People sometimes ask me what I do for a living – I tell them that I sell dreams.
That’s the motto of Daydream Industries – “We Sell Dreams”. It sounds like what some realtor would put on their business card or what you would see on a commercial from some stock market brokerage. The difference is that we actually sell the dream itself, and nothing but the dream – no product, just dream.
I’m a technician, although I’ve had a number of different jobs as the company changed products and the technology changed. Technician covers a lot of ground – I deal with the customers on a personal basis and also do the behind-the-scenes work, setting up equipment and so on.
I’ve been with them seven or eight years, we’ve been through several different programs in that time. We started out with this hokey “Dream For A Day Program”. Somebody would come in for an interview and they would tell us in great detail exactly what their dream was – to be rich, to be a movie star, to be a senator, whatever, and we would charge them a fee to make it all come true for a given period of time – usually for a day, sometimes up to a week. We would rent houses and redecorate them, arrange for our customers to get walk-on parts in small movies, once we rented an auditorium and hired actors to play legislators, so our client could be President for a day.
Everybody seems to dream about something, I wonder if anybody is really happy being just who they are and having what they have. Some of our clients spent tens of thousands of dollars, a few spent hundreds of thousands, just to be somebody else for a few hours or days. After seeing all that for a while I lost all desire to be anything other than what I am, it’s like my dreams all just vanished – you see what these people go through for their dreams, and you see how crushed they can be after the dream is over, how they sometimes come back and pay to have the dream repeated over and over again and ruin themselves financially and emotionally.
After a few years of the “Dream For A Day Program” we got into the whole Virtual Reality thing. That was quite a switch – instead of having to create everything literally in actual space we would place our clients in a Virtual Reality simulator, where they could believe that things were happening, when it was all only an image, like being inside a movie. The first VR simulators were kind of hokey, not very realistic, all jerky motion and poor quality images, but over time they got good, too good. People seemed to be really let down when they had to go back to everyday reality.
With the newer VR simulators you can control not only images but also sounds and smells, and there’s a little bit of tactile sensation, the touchy-feely. One machine had wind and rain capability, most had natural sunshine, and some have the tactile-glove things, where you can “feel” objects and people and so on. It’s quite a feeling to touch a beautiful woman in a VR simulator, to talk to her, smell her, and then they turn the thing off and there’s nothing there.
Daydream Industries doesn’t pay that well and I could make more at a competitor, but I hang around there for various reasons. Basically I’m lazy and don’t feel the need to “improve” myself – I’m happy being who I am, no need for more money or a big title or any of that. Daydream also lets you use the simulators on off hours (mostly early in the morning) for the cost of maintenance, and that could be fun – you just had to be careful what you did in the simulation, mostly so you didn’t get hooked on it since you could do it every day if you wanted to. I had friends who got hooked on their simulations – they were pretty much useless for everyday life, they just lived for their simulations. They could have the most beautiful women, fastest cars, best adventures in their simulations, so real life was a big let down. They were junkies, but hooked on VR and not drugs.
In my simulations I like to go hiking and be in the mountains, and occasionally take trips to foreign countries. Nothing too addicting, and I don’t have enough time and money to do those things in real life so it works out pretty well. I do have to admit that I like to return to this one mountain lake in my simulations, the prettiest lake you can imagine. I suppose I’m hooked on that lake, but it seems like a harmless enough addiction.
The VR dreams don’t cost so much as the real life dreams, but it’s worse in a way since they often can afford to do it every month or every week. Daydream has a policy that customers can’t repeat a dream more than once a month, unless the customer shows a financial statement or income or whatever first, to be sure they can afford it and weren’t going bankrupt or starving their family or anything. But the really hooked clients who spend all their money just go to one of our competitors who take their money, they don’t have any policies to protect the client from themselves.
There’s a small core of employees who hang around Daydream, the rest just kind of ebb and flow with the seasons or business or whatever. The office staff stays about the same – Corinne in accounts, Ted in sales, Ann who manages the office and handles advertising. The technical staff handles the programming and maintenance and operation of the equipment. I’ve been with technical the longest, but there’s also Red, who know the equipment the best, and Andy, he’s been around maybe two years, he deals with problems and glitches mostly since he’s more patient than Red or me. None of us three are VR junkies, we do a little in our spare time but nothing out of hand.
I guess the whole key to lasting in this job is to not get hooked. If you’re hooked it’s like a junkie working in a heroin factory.
There are a few other kinds of dream/simulations that Daydream doesn’t deal in. There’s the
Neurological simulation where they hook up electrodes to your head and stimulate various parts of the brain. That’s still pretty experimental, you’re never quite sure what you’re getting with that, although a few companies do it, with what I’d call really mixed results.
There’s the pharmaceutical simulation, the dream pill, which is the newest. That involves giving the client a drug that is custom-designed for this particular client, designed to produce a specific dream within their brain and their brain only. It’s a complicated procedure, but as I understand it they look at a client’s DNA, do a brain scan, about a zillion other tests, ask the client what specific attributes they want their simulation to have, and then custom design a drug to produce the exact desired effect in this specific client.
Needless to say this method has a lot of drawbacks. If they screw up you could have the wrong drug and you can have some pretty strange dreams. If the drug lasts too long it makes for a lot of inconvenience. Some people seem to re-wire their own brains somehow to continue the simulation indefinitely, which then requires an antidote to be manufactured to counteract the effects. If they accidentally give you a drug designed for somebody else it can get weird. In fact, an entire black market has sprung up to sell counterfeited dream pills. Supposedly you can buy counterfeited dream pills with the dreams of famous or wealthy people, they can be quite expensive, but I just wonder how genuine they are.
There’s a whole new class of addicts, the dream pill zombies, or drombies – they like to get jobs working at Simulation companies that make dream pills. An old scam of theirs would be to just hit the “Copy” button after a client’s pill was produced – they would get their drugs that way. Those old machines were outlawed and destroyed, the new machines will only produce one pill before reprogramming, although they say that the new machines can be hacked. I wouldn’t know for sure, I’ve only worked at Daydream and we stayed away from dream pills. You get sued for one client who doesn’t return from their dream pill trip, you’re out of business.
The whole dream pills thing is weird – you get a custom-designed drug to take you to your own personal version of nirvana. It must be the most addictive thing on the face of the planet and yet it’s perfectly legal.
Red and Andy and I like working at Daydream, we call ourselves “The Dream Team”. Things are pretty loose there, we know our jobs and do them properly, and we’re free to run things more or less as we see fit. I think the owner has maybe 75 locations or so, but we were the first. He really got to expanding after the VR simulators came out, since it was mostly just buying the equipment and operating it properly, not like you had to go out and make it happen in real life like before.
We get paid extra to train new employees for the other locations – they wanted me to go to training full time, but I like it here, no point in complicating my life. They bring trainees in and we work with them for a few days on the job. There’s a lot to learn and it’s best if you can watch someone doing it, you can’t really learn it all in the classroom.. You have to tweak the equipment a little for the clients, talk to them a bit and see what they are like and a bit about their personality , and then set the equipment accordingly- that doesn’t come out on the survey they fill out in the office, it takes that personal touch. If you just set the machines by the survey it isn’t as good, the client doesn’t get so excited by the whole experience.
We also emphasize integrity – if you take a personal dislike to a client maybe you set the equipment so he has a bad experience. You have to treat everybody equally, you can’t play favorites and everybody deserves the best experience you can give them.
Daydream does a pretty good business with the Virtual Product companies. These companies – quite a few of them, several hundred – license real products and then produce a virtual version to be used in VR simulations. The client might want to have a certain expensive car in his simulation, since he’s always wanted one and can’t afford one in real life. He pays Daydream an extra fee to drive the car in his simulation, and we pay a licensing fee to the Virtual Product company. There are thousands of products available for use in simulations – cars, art works, jewelry, furniture. For the basic fee the client gets pretty basic products in his simulations, he can purchase better stuff a-la-carte or buy one of our packages. A client can also get paid by some Virtual Product companies. Some companies pay for placement in simulations – in a simulation that involves driving on a highway, they might pay for a virtual billboard on a virtual highway. In a simulation that includes a TV they might pay for virtual ads on the virtual TV. Many of the ads appear automatically since we have contracts with the advertisers, but the client indicates in his survey if he is willing to see more ads in his simulation, and then he gets a price reduction based on the payment from the advertisers. It bends your mind a little to think about it all, but we are creating the virtual world for the client, it’s just hardware and software and lot of electronics and visual trickery. People want to be fooled, pay to be fooled, they hire us to fool them and we don’t let them down.
And then there are the Virtual Actor companies. Movie stars and big-name people often license themselves for use in simulations, via the Virtual Actor companies – they always have stipulations as to what they will and won’t do in the simulations, so it’s not like a client could go out and sleep with their favorite actress (although some actresses might agree to for a substantial fee, it’s not like they’ll be there or anything). Some stars have even quit acting or playing football or whatever, they make so much money from simulations.
Before the simulation starts the client gets on a computer to decide if he wants any additional characters to appear in his simulation, and to kind of finalize the layout of the simulation as to products that they want, general action sequence of events and so on. The computer then generates a quick rough lay-out of the scene for the client to approve. If they don’t approve it they have two other suggested lay-outs to choose from, based on their input. They have to choose one of the three, otherwise we’d be there who knows how long. We provide the client with a stock package which includes the minimum number of characters to make everything realistic and working, but they can pay extra if they want more people in the background, people with interesting faces and so on.
The first time a client comes in it can be a bit trying – it usually takes them a bit to make up their minds about things – but after a few visits they generally settle into their preferences, into what they’re comfortable with. It’s funny, when you can have any experience, be an astronaut or deep sea diver or drive a race car or be the President, most people still settle into certain patterns pretty quickly, and limit their experiences to that.
You get all kinds of people, not just the daydreamer type. I used to talk about it with Red and Andy.
Andy : ” Have you ever had any movie stars for clients ? Any really rich people ?”
Red : “I remember a few, but we don’t get too many here since this isn’t such a rich area. What about you Bob, see any actors when you used to work in LA ?”
Me : ” I was at the Daydreams place there for maybe six months, things were different since that was four years ago. The equipment wasn’t so good then, but we still got some actors and whatnot. I remember this one guy – he was a really big actor, can’t tell you his name. He came in every week and usually had the same simulation. He always wanted to be just a regular guy, not famous and not rich, living in a small town, working in a hardware store. In his simulation nobody knew him as a star, he was a regular guy like anybody else. It was funny – he was always so tense before the simulation, always so relaxed after it.”