Bitter 514

“You really don’t care if your character stays stuck at Level 1,” said Britta as she chased Dad down the stairs.

“Of course I care,” said Dad. “But once a game decides to throw the rule book out the window, along with the fun book, you have to find your own way to play.”

“They just made it a bit harder than most games,” said Britta. “I thought you’d enjoy the challenge.”

Dad stopped at the bottom of the stairs and gave her a withering look. “There’s a challenge and then there’s just wasting your time. It’s like when a game puts in a series of tasks it wants you to do in order to do another series of task. Collect stone, build a stone furnace. Collect iron ore, melt it in the stone furnace, use the iron metal to make an iron furnace. Collect copper ore, melt it in the iron furnace, use the copper metal to make a copper furnace. Collect bronze ore—”

“There’s no such thing as bronze ore,” said Britta. “It’s an alloy.”

“What? I know that. Don’t interrupt me when I’m being brilliant. I’ll do a video on this that will become an industry classic. Where was I?”

“Creating the impossible,” said Britta.

“One day I will, mark my words. My point is that they think any reason to grind is the same as a valid reason to grind. When you see a game slip into a mindless cycle like that, you have to get out as soon as you can. You’re being scammed.”

“Isn’t every game like that?” said Britta.

“No, not at all. The good ones create a story, one you feel part of, full of lore and characters that make you care. You have to help them because they need you, but to help them, you need to get stronger. You need a better weapon, better armour.”

“So you need better ovens to make the weapons and armour?” asked Britta.

“That could be a way to do it. But you’re building an oven, I mean a furnace with a purpose. Hmm, furnace with a purpose. I like it. I’ll use that as the title.”

“You’re still building an endless series of ovens,” said Britta.

“It’s totally different. Why you do things is important? The means justifies the end.”

“But this game gives you a reason to get stronger, doesn’t it?” said Britta. “Save the world or whatever? There’s a reason you have to level up.”

“Right. In this case, they give you a purpose, but make it incredibly hard to pursue it. That’s just as bad.”

He hurried into the kitchen, eager to get into the game he was criticising so heavily. It seemed to make him happy.

Mum was sat at the table, eating a bowl of soup and browsing the internet on a tablet. She looked up, surprised to see them both as they came in, Dad spouting an endless stream of rhetoric, Britta rolling her eyes.

“But you have to play the hand you’re dealt,” he continued. “They made it so it’s very hard to level up or increase your stats. That’s their choice. They probably have a reason they did it that way, a very dumb reason, but it’s up to them. We, as players, have our own choice to make. Struggle on trying to progress even though it isn’t much fun, or make our own amusement. That’s the great thing about a sandbox game, it’s up to you how you want to play. Up to you to show the devs they’re a bunch of hopeless losers who don’t know what they’re doing. Find a purpose, Britta, a purpose.”

“Did something happen?” asked Mum. “I thought your Dad looked a bit depressed earlier, so I made him some soup. He likes to sit in bed and eat soup when he’s feeling blue. You seem to have cheered him up, though.”

“Some people are doing well in the game,” said Britta, “and Dad’s going to put an end to their fun.”

Mum nodded like she wasn’t at all surprised.

Dad stopped and turned around with a look of hurt on his face. “I’m not going to put an end to their fun. I’m going to expose them for the cheating gits they are. Whatever shortcut they found, whatever sneaky exploit they used, everyone will know about it, and then together we’ll all use it to make the devs’ lives a nightmare. Then they’ll see the error of their ways. You can hardly blame me for wanting everyone to be on the same level playing field.”

Britta didn’t for a moment think Dad was fighting to restore balance and fairness to the virtual world. If he had an unfair advantage, he would guard it jealously and enjoy every moment of unearned victory over raging opponents.

“I don’t think it’ll matter,” said Britta. “Even if they do farm all the lower-level raids, I doubt they’ll be able to defeat the harder bosses. Not if they get knocked back down to zero every time they die. They’ll just be stuck in a bottleneck while everyone else finds other ways to catch up. Just because they slowed down the fighting in this game, doesn’t mean there aren’t other kinds of quests.”

Dad paused by the kitchen door as he was about to leave for his shed. He walked back to Britta and kissed her on the top of her head.

“You are a wise and clever girl, which you get from my side of the family.” Mum slurped loudly but didn’t interrupt. “Bear in mind that if these mysterious experts, as you call them, have found a way to break the game, it’s more than likely that APE will ask you to step in and sort it out.”

“Me?” said Britta. “It’s got nothing to do with me. I’m not even allowed to join the raids.”

Dad opened the door to the garden and gave her a sympathetic look. “You are the chosen one. Chosen to do the jobs no one else wants. Just check your bank balance if you need a reminder why.”

He left, slamming the door behind him.

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