The Sun Also Sinks

One sunny day, I found myself sitting on the couch not knowing how I got there. This weird black thing with two joysticks fell into my hands. I didn’t know what this thing was, but I decided to tap the button in the center and see what would happen. Next, these bright colours popped up on the screen and nearly blinded me.

On the screen, my bipedal, anthropomorphic, cute and cuddly lamb character was in her warm, wooden house. I controlled her, moving her about the house while looking for things to do. Then I drew up a list of chores for the lamb to complete.

The lamb started by sweeping all the floors. Afterwards, there was enough lint and fuzz, I reckon, to make fifty fluffy blankets. Then the lamb blew on all the old NES cartridges to get rid of their dust. She bagged up all the dust and fuzz — ready to dispose of it.

Before dumping the garbage, the lamb washed all the dishes. After all, flies buzzed around the house and fed off her dirty plates. After washing, the lamb noticed some scraps had fallen off the dishes and on the floor. She reacted by cleaning the floor until its sparkle rivaled what would be one jealous diamond. Finally, she cut the grass, pulled some weeds and threw out the trash.

The lamb started to yawn and yearned to settle down for a long night’s sleep. The full moon popped up to wish her sweet dreams as she put on her slumber mask. She imagined humans jumping over fences as her eyes closed one at a time.

I shut off the game. I patted myself on the shoulder for such a productive day.

Then I got off the couch, turned around and saw my leaning stack of dishes had fragmented in to a thousand pieces on my floor. An archaeologist, one day, would be excited by such a find. For now, I moved forward and waded through a sea of garbage bags, complete with flies who’d taken up residence on top of them, in my living room.

As I reached my bedroom door, a tumbling tumbleweed of dust and fuzz rolled by me. I stopped to let it pass. I reached my bedroom window and shut the blinds to avoid the milky full moon that bathed the night with light. “Hmmm,” I thought as the blinds covered the window, “I’ll have to pull those weeds and cut that meter-long grass one day.” Then I fell on my bed and shut my eyes.

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Press Start to Continue — If You Dare

Some video games like to throw dirt in your eye and laugh when you are down. What games have frustrated you so badly that you nearly gave up? Why? And how did you overcome the insurmountable challenge?

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The Video Game That Was Never Unleashed

I found myself standing in front of a video game studio that had a secret. It was a warm, sunny day and the sky was care free, which contrasted with my furrowed brow and shaky hand. I was waiting to be ushered into Crazy Video Games Inc. to meet a killer. My blood ran cold at the mere thought of a paper cut, and here I was about to face a scary secret.

You might think some games are never released because they are left unfinished. But I went to this studio because I heard they had a game that posed a true public safety hazard. This sounded like a one-of-a-kind video game, a story no one had dared to uncover. With this visit to the studio, I hoped to change that.

The studio’s front door swung open and smiling faces greeted me. They seemed to smile so much that I wondered how their jaws did not crack. Their smiles distracted me but not did not disarm me, did not stop me from my fear of the unknown that could have been around any corner.

Suddenly the cubicles and smiling faces disappeared, and my studio guide and I entered a cold, rocky room. It was like a cave in the middle of this game studio. There was the constant, distant and discordant sound of dripping water in the background. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on guard.

After the cave, we descended into a giant warehouse-like area of the studio. Towering shelves, covered in dust, greedily consumed every ounce of real estate in this area. The tops of the shelves, as we passed them, seemed to stare deep into one’s soul, for at the top each had two large slits that looked like a pair of stern eyes. The contents of the shelves, though, did not seem worthy of security. They consisted of prototype consoles and forgotten games that never saw the light of day. These boring grey shelves and their dusty contents seemed to go on forever — until I heard something strange.

It started as a low-pitched groan, and then started to sound more like a bark. As we moved closer, I saw a video game that howled like a wolf, foamed at the case and revealed its terrifying fangs. If it hadn’t been chained to a shelf, it would have come sunk its fangs deep into my flesh. The sign above it, which labelled it “The Killer App,” confirmed this for me. Then the game stopped howling long enough for my guide to speak.

“Every once in a while,” he said, “we throw The Killer App a bone: we say we’ll release it soon. But we never will. The game will languish in here forever. Anyway, we hope you enjoyed your stay. Have a great day.”

My guide led me to a secret back door but not before I turned around to steal a final glance at The Killer App. As the door closed behind, me I could see its fangs gleaming in the darkness, and I knew it would forever haunt my dreams. I swore I would never return to this ghastly scene. I hoped The Killer App would never be unleashed.

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If My Human Calls

Joy the Joystick wore a permanent smile on her face when she helped others. She had always been an authentic Sorny Inc. controller: she longed to love humans, video games and consoles alike. Her secret for happiness and authenticity was to play video games and to get regular exercise.

Exercise, for her, consisted of regularly working and oiling her buttons to make sure they didn’t atrophy. She did this while playing hours of sports games. She calibrated herself well enough to belt fastballs out of the park at a major league rate. Most gamers would be lucky to have such a joyful and skillful controller in their lives.

Conrad the console, however, was everything that Joy was not. His rugged, square shape had rounded a little over the years. The kids from across street had borrowed him a few times and slipped him out of their sticky soda stained hands. He was quite fond of sitting around all day collecting dust. He had developed many vicious habits while sitting there, wondering about the meaningless of life. Conrad had gotten into such bad shape that it hurt when he played video games and when he did not. He just did not care what Jimmy, his human, did.

Jimmy was not the most thoughtful of humans. He would often eat cheesy nachos and rub his greasy hands all over his controller. He would sometimes leave Conrad running all day without reprieve. Jimmy’s friends often said he did not appreciate all of his video games and console. They thought he took Joy and Conrad for granted.

One day, the phone rang and Joy overheard a conversation between Jimmy and his mother. A smile burst out across Joy’s face as soon as the call ended. She had heard that Jimmy was coming home from a trip abroad.

“He can’t wait to play a new video game he bought! Isn’t that swell?,” Joy asked.

Conrad spit out his chewing tobacco, and the dark wad flew across the room before plopping into a flower pot. He downed a swig of whiskey to freshen his breath. Then he chomped into a cigar, filling the room with the incense of Cuba, to clear the heat out of his head. He let out a puff of greyish white smoke that matched the colour of his stubble.

“Meh,” Conrad said, “he can go play with himself.”

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If I Could Split Myself in Two

Let’s pretend I’ve discovered a revolutionary procedure to split myself in half. This procedure is safe and there is no surgery. I would not lose a pound of flesh, there are no knives slicing skin and I wouldn’t lose a drop of blood. You might say I’m talking about cloning myself, but splitting myself in half sounds cooler.

Half of me would figure out how to make this world a better place. I would work to bring all nations together in everlasting peace. I’m sure this goal would keep my better half preoccupied.

The other half would dedicate hours to the pursuit of beating video games. I would tell you more about my this half, but I’ve got some business to attend to.

Now if I could only fuse these two disparate halves together into a whole. Has anyone figured out the procedure?

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If You Could Only Play One Video Game for the Rest of Your Life

What would it be and why?

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The Day the Video Games Stopped

“I woke up thinking the end was near. It felt like a roller-coaster was doing a never-ending loop inside my stomach,” said the old man.

“Tell us the story again, Grandpa!” said the kids.

The two kids, dressed in red, sat on a carpet in their bedroom. They stared at their Grandfather as intently as if a magician had mesmerized them. Not even an earthquake could shake their focus. They set their bright eyes, which seemed to sparkle like diamonds, on the man they loved.

The old man looked like the children, but he had wrinkles of wisdom. He had many, many wrinkles; one for each hardship he had experienced. He looked out the window and up at the sky as he began to recount one of those hardships. He felt a little too cold, a little too distant to cry as he recalled the story, but it was not too cold to rain outside. Outside, the birds in the sky flew forward, but the sky seemed to move backwards as if the old man was time traveling.

His grandchildren’s youthful enthusiasm and intent listening renewed his hope. He smiled, turned away from the window and looked at them.

He spoke up again, “I remember long lines of people who were desperate for help. The lines started on the sidewalk, and like a long snake, bent around corners. Other people would run around the empty street — there were no cars — pushing wheelbarrows. The wheelbarrows were overflowing with worthless money. And every time a light breeze came along, the money would scatter in every direction. These wheelbarrow pushers would pant as they chased fluttering bills, trying to stuff some under their hat. It was sad. Money, which had always been worthless, had stripped a priceless human being of dignity.

I’m sad to say many were losing hope in this setting. Either that or their horizons were limited to survival by any means. Caring about others didn’t seem to matter.”

The old man sighed and looked out the window. Teeny tiny droplets of water had replaced the torrential downpour of rain that first fell. He took comfort in his grandkids’ smiles and continued to tell the tale.

He said, “But there were murmurs and talk about a better place. I could see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As he said this, a rainbow appeared outside. We worked together, stood tall together and moved forward together. Soon the snakelike lines and money chasing were a thing of the past. We did find ourselves in a better place. We could even sit down and play video games together. Games had always been an important part of my early life, but they became a luxury during those years.”

“Will we get to play them with you now?, Grandpa,” asked the kids.

“Sure,” he replied. Then a warm smile appeared on his face just as the sun shone outside. “First you two should take a nap.”

The kids didn’t want to move, like they were frozen, and were curious to know more. “Grandpa, what’s the moral of the story?”

He scratched his chin and pondered their question deeply before replying.

“Always remain hopeful,” he said.

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