Player One Has Entered The Game
Imagine, if you will, a story of magicks ancient and powerful. A tale of minds that can grip and shape reality. A chronicle of technology so powerful and advanced it can barely be comprehended by the mortal mind. This is not a story about these things.
As it happens, this is a story about a young man—a gamer—and the unfortunate accident that completely ruined videogames for him. And it all began the fateful day he received a phone call from his friend Rick….
“Hey Rick, what’s up?”
“Tom, I need you to get over here right now! I’ve got something big here, and I need your help,” Rick exclaimed.
“Great! I’ll see you…what?”
“I said no. Last time you called me over like this I almost ended up being electrocuted because you needed help installing a new server. The time before that I almost bled to death when you tripped and stabbed me with the new soldering gun that you just had to show me. And the time before THAT….”
“OK, OK. You’ve got a point. Seriously though, can you come over? I think I’ve finished IDEAS and I want to get the opinion of someone I trust.”
“Hmmm, IDEAS is done? All right, you’ve piqued my interest. I’ll stop by after work.”
Like Tom, Rick was an avid gamer, but unlike Tom, Rick approached gaming with an almost religious fervor. He loved all of his games, even those he no longer played, and he was an incorrigible pack rack. Of course, there had come an inevitable moment when he finally realized the impracticality of storing and maintaining all of his old systems and games. It was with this in mind that he began building IDEAS, the Interactive Digital Entertainment Archive System. Comprised of innumerable hard drives, processors, and bits of every game system that ever existed, IDEAS was designed to both store and play all of Rick’s games. Rick had been working on IDEAS for three years, and now that it was supposedly done, Tom had to admit that he was curious to see it in action.
Tom arrived at Rick’s house fifteen minutes later and headed straight for the basement. As he entered the darkened room, screens and lights blinked all around him, bathing the room in an eerie glow accompanied by the low, droning hum of the equipment. At the center of it all was a large swivel chair, designed by Rick for optimal mobility and comfort, sitting in front of a gigantic monitor. Attached to the chair was a small console, which Tom supposed was the central controlling mechanism. It was all very elaborate, and Tom had to admit that, for all his eccentricities, Rick really had a gift when it came to understanding technology.
“Rick, are you down here?” Tom yelled out.
“Just a sec…there!” Rick emerged from behind one of the larger pieces of equipment with a screwdriver in hand. He looked somewhat disheveled and smelled as if he hadn’t showered in a few days. Or weeks, come to that.
“Hey buddy, I just finished making some final adjustments and I think she’s ready to go! Care to watch?”
“I’m here aren’t I? So let’s see if this thing actually works,” said Tom, trying to stay downwind and failing to do so.
At this Rick nodded and sat down at the chair, motioning Tom to join him at the side. Opting to stay where he was, Tom watched how Rick reverently picked up the controller and held it to his chest, appearing to utter a small prayer. Upon finishing, he reached over to the chair’s console, tapped a few keys, and looked expectantly at the main monitor.
The friends stood in silence for thirty seconds before either of them said anything.
“Um…should it be doing something?” asked Tom.
“It’s…it’s probably just warming up. Give it a little longer,” replied Rick, nervously.
This time it was two minutes before the awkward silence was broken by a dejected sigh from Rick.
“Crap, I really thought it was going to work this time.”
“Hey, it’s all right man. You’ll figure out what’s wrong with it. Heh, maybe you just forgot to plug it in,” Tom joked. Rick quickly looked up at Tom, flashing him a wide-eyed look, then dashed behind the equipment. “Oh for Pete’s sake, don’t tell me you actually did forget to plug it in?!”
“Well kinda, I just forgot to hook up the main processor to the rest of system!” Rick shouted. “Hey, see if it’ll work now! Just hit the power button on the console.”
Reaching over the console, Rick easily found the large red button labeled “power.” Well, at least it’s nothing complicated, Tom thought to himself as he pushed it.
A whirring noise filled the room, followed by a flash of light and rush of air. Tom thought he heard Rick’s voice, but it felt like it was getting further and further away. A burning sensation erupted behind Tom’s eyes and, unable to take the pain, he blacked out.
When he woke up, Tom found himself floating in dark space. The last thing he could remember was the flash of light and the burning sensation. “Well, it’s finally happened,” he said out loud. “Rick’s killed me. Guess I should have seen this coming. Hmph, I wonder where Rick is, anyway. You’d think that explosion would have gotten him, too.”
“Tom? Tom is that you?” Rick’s voice filled the empty space for a moment, and then was gone.
“Rick? Where the hell are you? What’s going on? Are you dead, too?”
“Um, I’m in the basement. After I told you to turn on the machine there was this flash, then you screamed, and when I came out I found you passed out. And we’re both alive. I think.”
“Well, I’m certainly alive, and technically you are, too, but your voice seems to be coming out of IDEAS’ speakers. Hold on a second…um, Tom, are you floating inside a dark space?”
“Yeeeeeees. How the hell did you know that?”
“You’re on the monitor.”
“I can see you on IDEAS’ main monitor. OK, I’ve got a theory, but promise me you’re not going to freak out.”
“Fine, what’s your theory?”
“I think somehow IDEAS pulled your consciousness into it, leaving your body behind in a coma-like state.”
“WHAT?! How is that even possible?!”
“I don’t know, but it’s the only explanation I can think of! I mean, I’m watching and talking to you on a screen, yet your body is right here next to me, looking all comatose!”
“So you can see my body?”
“Yeah, it’s right here next to me.”
“But I’m somehow talking to you from the machine.”
“That seems to be the case.”
“Despite all known laws of physics and biology.”
“Well great. And I don’t suppose you have any idea how to get me out of here, do you?”
“Not as such, no.”
“I mean, this situation is completely new to me. Maybe if I could analyze the system while it was working, figure out what exactly it’s doing and how you got pulled in, maybe I could come up with a way to get you out..”
“Analyze it while it’s working? You mean play a game on it? RICK, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PLAY VIDEOGAMES!”
“I’m serious! Besides, it’s not like I could play even I wanted to. The system has locked me out.”
“Then what the hell do you propose?”
“I installed a backdoor to the system, just in case something ever happened, like a game freezing up on me. I know this situation is a little….different, but if I hook up my laptop I should at least be able to get back some control. I’ll be right back.”
“OK, I’ve got it!” Rick’s voice was back. “Here, let me try loading up the main emulation program. Hopefully I’ll be able to see what’s going on.”
Another flash of light, and the empty space around Tom had transformed into a pixelated landscape of red brick walkways, green pipes, and floating blocks. Looking down, he saw that the clothes he had been wearing had been replaced with red overalls and a brown shirt. A familiar melody wafted through the air and in the distance he thought he could see the outline of a flagpole and castle.
“Woah, woah, WHOA, why am I in Super Mario Bros.?!” Tom asked.
“Well, I thought it would be a good first test of the system, but I seem to be unable to do anything but watch,” Rick explained.
“Great, well, that was a waste of time.”
“Maybe not. You’re dressed up as Mario, right? I think you might be in control of the game.”
“Do what now?”
“I think the system thinks you’re the player. Go ahead, see if you can’t move around a bit.”
Concentrating on his new form, Tom began to move Mario/himself forward. It felt like learning to walk all over again, figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other in this digital world. It soon become easier, though, and Tom was controlling Mario as easily as his own body.
“Well Rick, looks like I’m in charge of the game. What now?”
“Just try playing the game and I’ll watch the system, see if I can’t figure anything out.”
“I suppose that makes as much sense as anything else that’s happened today. All right, let’s do this.”
And with that Tom began learning what really happens in videogames.