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Preface from Mooderino
Britta took off her helmet and let out a sigh. She had done it — reached the city, made a saving point so she could go back when she wanted, and finally logged out.
It wasn’t exactly defeating a dragon and claiming all its treasure, but it was completing a task she had set herself. Her reward was to stop playing. For a couple of days, anyway.
She rose from the bed and stretched. It was late Sunday afternoon and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten something. Breakfast? She could smell something cooking but she wasn’t particularly hungry. Running around in the game didn’t seem to burn many calories.
After taking a moment to get used to being back in a world where she was nobody special and had no powers, which was kind of a sad thing to have to accept, she got out her laptop and had a look for any news about the game.
It was sort of her job, so it was best to keep up to date with developments. That’s how she saw it now, a job to be taken seriously. It would be easy enough to log in every forty-eight hours and then forget about it, but her experiences so far had taught her not to take anything for granted.
A few minutes surfing revealed a heightened interest in the game. It had been a big deal when it launched a couple of weeks ago, and had maintained a steady presence on gaming sites, but the lack of video footage made it hard to hold onto the general public’s interest. That was until Dad’s videos surfaced.
His first effort had been well received by players, but wandering around in tunnels was hardly entertainment. Then he released a series of ten-minute shorts showing what the game was capable of. It hadn’t taken long for them to become popular outside the nerd community.
Articles on news sites had taken what had initially been another AAA game title noteworthy only as a big money maker for corporate interests and made it seem culturally significant. The game had transcended gaming circles.
Fights with monsters, spells exploding and weapons clashing, heroes performing inhuman and impossible feats.
It looked like a movie, albeit one with no script, but with real people. You could easily tell these weren’t actors, especially when they ran into battle screaming, “Suck a dick!” and various other NSFW phrases. Dad hadn’t bleeped out swearing, but there was no real reason to censor for bad language when heads were being decapitated left and right.
You could also tell they weren’t fighting against a green screen. These monsters were real.
People wanted in.
They didn’t care how expensive it was, they wanted access for all. Complaints about elitism and restricted availability were everywhere. There were even rumours of protests and boycotts.
Britta was sure the PR department at APE was very happy that people were threatening to sue if they couldn’t play. A marketer’s dream.
New opportunities to join were promised SOON™.
It was mainly the violence they were attracted by. Interviews with players highlighted the joy of defeating creatures from nightmare and how cathartic it was. Britta wasn’t comfortable at how excited people were getting at being able to hack and slash their way through biologically convincing creatures. She knew it was just a game but that didn’t stop her feeling a bit queasy.
The last of Dad’s videos actually showed his face. He was at the abandoned ranch looking for clues.
Britta’s heart rate went up and she had her hand over her mouth. He went. She had told him he should go there, and he totally had. Would he look in the well?
She watched shaking with anticipation as he looked around. She held her breath as he heard the woman in the well and went to investigate. She jumped out of her chair as he was grabbed and disappeared into the dark, screaming.
The video stopped at that point. Britta let out a loud, satisfied shriek of laughter. She’d got him! She stood up with her arms raised victoriously singing, “Ding dong bell, Daddy in the well.”
“I can hear you,” Dad shouted across the landing. “That wasn’t funny.”
Britta went out of her bedroom and found Dad in his office at his computer. She was surprised to find him here.
“I thought you’d be in the game,” she said.
“What’s that?” said Britta. “You’re making up theories?”
Dad looked at her like he was disappointed to discover his offspring had grown up to be so ignorant. “No. Theorycrafting is when you theorise about how to combine items and skills in interesting ways you haven’t tried yet. It requires a keen intellect and a wealth of experience to be able to imagine your way to a better build.”
He made it sound very grand and scientific, like the Manhattan Project, only more important.
“So, daydreaming about how cool you’d be if you had stuff you don’t have yet?”
“Please, this is far more complex than daydreaming. You have to be able to extrapolate and interpolate, often at the same time.”
“No, that doesn’t sound right,” said Britta, sensing something was off here. “This is the sort of thing you do when you can’t play because the server’s down or something. Or the kind of thing where you record yourself on your phone while you’re on the toilet.” Britta definitely recalled many times when Dad stayed far too long in the bathroom while talking to himself. It seemed he’d been theorycrafting then, too. Best place for it, she’d say. “You wouldn’t do this while you could still log into the game. Did something happen?”
“My daughter the internet detective,” said Dad with a rueful smile. “No, nothing happened. You sent me off on a wild goose chase, and while I was gone, thinking we were all too weak to be able to face the first raid of what was probably going to be many, someone came along and beat the raid boss. That’s all.”
He seemed depressed. He was quite capable of getting upset about video games, but Britta couldn’t tell why he was upset about this. Beating the raid meant new content. Dad loved new content more than anything. So why was he sulking?
“That’s good, isn’t it?” said Britta. “Everyone gets to see what’s up next.”
“Good. No, sweetheart, it’s not good. Ten people came out of nowhere and beat the thing all by themselves. They’re way ahead of the rest of us. They’re going to dominate this world and we’re all going to be their loyal subjects, bowing and scraping and taking orders. It’s not good at all. We’re going to be living under a fascist tyranny, forced to do the bidding of overpowered buffoons. How can that possibly be good?”
It did sound troubling, but it was pretty obvious to Britta what the true problem was. He was jealous.
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Afterword from Mooderino