as creators of the game, the boy and girl play it as soon as the game engine is working. it’s a quantum kernel game engine, so from the beginning it’s more real than anything currently possible. since it’s so early, they’re playing mainly in their imaginations, and based on their mystical experience on the roof at dragoncon. they already see it as a physical thing, and the basic game engine is something that triggers off their vision all over again, so they don’t care how it looks. and the quantum kernel enables updating at a distance, so when they notice something wrong, it fixes it for them as soon as they add the bug to the database. compared to the other testers, who run around and try everything over and over again, the boy and girl mostly stand around and gaze at things, communicating with the kernel. they are entangled with the kernel. they felt it when kurt finally got the last qubit in place. so when the kernel is destroyed…the girl collapses into a coma. how does the boy’s stronger ego and sociopathology save him from the same fate? because he’s more detached? because he isolated himself by his betrayal and his guilt, and even tho he was opened all the way up when they finished antarctica, his current state is painfully self conscious and ego-driven, and he is acting as god in his own universe. thus when the quantum kernel is destroyed, his private universe buffers him. it pops around him, but does not disconnect him from the whole, the way the girl has been. so the shock is less. he just has a very bad migraine, so he takes the girl to a bolthole and he sleeps for a week using every drug at his disposal.
(ch 7) the boy and girl’s game experience is different than the players. when they start out it’s all wireframe, and most of the lessons and games are placeholders. the alpha role is to trod the paths, open the doors, make sure the walls meet and you can’t see thru the barrier vegetation. but theirs is more basic, where are the edges of the world, where are the doors and do the routes connect the way they should, and where are the hidden intersections with the other levels.
(ch 9) alpha testers see the game with its placeholder backgrounds and loads of bugs. npcs are disembodied voices.
(ch 12) beta testers see rapidly updating backgrounds and textures, and there are fewer bugs (and more malware). npcs are twinkly blurs.
(ch 14) players see a world that is very realistic, with no bugs only viruses, and the npcs are fairytale creatures.
(ch 33) the boy and girl’s exit from antarctica makes the game sharper
(ch 38) the remorting of the game makes it come alive.