GOA Chapter 34: I Am…
A table within a small pub.
Chen Xiaolian and the middle-aged man were seated facing one another.
A waiter came with a plate of peanuts and two dishes. Next, he brought over a few bottles of beer and two beer glasses.
Chen Xiaolian poured himself a glass of beer, then looked at the middle-aged man. The middle-aged man smiled before turning his glass upside down.
“This host body of mine cannot drink beer. His body is allergic to alcohol.”
Chen Xiaolian cast a glance at him, trying hard to digest the information within that sentence.
“Host body?” Chen Xiaolian pointed at the middle-aged man. “In other words, the current you is not this person sitting before me?”
“No, this is simply a temporary host body that I am borrowing,” The middle-aged man smiled lightly.
“Just like those people I met today? The owner of the pub, the vegetable carrying aunt by the road? And also the taxi driver?”
“Exactly, that is correct.”
Chen Xiaolian quietly drank his glass of beer; he then poured himself another glass. Sighing, he asked. “You… just what kind of person are you?”
“This question is not quite accurate. You should not be using the word ‘person’.”
“… Hehe,” Chen Xiaolian laughed bitterly. “That is true. To be capable of such feats, you cannot indeed be classified as human. Very well, I will rectify my question: What exactly are you?”
“The one who manages, the one who calculates, the one who maintains order, the one who arranges everything so that it operates according to the norm… From your human perspective, I am both omnipresent and omnipotent. Perhaps… all these aspects are consistent with the one you humans call… God? The Lord? Ruler of All?”
Chen Xiaolian gulped down another glass of beer. “I do not like this kind of analogy… surely you know, I am a writer.”
“Very well… I won’t use this analogy,” The middle-aged man smiled. He then looked at Chen Xiaolian in the eye. “You may think of me as… the system.”
Chen Xiaolian’s hand that was pouring beer jerked.
“System… what is it?”
He stared at the middle-aged man’s eyes.
The middle-aged man laughed. “Why does everyone keep asking this question whenever we get into a discussion?”
Chen Xiaolian remained silent and simply looked at the other person, waiting for an answer.
“You have a profession, a writer,” The middle-aged man smiled. “You must have written a story like this before, of one person or a group of people who, due to a peculiar type of power, ended up transmigrating into another world. In this other world, these transmigrants then find themselves going through adventures one after another…”
“Why are you talking about this?”
“This… is the system.”
Chen Xiaolian’s face turned taut; then he drained down another glass of beer.
This time though, the glass of beer was drunk very, very slowly, as though he was trying to digest something.
“I still cannot quite understand. Could you talk more about it in detail?” Chen Xiaolian held onto the glass, his eyes covered by it.
“You do like to play online games often,” The middle-aged man let out a light smile.
This sentence of his was not a question, but a declaration. It was as though he was simply uttering out a fact – a fact that he clearly understood.
“En,” Chen Xiaolian nodded his head.
“Don’t you feel that… the format of these online games and the transmigration stories are very similar? Each player in an online game is just like a transmigrant in a novel. They entered another world, then in that other world, they undergo many perils…”
“Wait, what you mean to say… our current world… is facing a transmigration from others? Newton, Damon, Sara, Du Ya, Pattern Man… Wind Slasher Guild… they are all people who transmigrated over to this world? They are not originally of this world?” Chen Xiaolian immediately spoke out the details that he considered most important.
“Exactly,” The middle-aged man slowly replied. “They do indeed belong to another world.”
“…” Chen Xiaolian suddenly felt his mind becoming confused. “But… why… why would I be able to see them in the plane? Right! That is right! Host bodies! The key point is host bodies! What is a host body?”
“If we are to assume that this world is an online game, then a host body… would be the equivalent of a login account,” The middle-aged man smiled.
“… Login… account?”
Chen Xiaolian deeply exhaled, his voice trembling.
“You mean to say… we… us living humans… are login accounts? But… on what basis could they use us as host bodies? To take us as login accounts? How can they simply… take over? That is right, it is just like taking over our bodies!”
The middle-aged man continued smiling. “Let us discuss about another issue for now.”
The middle-aged man smiled. “In your opinion, what is the origin of the world that we are currently in? How did it come about?”
“It was the Big Bang… then the solar system… Earth…” Chen Xiaolian started talking about what he knew as common. However, after saying a few sentences, he suddenly shut his mouth. He looked at the middle-aged man with anxiety.
“Why aren’t you continuing?”
“I think… perhaps you have a better answer.”
The middle-aged man slowly spoke. “In this world, there is a story named ‘Journey To The West’. You know of it, right?”
“In ‘Journey To The West’, it is written that this world is created when Pangu separated Heaven and Earth.” 
Chen Xiaolian became dumbfounded. “No… That is just the background for the story… Or perhaps it could be said that, the author who wrote the story made that setting as the background. All those things about Pangu separating Heaven and Earth, they were but myths, there are no science behind them.”
“What is science?” The middle-aged man shook his head. “Then, your so-called Big Bang, birth of the solar system, birth of the Earth, origin of life, human evolution… all of them, could they not be all a part of a ‘background setting’?”
Chen Xiaolian’s hand that was holding onto a glass of beer began trembling.
He slowly drank the glass of beer.
Putting it down, he took a breath. “What you are trying to say is… we… this world of ours, is one that was ‘artificially created’? A virtual world?”
“Why would you think that if it is an ‘artificial creation’, then it must be virtual?”
The middle-aged man grinned as he spoke. “In human reproduction, there will be ten months of conception, then the child will be born… essentially speaking, is this not the ‘creation of life’?”
He stared at Chen Xiaolian. “Say you start work on a piece of land and planted many plants and flowers to create a garden… then this garden is one you created. In that case, would you say that this garden is virtual? Those plants and flowers are also living things.”
“If we are to adopt a macroscopic view of this world, then the thousands of years of civilization within history, the Big Bang, the origin of life, the Jurassic period of dinosaurs, the era of primitive man, the Greek civilization, the Roman civilization, the Eastern civilization… and the current modern era… all of these are ‘background settings’. Now let us we adopt a microscopic perspective and look at each and every person, those within this current era and those within history. I am talking about every aspect of their lives, their birth, their experiences, their love and hatred, their career, their family, their whole life… these are also a person’s ‘background setting’.”
Chen Xiaolian commented. “It is just like… each character in a movie? Or the NPC within a game?”
“Something like that.”
“However, in a movie… how many characters could there be? One main character, then how many supporting characters could there be? Could it be that everyone within this whole wide world are also…”
“Firstly, this is a world. There is no distinction between a lead character or a supporting character. Everyone here, you, others, all of you form a part of this world. Each of you are your own character, your own ‘individual’. Secondly… you are right. Regardless of how many billions there are, all of them are a character.”
“But… Even with the use of a computer, a game could only have a few NPCs, perhaps tens of them,” Chen Xiaolian smiled bitterly. “Several billion NPCs… if this is a program, then how many lines of code are required? Could that even be calculated?”
“Programming, coding, these are but an analogy made using your own perception,” The middle-aged man’s face was still set with a smile. “However, the fact remains, ‘they’ created this world, then life appeared in this world, those lives then flourished and in turn, humans appeared.”
Chen Xiaolian continued drinking. “In that case… to create several billion NPCs… how do ‘they’ manage that number? How are they to decide what setting to give each of these several billions NPCs? Then there are the things that NPCs should do and the things NPCs should not do. There are also the operations of the world, the changes, the countries, the civilizations… Heavens, if all of these are part of a ‘game’ that was created, then how big would the data involved be?”
“Thus, ‘I’ came into existence,” The middle-aged man’s sentence gave Chen Xiaolian a shock!
Chen Xiaolian stared with wide-open eyes at the middle-aged man.
“If we are to consider this world to be a ‘game world’, then I am the GM.” 
[1 In some Chinese mythology, Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all.]
[2 GM, short for Game Master or Game Manager or Game Moderator. In online games, they are usually a member of the game company who enforces the game’s rules and provide general customer service.]
GOA Chapter 34: I Am GM