Is there a need to fear an Apocalypse if we all end up being immortal robots? RAJEN, asks you to explore the city, but it also gets you to question what it means to be human.
Story Luck is inviting you! and all your friends in and around Chicago to participate in Robot Apocalypse: Journey to the End of the Night! The game is going down Oct. 4th and starts at the Adler Planetarium. This game is for the community to enjoy with peers and neighbors. as well as keeping their humanity, hopefully. We had a great time running together in the May Journey and can’t wait to see you all later this year!
To kick off our Oct. 4th announcement, we are publishing a short story by Tom Spytek. Like many of our best Story Luck friends we met Tom through email first. “What exactly do you do?” Is a pretty common question. I think Tom does a pretty good job of explaining how volunteering for a small not for profit can be confusing, exciting, and a lot of fun.
The Full Journey: A Reflection on RAJEN and the Manning of a Checkpoint
The idea of RAJEN has been an obsession of mine ever since that night when I first applied for a volunteer position for “Robot Apocalypse: Journey to the End of the Night” on volunteermatch.org. Of course, anyone who has played this game finds trouble in describing it as something other than amazing, even life-changing. The Journey’s simple concept, immense playing field, and hearty group of players endears themselves to anyone who hears of the game, much less plays it. But the Journey is more than a game. It is a testament to the meaningful stories we can create and the questions we can answer when we make the Journey.
I realized this the first time I ever participated in RAJEN. Mind that my first experience with Journey did not involve me running the race. Instead, I organized one of the checkpoints. Now, while retrospectively it was a deeply meaningful experience. During the actual event, however, it was terrifying. As the fifth checkpoint, my friends and I waited long hours in the gathering dark for some sign that this whole Journey thing was a real event and not a scheme to rob us dry. Incidentally, we all developed an innate mistrust of blue-haired men during those first uneventful hours.
Then the runners came. I cannot describe how exhilarating that moment was. All of our planning and patience had paid off. We were not being scammed! And, above all, we could finally go to work.
Those of you who were in the 2012 RAJEN may remember my friends and I, if not as the fifth checkpoint then as the mixed science/militia group. The task we put to every human, robot, and otherwise that passed us by was simple: take the Voight-Kampff Test from Bladerunner and prove your humanity. You can take the test yourselves to get a feel for what the runners had to go through:
I was a lot younger then and had been reading The Lord of the Rings at the time. But you get the idea.
Anyway, we felt that a simple multiple choice test was not enough. On the back was one final task: take thirty seconds and draw your conception of humanity. This was the interesting bit. As you might imagine, the results were…astonishing. For the most part, the drawings were collectively a poorly illustrated treatise on human reproduction. But among the crudely drawn breasts was a peace sign. Amid the plentiful phalluses was the image of the earth, finite and lonely. Yet more abundant than all were the hearts. All shapes and sizes, broken and whole—hearts abounded.
Thirty seconds. That is all we gave. Yet we were given so much more. For awhile I have since been on two other Journeys and smile at the adventures I had while running, I hold this experience of organizing a checkpoint above all of my other Journey experiences. For when you run the race and play the game, you get to meet new friends, explore the city and live out an epic adventure. But when you are the one behind the checkpoint, you see people. You have a unique opportunity to see how people think, to have your questions about our little sliver of society answered. Mine was simple: How do you see humanity? Others are far more profound: What would you do to keep on the Journey? Would you pretend to give birth? Would you slaughter an egg you have carried and protected and fretted over since checkpoint one? RAJEN is grounded on the principle that the best experiences in life are those that tell good stories. The story told in running is obvious: it is exploration and scheming and adventure. But the story told from the checkpoints is one of ideas. It is the sum of meeting several hundred people and seeing their responses to the strange and unusual. It is also the story of power, of steering the course of another’s thinking for a few moments; and reaping the immense benefits.
However, like I said, only in looking back do I realize what exactly I was doing during that first Journey. Running a checkpoint is a lot of waiting while other rush. It is giving tests while other take them. But it is also about calmly observing while others race and being part of a story while others fear for their lives. That is one thing I forgot to mention. While everything I said applies to any checkpoint of any Journey, RAJEN is something special. It is a Robot Apocalypse. That carries with it a great deal of interesting personalities and imaginative fuel. For even if the notions of philosophical reflections and power I mentioned above are not appealing, there is the simple joy of being someone you are not for a night. As I had just finished reading I,Robot, I had the pleasure of being a mad scientist ranting about the flaws of positronic brains for six hours. My friends deeply immersed themselves in the roles of die-hard American mercenaries toting deadly Nerf blasters. Who would you become if given the chance? A survivor, an engineer, a severely delusional human who believes that acting like a robot will trick them into sparing you?
Something like RAJEN is made incredible by people taking it seriously and investing in the experience. Runners flee for their lives, checkpoints create environments that maintain the illusion of the story. With essentially nothing, we create something miraculous. Who would refuse such an opportunity to embark on such a Journey?
Besides, you get to work with Dan. As it turns out, blue-haired men can indeed be trusted.