“Can I blow things up?”
No. You can’t.*
But there are plenty of other things to pass the time in the Virtual Forbidden City.
For starters you could talk to one of the over 93,000 people who have registered as visitors — or the several thousand others who have gone in simply as guests. Don’t believe the numbers? If you headed in right now you’d be with 717 other museum-goers from around the world. (At this hour, I hope your Mandarin is good.)
Feeling anti-social? I don’t blame you. It is the most visited museum in the world in real life. So have a wander off on your own. Use the map to find locations of interest. Filter by building, artifact, scene, tour, activity or even visitor name.
Still needing the alone time? Go to your scrapbook and enable Private Virtual Forbidden City. The madding crowd will disappear before your very eyes. The palace grounds are yours alone. (If only in real life, alas.)
What’s that? Eye Candy, you say? Click on nearly anything and get copious textual and photographic info. Think of it as a 3D interface to a textbook’s worth of material.
For the more visually-minded of you, the Virtual Forbidden City permits a kind of educational vandalism. Rip buildings and artifacts off their moorings for closer inspection. Zoom, rotate, love.
The vastness is wearying, I know. That’s part of the design. The architecture of the real Forbidden City is a psychological machine. By the time you make it to the emperor all you want to do is kowtow to relieve the aching of your feet. In the VFC you can encounter one of seven emperors (beyond space and time, see). These are called scenes and they present the city as a living thing.
Oh, you’re having fun now! Good for you. If you care to share, take a photo. Send it to a friend via e-mail or to one of your pals on Facebook. Or just save it to your scrapbook as quick placemarks for easy teleportation (no more walking!) whenever you like.
* And before you mail me, yes, I know the Chinese invented gunpowder. You can practice archery. How’s that?
Get on in, already!