The whiteness faded to black, and then blue. The sky. She looked around. She was in a field, a pretty meadow with flowers and tall grass. It didn’t look like computer graphics, it looked real. She knew she was still inside the pod. This was a simulation. It was stunning, for a video game.
Technically, she could achieve the same effect by going outside and standing in her back garden, but achieving this level of verisimilitude inside a computer was beyond anything she’d ever seen.
A breeze blew over Britta’s face. How did they do that? Fans inside the pod? She hadn’t seen any.
Everything the body experienced was filtered through the brain, so if they had access to her brain through the beam of light it was possible this was all in her mind. But if this was happening inside her head, how would she interact with other players?
It was too much to figure out and not really necessary. Her only reason to enter this New World was to have a look around and she only had a limited amount of time to do it.
Britta took a step and almost fell down. Her head spun and she had to wave her arms around to keep her balance. It was like she was walking a tightrope.
She managed to stay on her feet. After a few seconds, the dizziness passed. She shook her head to clear it and rubbed her eyes. When she withdrew her hands, she noticed they were small and wrinkled with long black fingernails. And they were red. Was that an option she’d chosen? She’d picked so quickly she couldn’t remember.
She looked down at her body and was surprised at how close the ground was. She was a gnome and a totally different size to what she was used to. Her body was weirdly proportioned. Her clothes were practically rags, made of some rough hessian material. The shoes on her no doubt hideous feet were like sacks tied around her ankles.
Slowly, she took a tentative step forward. There was still some wobble to her movements but by not rushing she was able to acclimatise to her new shape. It was going to be difficult to explore this world if her time was taken up with learning how to walk. Perhaps starting off as a human character would have been the better choice.
With her head down focused on her feet, Britta hardly noticed her surroundings. All she’d seen was tall grass in every direction, not helped by her diminutive size, which wasn’t very exciting. Her focus was now taken up with deep breaths and slow steps. Thrilling stuff.
With her head bowed, she didn’t notice the talons until they appeared in front of her. She looked up. And up and up. It was a dragon.
It had a pointed, horse-like scaly head, huge bat-like wings and teeth. Lots of teeth.
It was a game. It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter. It looked real. The teeth looked real.
And then Britta got annoyed. It was a bit much, wasn’t it? Facing a dragon as a beginner—what was she supposed to do? Kick it in the balls and make a run for it?
“Hello,” said Britta. She’d come to see what the game had to offer, so she should really be happy she’d got a chance to see something this spectacular, before she got eaten.
The dragon let out a breath and smoke shot out of its nostrils. “Welcome to New World. I am your guide. Are you ready for your first tutorial?”
Britta let out a breath of her own. It was a guide, not an enemy, here to teach her the basics, answer questions or whatever. It made sense. The makers of the game wanted to impress new players. They probably wouldn’t get to see something like this until much later in the game, so why not give them a taste now?
Britta walked around the dragon, which just sat there, staring straight ahead like a giant statue.
“Cool,” she said. They really had done a good job. Unlike the sky and the grass, this wasn’t something you would see by just looking out of a window at home. They had managed to replicate real life well enough, but the scope for what else they could create was endless.
She walked all the way around the monster until she got back to the head. “Where’s the nearest town?”
“One league in that direction,” said the dragon, tilting its head to the left.
Britta turned around and walked off. She couldn’t be bothered with more orienteering; it wasn’t like she would ever come here again. She had no idea what a league was, but it didn’t sound all that far. She wanted to see as much as she could before going back to her own dreary life. She bumped into an invisible wall.
“Ow!” It actually hurt and made her eyes water.
“Players aren’t allowed to leave this area until they have completed the tutorial,” said the dragon. He ran a tongue across his huge teeth.
Britta rubbed the end of her nose. Everyone wanted to box her in, one way or the other. She had school in the morning and couldn’t waste all night faffing about. Which was when she realised she didn’t actually know how to turn the game off.