I had so many tedious chores to do yesterday. As I glanced over my to-do list, I felt an itch. This wasn’t lice in my hair or something that begged for a scratch. It was an itch to finish the game I started the other day.
“Better play now,” I thought. “The dirty dishes can wait. Besides, if I didn’t do something now,” I reasoned, “the itch would only get worse.”
So I sat down and continued what seemed like a regular play session. I set out to find all the hidden fruit in the game and unlock an achievement for this feat. After I grabbed the last set of grapes, the achievement popped up. I felt a surge of excitement, accomplishment and adrenaline mix into a cocktail of euphoria. But then I saw something strange. It brought me down from this natural high.
You have unlocked “Grapes of Wrath – 0 Exp.”
I thought to myself, “Well, that was a waste of time.”
The summary confirmed this, “Whoop-Dee-do! You collected all the hidden fruit in the game. Why don’t you go make a fruit salad with all of it?”
I decided to keep playing and forget the thing had ever happened. And, sure enough, the game became fun again. Everything was fine.
After a while, I paused the game and made myself a quick sandwich. It had meatballs – which had marinated in marinara – and gooey cheese. I played the game with one hand and managed to eat half of the sandwich with the other. That worked for about five minutes. Then another achievement popped up.
“Ha,” I thought, “I deserve an achievement for beating half of this game.”
Boy was I ever wrong.
“You’re a disgusting pig” unlocked. The summary read “Hey lazy boy! Put down the sandwich, get off the couch and get outside!”
I shrugged it off. After all, I was relaxing after a long day and words don’t hurt my feelings.
Yet, in truth, the achievement had bothered me. I lost focus and watched in horror as zombies slaughtered my character a dozen times. On top of that, my character fell off a couple of cliffs because I couldn’t think straight.
Then another achievement appeared on the screen.
“You have unlocked Epic Fail – You’ve died 1000 times. So put down the controller, hang your head in shame, and walk away already.”
That was the last straw. I was going to beat this game and prove it wrong. It would soon find out about my skill.
I charged the through the swarm of zombies and survived. I scaled the treacherous precipices on the cliff that had tested my patience. And I still had time to make a fruit salad in the game. “Ha I proclaimed to myself. That was easy.”
Then something popped on the screen. “You have unlocked Wasted. You have wasted 10,000 hours on this game. You’re pathetic. How can you stand yourself?”
“Why you little…,” I started to say.
There was no time to argue. The game could insult me all it wanted and make stuff up. It was crazy. So I trudged toward the finish line and made it across in record time. The game was over!
As the credits rolled, I dreaded seeing another achievement. Sure enough, it appeared just as I hoped to escape the game’s insults.
“You are terrible at video games. Seriously. Just give up already. Don’t you have something better you could be doing with your time? Oh wait, no you don’t”
“That’s it! I’ve had just about enough of this,” I said. I lunged toward the TV determined to destroy the console forever.
Before I couldn’t finish my foul deed, I felt sweat drench my forehead. My clothes were covered in sweat too. I opened my bloodshot eyes wide and found myself sitting upright in bed at 2 AM.
I surveyed the room and took it all in. The apartment was quiet, except for the TV in the other room.
“Haha it was all a dream. There’s no game like that.” I laughed out loud.
My roommate furrowed his brow and steadied his gaze on me. “Are you alright? He had a puzzled look on his face with one eyebrow arched higher.” I ignored him for now, and he walked away.
“It was only a dream… only a dream. None of it really happened,” I said.
My eyes started to feel heavy as if a giant boulder weighed them down. I instinctively grabbed a half-eaten meatball sandwich on my end-table, took a bite and then let it fall on my bed. I was fast asleep again.
Meanwhile, somewhere far away in a deep, dark cave, a pasty man roars with laughter. His flabby jowls jiggle as if made of jello. He taps away with Flash Gordon-like speed at a keyboard. Then he stops, scans the screen, and shakes his head. “Oh man, the achievements in my new game are too cruel.”
What if achievements were cruel and picked on people? That was the prompt that inspired this silly post.