In one of his numerous essays, I think it is one on 9/11, Baudrillard imagines what happens to the virtual technologies that monitor a fighter pilot’s status in the event of a fatal crash. The suddenness of the pilot’s death may preceed by few instants the register in status change by his virtual monitors. Baudrillard, agast and tickled at the same time, as usual, notes that in this situation the virtual outlives the actual, the simulation becomes the pilot’s last reality.
Yesterday Sean Taylor, safety for the Washington Redskins, died after being shot in the leg on Monday. Taylor’s death is both sad and scary [he was apparently shot in his house during the second break-in in the last week]. But let’s bracket that to talk, somewhat morbidly about his simulacra, namely his Madden 2008 counterpart. You can see Taylor’s surviving virtual self in this video.
I play a good bit of Madden, have since I first started gaming. I often pick fantasy rosters to play with, often take Sean Taylor with my first few selections. He is in fact currently on my team. Now, he is dead. So when I play Madden tonight, and select “Sean Taylor,” what am I playing with? Of course the answer is I am playing with selection of algorithm that has been named “Sean Taylor,” written to resemble in play style and appearence a real life player who is now deceased. For game play, it shouldn’t matter that Taylor is dead. His representation bears little connection to him, certainly no traditional indexicality, nothing like Baudrillard’s poor pilot. Even so, it does matter. It is creepy, somehow.
I suppose it has something to do with a desire, against all reason and experience to the contrary, for Madden to be a simulation experience. I’ve never liked playing with players that don’t play in real life. I get passionate about updated rosters and often complain that EA isn’t even trying to keep up to date. When they do, if ever, get around to updating the rosters, Taylor’s avatar will disappear. His likeness will remain on my game disk, which declares right on the box “Rosters accurate as of” such and such date. Yet, on the ‘real’ roster, Taylor will now be absent. And I have to draft a new team or engage the mark of Taylor’s absense every game.
It is not even the first time this has happened. Darrent Williams was killed when shot in his car last year and I vaguely remember him disappearing from updated rosters. Avatars do get taken out of the game or magically appear every so often for a variety of reasons. Michael Vick is gone; Ricky Williams will likely appear. It is not an uncommon occurance. Taylor’s passing just has me thinking about the situation and wondering what it is that bonds blood and flesh Taylor now gone to algorithm and electric Taylor everlasting.