A long time ago I suggested that we all Try Having a Little Fun Sometime, that we can all make something fun simply by making a game out of it – that you can take the ordinary and everyday tasks of your life, add a little zest, a dash of whimsy, a half an ounce of excitement and whammo!, you have a game again rather than a boring task to complete.
I acquired an iPhone a while ago, much to my personal glee. I am officially an Apple fan, with five apple products in the house now – though I blame my father for at least three and maybe four of them, he’s a bad influence. The iPhone is far more portable than my iPad, and I love that it is now my defacto camera for random shots, my phone, bus route checker and music player. One of the apps that I grabbed, and one that I had been eagerly awaiting, is Zombies, Run! This app is exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote that old post – a little bit of fun that encourages us to get out and do something sort of humdrum again. The premise is pretty straightforward, you run while listening to your music, and it tells you a story as you do – a story which you are a part of as 'Runner Five'. It’s a blast. I’ve had it for two days and have already put an extra 7.5 kms onto my sneakers. Now that doesn’t seem like much at all to most runners, but for me those are huge numbers – I would have spent that hour and a half sitting on my butt watching movies and eating chips. Instead I was out running (well, walking mostly, but at a fast pace, with occasional bursts of panicked speed) and enjoying it. Maybe it was the thought of leveling up (which you do, sort of), maybe the thought of increasing the size of my virtual zombie free base, maybe just the idea that I was actually playing a zombie game. But the why doesn’t really matter – the fact remains that I was out getting some great exercise in fresh air, and I was loving it. And I hate running, always have. But I had a blast two days in a row, and I am looking forward to my run tomorrow.
My enjoyment of this app, and by extension my iPhone, demonstrates something that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about lately – the role of technology in making our lives better. I am not just talking about the fleeting enjoyment of life that games and the like can bring – though computer games are a blast. I am talking about the way in which technology has improved the lives of millions of people (some more than others of course) through connecting people across vast distances. The way that the blind can see (sure, its rudimentary now, but it won’t be long until we have visual prosthetics) though technology. The way that the deaf can participate fully in a conversation with a group of people via an iPad app. The way that we can communicate (often badly) in ways that we have never had access to before, and the way that we can connect with each other in ways that were unheard of a decade ago.
The internet has changed the way we relate to each other as people. It brings out the worst in people sometimes, but it unites people in a way that nothing else ever has. The success of some recent upheavals in the Middle East have been largely credited to the average citizen’s ability to communicate quickly and easily through things like Facebook and using smart phones. The Occupy movement was (is?) largely possible due to its members ability to stay connected with each other. The mis-steps (probably too light a word, but I am not here to rant about that today) of law enforcement officers is coming to light, and being proven, because of smart phone cameras. If Google has its way (and it usually does) we’ll soon be able to let the cars do the driving, which will save millions of lives – 93% of all accidents are directly attributable to human error. Medical technologies are moving faster than we can track them. A NASA scientist has patented a carbon nanotube containing a tiny pharmacy with the capability to detect when and what is needed and administer the appropriate substance – all in a device no larger than a pencil lead whose insertion into the human body will be a ten minute procedure at your doctor’s office. 3D printers are already “printing” human organs, and the development of techno-organic materials the human body is capable of using without any chance of rejection is proceeding at an incredible pace. This will one day eliminate the need for a donor for many (all?) organs for those who need this life saving surgery.
But none of that is why I came here tonight. No, tonight I came here to tell you that the phrase “I shit my pants and run away” (a phrase my group of friends here in Halifax loves to remember for reasons which are too lengthy to go into here) has taken on a new meaning. Tonight, running along a deserted stretch of Nova Scotia highway and playing Zombies, Run! I got a hell of a cardio work out. Not directly because of the running, but rather on account of the game itself, and its collusion with Mother Nature.
As I crested a slight rise, the game cut in, with my guide yelling out “Damn, where did they come from? I’ve never seen them move that fast, run, RUN!”. At that exact moment, a deer jumped out of the brush at the side of the road. I shit my pants and ran away.