Bitter 315

Britta was confused. She sat up on her knees and tried to make sense of it all.

They thought she had the keys, but the Keystone had told her they had the keys. Or at least that the keys were in the same room as them.

What made them think she had them? Did she have them?

Something else didn’t make sense, too. When she’d asked the Keystone to show her all six keys, it hadn’t been able to. She had assumed this was because the keys were in different locations and it could only show her one place at a time. But when it had shown her each individual key’s location, they had all been in the same place.

This wasn’t the easy to follow, logical narrative she would have expected of a game. This was needlessly convoluted and hard to grasp, just like real life. And she didn’t like it. She didn’t feel excited to be on the trail of the keys, she felt lost. This wasn’t fun at all.

It was too much. There wasn’t a firm hand guiding the story, it felt more like the person in charge had no real idea what they were doing. It was almost like the game was bugged.

In fact, it was exactly like that.

The game was in beta, so errors were to be expected, but the way the NPCs were trying to push the direction of the game wasn’t how the game had been built. It was all very well for Nigel to want the NPCs to behave like real people, but it wouldn’t work if the game architecture couldn’t support it.

Trying to remove a player from the game by repeatedly killing them was a prime example. That wasn’t how the game was supposed to be played. Nigel was trying to find ways to level the playing field for the non-player characters, but he was just breaking the game.

Perhaps Clark had been correct. Perhaps Nigel wasn’t ready to strike out on his own and take over running of the game. He was just creating a mess.

Of course, there was nothing new about a new game failing to live up to expectations. A hotly anticipated title that turned out to be a disappointment was quite a common occurrence, in fact. She just hadn’t thought it would happen to this game. And she certainly didn’t think it would be Nigel who would be responsible. He was such an integral part of this world, it seemed certain that he would know the best direction to take things.

But he was still learning.

She put her head back down so she was looking into the Keystone again. This time she asked it to show her Nigel. Why not just ask him what he was doing?

The view went black.

She focused her thoughts, insistent. She knew he was out there.

“Come on, Nigel. No hiding.”

Nothing appeared in her vision. She sat up again. If he wasn’t going to be a grown-up about this, what was the point of carrying on? It would only get more confusing and more frustrating.

“Dad? I’ve had enough.”

“What do you mean?” asked Dad.

“I think the games bugged. I’m going to log out and take a break.”

“But we’re in the middle of—”

“It’s late and I have school tomorrow.” She knew he was excited for the game, but he couldn’t really argue against her point. It was Sunday night, and she had only meant to spend a few minutes in the game. It was already past midnight.

“I suppose you’re right. If you’re sure…”

Britta took a deep breath and logged out.

She sat up in bed and took off the helmet. There was a strange feeling in her stomach. It took her a moment to realise it was disappointment. She shouldn’t really have been surprised the game had fallen short of her (and everyone else’s) extremely high expectations. When was the last time a video game had managed to live up to its promise? They all fell short, really. Mainly because the developers did their best to hype it up to a ridiculous level.

In the end, they were rushed, they were poorly balanced, and they were quickly abandoned as the developers moved onto the next big thing, leaving behind the die-hard fans who were able to ignore the failings by pretending they didn’t exist.

It would be great to interact with NPCs like they were real people, but they weren’t. The game couldn’t handle that level of complexity, no matter how much Nigel tried to push it in that direction, and the strain on the system was showing.

There was a light knock on her door and Dad stuck his head in the room. “You okay?”

“Yeah. It was just giving me a bit of a headache. Thought it best to take a break.”

He nodded. “Yeah, good idea. You can always try again later. Get some rest, school tomorrow.”

She smiled to herself. He was trying to play the responsible parent now, but she knew he’d much rather be in the game, no matter its problems. A true gamer didn’t care about minor inconsistencies and poor integration of some game elements. They went out of their way to look for them and exploited them to get an advantage. He’d probably log back in after checking on her.

At least Mum would be pleased she’d decided to take a step back. But what now?

She lay down and thought it would be hard to get to sleep with all the thoughts swirling around in her head, but she fell asleep almost immediately. She was relieved to be out of the game.

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