Pop the stack

Some programming languages have a concept called a “stack,” which is sort of like a stack of trays in a cafeteria. Each “tray” represents a value; you can “push” values onto the stack or “pop” them off. This is handy for a number of reasons, but the programmer has to keep careful track of what’s at the top of the stack–that is, how many times he’s pushed and popped. Push too much stuff on, and you’ve got a problem, because the computer only sets aside a certain amount of space for the stack.

A few recent items leave me feeling as if we’ve been pushing the stack on reality too much and risk overloading it.

  • The Onion reports on an “alternate reality TV show,” a brilliant idea that, as usual, captures something going on in the zeitgeist.
  • A hilarious review of non-existent games in Wired mentions Maximum Gamer:

    In this role-playing game, you are Todd Kellman, a world-class cyberathlete from the US. (Japanese and European versions are pending.) Gamers experience all the thrills of sitting in front of a computer screen as Kellman sits in front of his computer screen controlling the destiny of a fully rendered, computer-generated nerd sitting in front of a computer screen. This one was really popular, attracting crowds of attendees waiting for a chance to play. Or to watch somebody play. Or to watch somebody watch somebody play.

  • David Cronenberg played a character out of a David Cronenberg movie on Alias. David Cronenberg is the master of pushing and popping the reality stack so many times you get dizzy (cf Videodrome, Existenz).
  • OK. So that’s all in fun. Then this morning, via an article linked in BoingBoing, I learned about There. There is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). This is not like most such games, like Everquest. Rather than going around fighting and accumulating treasure, in There, you spend real money to acquire fake money, so that you can go fake shopping. As the article puts it, “Why go There when it looks just like here?”

In short, I think we collectively may need to get out more [he wrote, while sitting at his computer]

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