One of many great PC games I played as a kid was called Dungeon Keeper. In it, you took the role of a semi-omnipotent dungeon boss who directed his imps to hack through blocks of dirt and rock to unearth gold and treasure, battling humans and dwarfs along the way. Clicking on the unbroken blocks of earth and then watching as your army of imps made piecemeal of it with their pickaxes brought a specific kind of satisfaction. I imagine it’s similar to how the Superintendent of a shot crew must feel as he directs his squad bosses from the radio on his UTV. Prep this road, burn this hill, dig this line. He need only voice his desires and soon others are doing his bidding, toiling to re-shape physical reality.
In hindsight, the feeling of discovery I experienced playing Dungeon Keeper was manufactured. The game’s programmers had laid out the soft breakable cubes of dirt and the impenetrable rock beforehand. There was nothing chaotic or natural about this arrangement, and any seeming randomness was entirely engineered. The dungeon maps were the same for every player of the game and eventually we all hollowed out the same paths. One could say this is where the analogy between player and shot Supe ends–real life has an infinite number of paths and possibilities. Even so, one wonders whether the Supe feels the same sense of hollow futility as I did when I discovered I wasn’t uncovering anything new in Dungeon Keeper.
Fire work bears a close resemblance to ant work. Plants are attacked, de-limbed, and chained away by a small crew of cooperating animals. There’s some small art to limbing a tree with a chainsaw, but there’s no higher level thinking required in doing prep work or digging line. It’s hard, brainless, repetitive work, and in that way ants, and a certain type of person, are best suited for it.