Jumper, the first novel of Steven Gould, follows a teenager, David Rice, who lives with an abusive, alcoholic father. David discovers the ability to teleport out of his difficult home situation. The novel explores teleportation as a means of escape, and as David learns and grows, he teleports his way to love and wealth, and decides to use his new powers to reconnect with his missing mother. He succeeds in reconnecting with her, but she is later killed in a terrorist attack. By the novel’s end, David comes to understand that while he can escape from certain circumstances, other features of his life, namely loss, cannot be escaped or avoided. David ultimately seeks therapy in order to learn how to accept this fact.

Our contemporary consumer reality so far lacks teleportation as an available option; however, the next best attempts at bilocation or omnipresence involve our use of technology. Social networks, text messaging, Skype and smartphones allow us to communicate, become close or involved with many friends, lovers, and groups all over the world. Yelp, Eventbrite, and various reviewing and event platforms allow us to carefully manage our day-to-day experiences and choose where we would like to end up, and perhaps what kind of person we would like to be. Consumers have access to an abundance of information, blogs and articles, expanding our conceptions of what is possible. On paper, it is possible to experience many more realities than ever before.

Teleportation is an effective metaphor for our current assortment of social technologies; teleportation is a result or fulfillment of the desire to be in multiple places at once. In thinking of teleportation as an extension of current technological attempts to be omnipresent, I want to design a choose-your-own-adventure style turn-based game that explores the limits of teleportation, and thus the limits of our current technological consumer environment as a means to escape certain inevitabilities of being human.

The protagonist of Jumper, David, uses teleportation as a means of escape: from his abusive father, from the pain of losing his mother, from the helplessness of being a young adult. In my interactive experience, teleportation can be initially viewed as an attempt to run to positive experiences, or ‘correct’ choices, as opposed to attempts to run away from negative experiences. However, through this interactive experience, I would like to challenge this view and uncover the desire to, through teleportation,(or, in our society, through social technology and attempts at omnipresence,) escape from being finite, from missing out on precious experiences, from only being able to live one life.

The interactive experience begins as a turn-based game. There are ten scenarios that a player can choose to attend to in a pretend version of the United States. Each turn, time advances and each of the ten scenarios progresses along a storyline. The player chooses to attend to one situation per turn by teleporting to the location of the event. Each turn, nine other scenarios unfold based on the players’ choice of attention or destination of choice. For example, when the game begins, a player’s brother has a child in California, allowing the player the option to teleport there to spend time with the child. While the player is in California, a now-lonely friend in New York begins contemplating a move back home to Columbus, Ohio. The next turn, the player can return to New York to help assuage his friend’s loneliness, but cannot attend to the nine other scenarios simultaneously. In the above example, each turn spent with the player’s nephew in California makes the player’s nephew grow more and more attached to the player, uncovering dialogue such as “Mom, can Uncle/Aunt (your name) come over for dinner again? We can watch Star Wars and make snacks!” Meanwhile, the player, in repeatedly choosing to remain in California, must watch the friend in New York grow lonelier and lonelier each turn, uncovering dialogue such as “”I can do this. I can do this. Get hobby, exercise, one new weekend outing. I can do this,” revealing the internal states of characters in other scenarios.

The game follows a choose-your-own adventure format in that each choice opens a new set of choices as a result of the passing of time and action or inaction. The game will end after a certain amount of turns, leaving players to examine the lives they have created. Did the player devote enough teleportation choices to becoming an expert at a career or hobby? If so, what didn’t the player get to do? Where are the people the player chose not to date? What happens to the friends that were lost? As a result, I am hopeful that the game can be replayed over and over again, leaving a player with a full representation and examination of all the choices not made in a life, and an understanding of the futility of trying to be in multiple places at once in an attempt to somehow beat time, even with technology that does not yet exist.

For the next iteration of this project, I will construct the scenarios and characters in ten different locations, and the different permutations of scenarios that follow with each teleportation choice that is made. I am envisioning a card game; if each location is assigned a different color scheme, a player can begin the game by choosing to which location, and color, the player wishes to teleport. For example, a player chooses to teleport to New York, color coded purple, to attend graduate school. Purple cards are turned over onto every location on a game board or mat, advancing the game’s clock by one. The player can now examine the various available options and choose to stay in New York, or teleport to California, color coded green, to witness the birth of his/her nephew, or teleport to D.C., color coded blue, to work in government. Each location corresponds to a color and each color triggers flipping of cards over the existing cards, eliminating choices and advancing the game. When the game ends, a player who is a true jumper, seeking to miss out on nothing and escape from being finite, might find that he or she misses out on everything.