Joined: Aug. 2004
||Posted: Jan. 17 2007, 09:16
In Search of Daliphants
‘There was something else I wanted to talk to you about,’ he said. ‘It’s important to me, but I’m not sure if you’ll understand.’ He swirled the wine in his glass self-consciously and watched the last gleams from the setting sun sparkle through it, as she waited for him to continue. ‘It’s a computer game.’
Her face was dark against the bright horizon so he couldn’t read her expression, but he suspected that she’d be dismissive of the whole idea.
‘A computer game?’
‘Yes. It’s not what you think, though. It’s a game, yes – but also it’s a kind of musical and visual art form…..’ Suddenly he wondered if he’d been foolish to bring it up. Here, comfortable in the very real warmth of this evening, sitting on a sunlit terrace outside his favourite pub on the edge of a Cornish cliff, it seemed absurd to be talking about something so insubstantial as pixels on a computer screen.
“It’s not so much what it is … as what it represents….” Again he faltered to a stop, his partly-formed thoughts mocked by the gentle but insistent voice of the sea, shushing against the rocks below, at the foot of the cliff. He looked out to the bright horizon as the last gold splinter of the sun’s disc slipped out of sight.
“Out there,” he said. “What do you see out there?”
She turned to look, shading her eyes with a hand. “The sea? The light? The colours? It’s very beautiful. What do you want me to see?”
“Well, those things of course, yes. But it promises something more, doesn’t it?”
“What kind of something?”
“It’s elusive, like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. You look out there and you see something that seems infinitely desirable and yet… well, if you travelled out there in a boat to what we think of as the horizon from here, all you’d find when you got there is water and sky. And possibly something just as beautiful, beckoning you further on.”
She turned back and looked at him, looking slightly puzzled. “But what does this have to do with computer games?”
He laughed selfconsciously. “Oh, nothing – or maybe everything …. Here there are rocks you can touch, and wine you can drink, and water that will wet you, and a sun that sets in a blaze of fire – but the thing we really long for when we sit here watching the sunset – we can’t touch that. The thing we really want is insubstantial. Well, in this game, you see, there’s a kind of symbol for that infinitely desirable ‘something’ that we can’t reach.”
“Yes – the people who play the game online.”
“I see…. And the symbol?”
He screwed his face up a little, feeling foolish. “It’s called a daliphant.”
“What’s a daliphant?”
“It’s a kind of elephant with long spindly legs. Surreal – like Dali.”
“Ah! A Dali-phant! Yes, I see. But why is it a symbol of the unattainable?”
“In the game, it stands on the horizon, and we can’t reach it. It looks strange and beautiful, and … unattainable – like the promise that lies out there, beyond the sunset.”
“Why can’t you reach it?”
“There are barriers in the game – if you set off across the sea, the barriers stop you going very far.”
“So - that’s the end of the matter, then? The barriers stop you and your … your daliphant really is unattainable. I’m not sure I understand where this is taking us.”
“Well some people say they’ve been through the barriers and reached the daliphant – and some of them have screenshots apparently proving it.”
She turned again to watch the darkening horizon behind her. “And you think that has a bearing on our response to - all this?’ She indicated the sea and sky with a wave of her hand. ‘I still don’t understand why your computer game is so important to you.”
He followed her gaze to the horizon. “I don’t know.” He laughed. “Maybe I’m hoping one day to see a strange elephant out there with spindly legs.”
She swallowed the last of the sparkling water in her glass and stood up. “I have to go. See you here Friday, same time?”
He nodded. She paused and looked at him; laid a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t really see what you’re getting at, but I hope you reach your daliphant,” she said, and walked away down the path.