Chapter no 30

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Sam’s avatar, Mayor Mazer, was the first person who greeted a new visitor to Mapletown. He was styled like a grunge-era rock star—ripped blue jeans, a red plaid shirt, Doc Martens—and meant to evoke plainspoken, folksy icons like Jiminy Cricket, Andy Griffith, Woody Guthrie. Sam didn’t use a cane anymore, but he gave Mayor Mazer a cane—a gnarled wooden staff— and Mayor Mazer had also been programmed to have Sam’s slight limp. The Samatar had Sam’s glasses (thick, black frames) and mustache (chevron shaped). No one remembered whether Mayor Mazer or Sam had grown the mustache first.

“Welcome, friend, I’m Mayor Mazer,” the Samatar introduced himself. “You must be new here. We’ve got our problems like everywhere else, but Mapletown’s a fine little burg, once you get to know it. I’ve lived here my whole life, I should know. Moving is hard. Here’s five thousand Maplebucks to get you started. My advice to you would be to walk around. The foliage in the Magical Valley is beautiful this time of year. And our shopping district is small for now, but you’ll find most anything you need there. I’m fond of our artisanal cheeses. Greet a couple of your new neighbors while you’re moseying about. It’s truffle season, so keep your eyes out. The super-rare rainbow truffle fetches a high price if you can manage to get your hands on one. Everyone’s real friendly here. If you run into any problems, come back and see me. You can always find me at Mapletown City Hall.”

By 2009, Mayor Mazer ranked number seven (in between the Serta Counting Sheep and the Coca-Cola polar bears) on an AdWeek list of most recognizable branded characters of the new millennium. The description of Mayor Mazer read: “We debated about whether to add Mayor Mazer to this

list. A cross between game character and branded character, the little hipster mayor of the little hipster town (Portland? Silver Lake? Park Slope? Where the hell is Mapletown anyway?) ultimately makes the list because he’s been on about a million Etsy products, and isn’t he the mayor everyone wishes they had? Guns are verboten; socialism rules; gameplay rewards conservation (try chopping down too many maple trees without replanting); same-sex marriage was legal in M-town way before it was in the U.S. Mapletown is probably the first MMORPG your mom played, and that’s thanks in large part to the branding of Mayor Mazer. He’s friendly, he’s hip, he knows the best places to buy pottery in Mapletown and how to get that fiddle leaf fig tree to grow in your living room. Sure, he’s mining your data like everyone else, but he’s one of the good guys, right? Love him or hate him, there are very few characters or brands that have become more associated with a utopian vision of Americans online than Mayor Mazer.”

But this would come later.

Two months after its launch, more than a quarter of a million people had set up accounts at Mapleworld, and the servers routinely overloaded. When the site crashed, a screen with the Samatar would come up: Looks like the weather’s bad in Mapletown. Grab your umbrellas, and we’ll be back real soon. It wasn’t long before fan-generated “When Mayor Mazer tells you the weather’s bad in Mapletown…” graphics spread across the internet as a meme for expressing tedium and frustration.

Sam, Sadie, and Marx had debated whether it was the right time for a game as “soft” as Mapleworld. As it turned out, in the late fall of 2001, Mapleworld was exactly what people craved. A virtual world that was better governed, kinder, and more understandable than their own.

On or about the tenth anniversary of Mapleworld’s launch, Sam gave a TED Talk titled “The Possibility of Utopia in Virtual Worlds.”

“Despite everything that transpired at Unfair Games on December 4th, 2005, and despite evidence to the contrary, it is not an inevitability that we should be our worst selves behind the mask of an avatar. What I believe to my very core,” he concluded, “is that virtual worlds can be better than the actual world. They can be more moral, more just, more progressive, more

empathetic, and more accommodating of difference. And if they can be, shouldn’t they be?”

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