Bitter 487

At this rate, the game would be over in under a few minutes, which might actually turn out to be a good thing.

Britta had reluctantly got involved, expecting the whole thing to drag on and prove nothing. Yes, running around trying to kill people was a tried and tested formula for gaming success, but as far as she could tell, the game had been carefully designed with one primary objective — you only did things once.

Every quest, every objective, once it was completed, it was over. Which was how things worked in real life more or less. Sure, you repeated some chores, like going shopping or brushing your teeth, but when it came to major events, it was usually one and done. And different people didn’t get to take turns completing the same task. You didn’t have people lining up to deliver the same package to the same recipient or solve the same murder of the same victim day after day.

But in games, especially RPGs, everyone wanted a go. They all wanted to complete the task, claim the reward, and the game let them by pretending it hadn’t already been completed a thousand times. In some cases, you could repeat a quest you’d just done, and the NPCs would act like they’d never met you before.

It was obvious why games were set up like that — it wouldn’t really be fair to only let one person do a quest, first come, first served, and it wouldn’t be financially viable. People had a tendency to abandon a game that wasn’t providing them with the chance to be the main character driving the main storyline. Gamers weren’t shy about making complaints and quitting if they felt unfairly treated.

This game’s approach was different, or had been so far. If someone managed to complete a quest, it was over. No one else could do it, there was no sharing of the reward. Instead, it opened up new quests and tasks that needed to be completed. In addition to which, there were a lot of different quests and even some you could sort of create yourself. Or you could just ignore what the game wanted you to do, and find a way to amuse yourself.

The computer power available made it possible to have unique interactions with the NPCs, even with four million players. It felt like she was involved with a major part of the story, but there was no way of knowing what everyone else was up to. There were four million of them, they had to be up to something.

In many ways, the whole point was for it not to feel like a game at all, yet there were constant reminders that it was. It was an interesting way to approach this kind of game, and one that took a little getting used to. Like it was both a game and real life. Or maybe something in between.

The problem with N-21’s battle royale was that it was not built in the same vein. It was meant to be repetitive. You played until someone won, and then you played again.

People did that in real life, too. They went to watch football every weekend or even played football every weekend. Amusing yourself with hobbies and games was normal, but it felt a bit odd taking time off from playing a game to play a game.

Thankfully, it was quick. This was the surprising part. If it only took ten minutes to mess around in here, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. Obviously, it would take longer if there were a thousand people playing, but not that much longer. People would kill each other off quite rapidly, and numbers would drop exponentially. And camping would be difficult if the world turned upside down every five minutes to force you out of your hiding place.

Britta didn’t feel any particular desire to prove herself in this arena but she was quite curious to see how it would end. She had expected the walls to close in or for some kind of force field to push players closer together, but so far she hadn’t detected anything like that. She was also curious about how James had managed to kill so many people so quickly. He had clearly figured this game mode out.

She was standing on the ground with large pillars sticking out of every surface. She couldn’t see anyone else. The screen confirmed that it was just her, Dad and James left, but she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to find them. Unlike James, she hadn’t figured out this mode at all.

The timer ran out again, and the world flipped. She saw Dad falling through the air not very far away, and she was sure he saw her. Would he avoid her? Would he give her a pass because she was his daughter? Not very likely. He would have seen how well James was doing, and come for her first. At least that way he would get second place.

Britta felt different as she fell through the air this time. Lighter. She landed on one of the horizontal pillars and found she could jump between them quite easily. Had the gravity been changed? She skipped across platforms, and even when she missed, she found she could fall without getting hurt, and then jump back up. The different layers of pillars pointing in all directions made the field of play feel like it had suddenly gone three dimensional.

Which was interesting, but Britta had no idea how she was supposed to utilise this new element.

She jumped on top of a platform and found Dad coming at her from the other end. He was running at her with his dagger in his hand. He didn’t look like he planned to gracefully bow out and let her face James in the final, but that was okay. She had other things to do, anyway.

Rather than fight him, she made a copy of herself. Now his chance of defeating her was fifty-fifty. If he chose right, she would lose. If he chose wrong, she would get a free hit. It wasn’t exactly relying on her skill to win, but it gave her the best chance of winning, she felt.

Of course, if Dad knew his daughter well enough, he would be able to tell which was the real her using his innate Dadness. He paused, looking from one Britta to the other.

“Smart,” was all he said. It was entirely up to him, Britta wasn’t even trying to attack first. His eyes were narrowed as he tried to tell the real from the copy. Could the bond between parent and child transcend virtual reality?


At least not while his daughter was a gnome. He struck out at the wrong one, and Britta pricked him in the leg. He shook his head, disappointed with his bad luck, and faded away.

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