Behold the latest parlor game for play at gatherings: In Verticalizer, the player attempts to halt a conversation's endless and anxiously rapid shifts in subject, the characterizing feature of horizonal conversation, a form of conversation that's currently quite de rigueur. The player then tries to get the conversants to for crying out loud discuss a single subject for more than four seconds. Discussing a single subject for longer than it takes a Wikipedia article to load naturally increases the subject's complexity, which is vertical conversation's characterizing feature.

Here is a typical example of a horizontal conversation popular in social gatherings among people of a certain age and upbringing:

NPC 1: "Remember the children's television program 'Hey Arnold'?"

NPC 2: "Yes, but do you remember the program 'Doug'?"

NPC 1: "Yes, but do you remember 'Rocko's Modern Life'?"

NPC 2: "Yes, but remember 'Ren And Stimpy'?"

NPC 1: "Yes."

The player seeks to interfere with this sort of conversation by thrashing against the flood of new subjects, digging his or her heels into the silt of one single one. The editorial position of this particular URL is that horizontal conversations are lowbrow and bad and vertical conversations, like the following, are highbrow and good.

NPC 1: "But what did you think about Kipling's 'Gunga Din?'"

NPC 2: "I didn't understand why the narrator assumed that he and Gunga Din would one day see each other in Hell, as illustrated by the lines 'So I'll meet 'im later on / In the place where 'e is gone— / Where it's always double drill and no canteen; / 'E'll be squattin' on the coals / Givin' drink to pore damned souls, / An' I'll get a swig in Hell from Gunga Din!'"

NPC 3: "It's because the narrator's exhibiting piety, and for him, to assume that he won't go to Hell is to dance around the sin of pride."

NPC 4: "I believe rather that, since the narrator's a soldier, he finds speech about damnation more masculine than speech about salvation, and believes it girlish to admit his hope that Gunga Din is in Heaven, and that that's where he really wants to meet him. The soldier in fact is merely a repressed homosexual who desires nothing more than to spend eternity with Gunga Din on Cloud Nine, but believes that he will go to Hell were he to admit this desire to himself."

Here is an example of a game of Verticalizer, played in Anyparlor, USA:

NPC 1: "Have you heard the band 'Cocteau Twins.'"

Player: "Yes, I specifically like their 1984 album 'Treasure,' even though the band didn't like it."

NPC 1: "That's right; it ended up sounding happier than they wanted it to. Yet my favorite song on that album is the happiest ever written, 'Lorelei;' imagine playing that at a wedding reception. Imagine that the bride and groom had met over that song; now they're dancing to it, and her head has fallen onto his shoulder."

NPC 2: "O you're so crazy, NPC 1. That reminds me, the band 'Colourbox' is playing at an expensive and difficult to travel to venue in this town tomorrow, a Sunday night. You and I should go."

NPC 1 (Betraying player): "O, NPC 1, if you like 'Colourbox,' have you heard of the band 'The Birthday Party.'"

NPC 2: "Yes, but have you heard the band 'His Name Is Alive.'"

Player: "I like their song 'Library Girl.' I wonder if--"

NPC 1: "Yes, but have you heard the band 'The Happy Family.'"

NPC 2: "No."

Player: "Yes."

NPC 1: "You haven't, really?"

Here are some discussion questions you can discuss with yourself after you finish your game and leave the gathering, early and by yourself:

1. Was it okay for me to try to slow down the whirling treads of the unstoppable tank of subject change, when everyone else at the social event was perfectly content to take part in conversations composed of little more than lists of topics?

2. Does the guilt in my heart originate from the fact that I'm trying to treat the people around me like toys (to say nothing of how badly I failed to do so)? Is that what I was doing? Is that actually what was just happening?

3. Did I, ultimately, truly want to hear anybody's thoughts on the subject I was trying to complicate (not that that even ended up happening; the only subjects I can even think to talk about are the various media anyway, e.g. TV, books, and music), or was I just trying to show off and monopolize the conversation due to a mystifyingly overinflated estimation of my 'interestingness?'

4. Do I even actually like to have complex conversations, or do I just want people at social gatherings to think I do?

5. Is it possible to both try to verticalize conversations at gatherings other than, say, formal debates, and be a good person, or was I being selfish (and ∴ 100% bad) by trying to play this horrible game?

6. If the horizonal conversations tonight had been a list of subjects like reading or writing, would I have made such a mockery of myself, and of human interaction, by playing Verticalizer? Would I have tried to play at all were the conversation to have gone something like the following?

"Have you read Eliza Parsons?"

"Yes, but have you read Regina Maria Roche?"

"Yes, but have you read Francis Lathom?"

"Yes, but have you read Eleanor Sleath?"


7. If I don't like the form of the conversations around me, shouldn't I just be quiet?

8. What does it say that, so far, all these discussion questions are about the subject of me?

9. Exactly how insufferable am I?