The Nightmare Game

An interactive fiction. Copyright (c) 1984 by J.A.Schmehl
You are in a hallway. There are three doors here.

>Examine doors
The left door is all black except for a glowing eye which is watching you. The right door is green and has a frowning emoticon sloppily carved into it’s surface. The carving drips blood. The center door is blue and is decorated with a painting of white fluffy clouds and a yellow sun.

>Open center door
It is locked.

>Unlock center door
You need a key to do that.

>Find key
I don’t see that here.

>Open left door
It is locked.

>Open right door
You open the door. You are sucked into the center of a whirling cyclone. You can’t see or hear anything beyond dust and wind.
There is a monster here.

>Kill Monster
What would you like to kill the monster with?
There is a monster here.

I don’t see that here.
There is a monster here.

>Use magic spell to put monster to sleep
You have no magic spells.
The monster is swinging a club at you.

>Wake up
I do not understand that command. The monster has hit you with the club. (LIFE -50)

>Wake up!!!!
I do not understand that command. The monster has hit you with the club (LIFE -75)

I do not understand that command.
You are dead.
Thank you for playing.

Learn to Play

English: An Atari 2600 four-switch "wood ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The kids are at school, the dishes done, and the laundry started.  She has no more excuses.  She must sit down on the floor, now, in front of the TV, now, turn on the XBox, now, and learn to play.

She hates video games.  She’s hated them all her life.  From the moment her parents gifted her brothers their first Atari console, she’s thought of video games as the worst waste of time.  There were so many more interesting things to do.  As a kid she was always outside, running and playing and riding bikes.  On rainy days, she liked to play house and school or games like trivia pursuit or do crossword puzzles.

It never mattered, before now, that she never got into gaming  the way her brothers did.  No one minded, before now, that she didn’t know the difference between a side-scroller, a first-person shooter or a role-playing game.

It mattered now.

Now she had kids, and her kids were gamers.

In her mind, in her world, a good parent was an involved parent.  A good parent went to every soccer game, attended every recital. A good parent knew what was in the books her children read, because she’d read them.  She knew the TV shows they liked because she watched with them.  She knew how to play the games they liked, because she’d played them.

This month, the favorite game is on the Xbox, and it is a side-scroller. The kids finished level three last night before bed, and when they get home from school they will start level four.  When they get stuck, they must turn to her for help, not the internet, not a friend, her.

She sits in front of the TV, turns on the XBox and logs into the game.  With her laptop beside her, open to a cheat website, she takes the controller in her hands and learns how to complete level four.


The Game vs Real Life

Should I worry when the line between real life and a computer game seems to blur?

My boyfriend and I were walking along the street, chatting about this and that, when I saw a sign in a store window that contained the initialism, “GSI.”  Earlier that morning he and I were searching in the game world (SWTOR) for a GSI vendor.  In the game world, GSI stands for Galactic Standard Industries.  I have no idea what this real life version of those letters meant.

SWTOR Empire logo
Come to the dark side (Photo credit: Derringdos)

Here is what happened in my brain during the one second of seeing the sign:

  • Millisecond 1 – Eyes input visual of sign in store window
  • Millisecond 250 – Brain recognizes letters
  • Millisecond 500 – Oh, that is the place we need to get the next quest from
  • Millisecond 750 – Realization of what I just thought
  • Millisecond 1000 – Laughter

My boyfriend turned to me and asked why I was suddenly laughing so hard.  It took me a while to catch my breath enough to tell him, and of course he thought it was hysterical.

And then it happened again.

This time the game was Sim City, and the real life prompt was an abandoned building.  In Sim City it is good strategy to immediately bulldoze abandoned buildings to avoid creating homeless people and to maintain your tax revenue. Probably a good strategy in real life, but not nearly as easy to do:  I held up my hand in the direction of the real life building, moved my finger in a mouse clicking motion and said aloud, “bulldoze.”

English: Abandoned Building
Bulldoze in one click? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My boyfriend almost fell over, he was laughing so hard.  He is threatening to write the two events up on facebook.

I guess I just beat him to it.  But should I be worried?  Is this yet another sign that I am gaming too much, or is it just evidence of a healthy imagination?

What do you think?

Thoughts on Denouement

I feel ridiculous.  Why am a sobbing like this?  It’s a documentary about game designers, one I’ve already watched.  I knew how it ended before I pressed play. In the dark living room, I am sitting on the floor while my sister sits on the couch behind me.  I’m sure she can see my shoulders shaking and I’m totally embarrassed.

But I don’t cry at the sad parts, or the stressful parts, I cry at the ending.  A happy dénouement makes me cry harder than anything else in the world.denouement

Indie Game the Movie, is an incredibly well made documentary about the ups and downs of the lives of three independent game designers.  Not exactly your typical tear-jerker material.  But the directors have a way of telling the stories of these creative men that makes me feel every ounce of their passion and dedication for what they do.

indie game the movie
indie game the movie (Photo credit: theNerdPatrol)

The part that makes me cry, on both viewings so far, is the story of Ed and Tommy, two geeky, thirty-something guys, who make a game called Super Meat Boy.  They are the most awkwardly adorable men you’ve ever seen.  The movie follows their story from when Microsoft / Xbox decides to add Super Meat Boy as a downloadable game up to the day the game is highlighted on the ‘front page’ of every Xbox in the country.  (Kinda like being Freshly Pressed, but better, because they get paid.)  Ed and Tommy have to get the game as perfect as possible by that date.  The documentary captures their anxiety over the task and all the ‘what if’s’ they suffer through.  From the extremes of ‘What if every one ignores it’ to ‘what if every one loves it?’  There is the potential to make a lot of money here, and both of these guys have nothing.  Ed’s wife supports him while he develops the game and they live in what looks like a two-room apartment.  Tommy lives with his parents in their doubly-mortgaged house.

I’m going to give the end of the story away here – but believe me, it doesn’t matter.  Knowing won’t change a thing about the experience of watching it. Super Meat Boy does great and they both make a lot of money.  But the point is this: the build up and the climax and the denouement of their story is so satisfying and wonderful that I bawl my eyes out. Just as much on the second viewing as for the first.   The joy bubbles up, filling my heart and my lungs and covering my skin with goose bumps until I have to cry to let all the emotion out.

Bandage Girl loves Meat Boy
Bandage Girl loves Meat Boy (Photo credit: PaRaP)

I tell my sister about this silly movie about game designers and since she’s just finished making her first iOS app, she wants to see it.  At the very end, when Tommy is paying off his parents mortgage, I hear a sound behind me and sure enough, my non-gamer sister is sobbing just as hard as I am.

There is a lesson here for writers.  In the end, the specifics of the story do not matter.  What matters is how you tell the story.

And for whatever bizarre reason, a well told story with a happy ending always makes me cry.

This is just a silly rant…

SWTOR Bounty Hunter (IMG_3681)
SWTOR Bounty Hunter  (Photo credit: chaines106)

I really, really wish there was someone out there in the world who liked to play MMORPGs* the way I want to play them:

1) Quests only: no dungeons or raids, I just want to follow a character through the story-line of the game.

2) No PvP*: I don’t want to fight real people – I want to fight NPCs*.  I don’t understand the appeal of fighting other players.

3) No crafting: feels too much like work.

4) Gear:  I really don’t care what kind of gear my character has. As long as it is the right level for my character – that is good enough for me.  And as an addition to this, I don’t care about buying or selling gear in the markets – too much work.

The thing is – I really like to play with other people, But the key word there is PLAY. It is a game, it is supposed to be fun.  When your game becomes an obsession and when you get angry at people who don’t take it seriously, then it is no longer fun.

I don’t want to just randomly hook up with strangers either – I want to already know who I am going to play with and more importantly – I want them to know me and my playing style and be cool with my giggling when the monster starts attacking and I start yelling, “run away, run away!”

I have yet to meet a single person in real life or inside the games who wants to play the way I do, and so that means I don’t really play anymore.  It is boring to play by myself.

And that is the end of this silly rant.

Where I am:
SWTOR –  Shadowlands – main: Jilanna – Sith Assassin, alt: Vaunna, – Smuggler Gunslinger
WoW –  I’m sort of all over the place – been playing since 08′, never got a char past level 60 – I just get bored and start new ones

*Glossary for the non-gamer:

MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – basically Dungeons and Dragons on the computer with strangers from all over the planet.

PvP – Player vs. Player (real people)

NPC – Non-Player Characters (not real people)

SWTOR – an MMORPG called Star Wars, The Old Republic

WoW – an MMORPG called World of Warcraft 

At what age did you feel grown up?

Growing up and liking it!
Growing up and NOT liking it! (Photo credit: amy_b)

On the occasion of my seventh birthday I told my mother that I’d had enough birthdays. Seven was a very good age, I was happy with it, and I would stay there. (Just as an amusing side note – my youngest sister thought that the age of seven was rather magical as well, but she believed that seven was the age she would turn into a boy, like her two older brothers. At thirteen she’d go back to being a girl like her sisters.)

When I turned twenty, the ubiquitous wave of teenage depression threatened to engulf me. I felt very, very old and I just wanted to die and get it over with, with all the ‘woe is me’ only a twenty year old can feel. Obviously I survived, and got on with the business of growing up.  Or so I thought.

While I won’t reveal my current age, I am old enough that the randomly generated writing prompt featured in the title struck me quite hard.

Grown up? Oh no! Shouldn’t I feel grown up by now?

The teen-aged child of my cousin, on learning that I was near in age to his mother said, “But how can you be that old? You play video games and you know about the stuff I like, you’re not like a grown up at all.”

My answer to his compliment was, “Maybe because I don’t have children – I never stopped being a child.” (Yes, I took it as a compliment, because he meant it that way. I loved and admired the adults that I thought were ‘cool’ when I was a kid, who found my interests interesting, and now I am one of them. How awesome is that?)

I know other ‘adults,’ and I use that word lightly, who are like me. We the child-less, and often spouse-less, fill our free time with various pursuits. I read. I play video games. I create stories and bad Photoshop art and post my creations all over the web. A dear friend works on her two-hundred year old house, crochets funny hats and plays ukulele. My boyfriend devours web-comics and draws. We don’t have a lot of money, or retirement plans, or stock portfolios, things that I associate with being a grown up.

I find myself saying, “Someday when I have money, I’m going to do/have [fill in the blank].” But that someday never becomes today. Maybe if I put away my toys and found a ‘career’ instead of enjoying my ‘job’ I would finally make all that money that is out there in my grown-up future.

But not now. Right now I am going to level up my gnome rogue in WoW, and then I might work on the next chapter of my serial novel experiment.

Growing up can wait a while longer.