more complex Rube Goldberg contraptions of goldfish bowls and ironing boards and knife blocks and dinner plates and cricket balls set up in such a way that the hapless character would set off a lethal chain reaction as soon as his or her need to use the toilet triggered a familiar routine.

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