The (Video)game of Life

| October 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

>>>> PRESS START <<<<

New Game

>> Load Game

> Save File 1

Save File 2

Save File 3


Load Save File 1. Are you sure?

> Yes.    > No.


You push off the covers and clamber out of where you last saved: that thing with the mattresses and the pillows and the sheets – that thing that’s name currently escapes you because it’s 5:00 in the morning. Save Point is one way to describe it, you suppose; and yours looks to be a right mess. Clearly you’ve been tossing and turning in there a fair amount. Probably nightmares from that hellish day you had yesterday, right? You know, the one with all the annoying quiz and/or midterm exam minigames? You shoot your clock an exasperated look. What ungodly Character Creator wakes their creation up at a time like this, after a day like that?

Still, you suppose, an early start means more Experience Points (EXP) for the day. You slept well enough that your Health Points are full again, though your Stamina is still in want of some replenishment. Luckily, you have just enough supplies stored in your safehouse to fall back on. You pour out a bowlful of milk (Inventory: 2 -> 1 Milk) and fill it with a handful of cereal (Inventory: 2324 -> 1996 Corn Flakes). It takes moments to devour, and before you know it, your Stamina level is back up to 80%.

It’s not perfect, but it’ll do. Best not to use up all your stock in one go.

You step outside, where it’s early enough for you to start your day, yet late enough for you to run into high level enemies. You stand groggily in place for a few seconds: scratch your head a bit, stretch and yawn, hop up and down on your tiptoes to the beat of Stayin’ Alive. You know. Standard idle animation stuff.

Finally, you pull a hoodie over your head and start your slog through the neighborhood. It’s almost morning, so the first wave of pedestrian NPCs starts to spawn before you, their interactions as dull and preprogrammed as you’ve come to expect after the past 20+ years.

photo credit: dmitry_ryzhkov 3_DSC9717 via photopin (license)

Actual conversation overheard by the author.
photo credit: dmitry_ryzhkov 3_DSC9717 via photopin (license)

Pedestrian 1: Hi.

Pedestrian 2: Hey, what’s up?

Pedestrian 1: The weather is killing me…

End transcript.

Seriously. That is as far as their conversation goes.

You roll your eyes and walk on. You hope the next pair you overhear, at least, will have something more inspired to say.


Also based on actual conversation overheard on the street.
photo credit: dmitry_ryzhkov _DSC8934 via photopin(license)

Pedestrian 3 (on phone): Yes but what I’m-

You walk on, out of range…

Pedestrian 3 (on phone): Yes but what I’m-

You walk out of earshot again.

Pedestrian 3 (on phone) Yes but what I’m saying is…

Unbelievable. It’s like he’ll only render his full dialogue when you’re nearby!

Also lifted verbatim from actual encounter with the author. photo credit: Terence l.s.m Street Candid via photopin (license)

…Aaaand also lifted verbatim from actual encounter with the author.
photo credit: Terence l.s.m Street Candid via photopin(license)

Pedestrian 4: YO YOU GOT A LIGHTER?

You: …

Pedestrian 4: YO! Don’t got a lighter? You a ****ing liar!

Okay. Those work.

Your phone buzzes. RRING! You answer with all the energy of a depressed local shopkeeper who keeps their prices high in an effort to survive in an age of superplexes and shopping malls (which you incidentally never really venture out to). It’s your boss, you learn; something’s come up with the regular guy and she’s got a new mission for you. As you hang up, you mark your mission target on your GPS. Mission Initiated: Pickup and Delivery IV. There’s B O N U S Money in it if you can get there by 7:00! And so immediately you’re off.

As the time limit counts down on the upper right corner of your phone’s screen, you feel increasingly anxious. You wish you’d brought your bike with you. You’ve examined your map several times over already; there’s no way to make it in time, no single path that gets you there in under 20 minutes. And so you do what any gamer would: you don’t just take one shortcut.

You take them all.

And it’s there, on the third turn in the fourth dark alleyway, that you’re JUMPED by a random encounter! A Level 50 mugger, pale-faced and juiced up on cheat code-level steroids, comes at you with a knife. You give him the once-over and immediately estimate his stats: 72 Attack, 48 Defense, 31 Agility, 3 Wisdom. You PAUSE to check your own.



>> Stats

    > Attack: 2

    > Defense: 4

    > Agility: π, probably

    > Wisdom: 42

Yay. You’re smart.

You try to roll out of the way, but the mugger knocks you down with a single tackle. And as your head hits concrete, you feel your HP rapidly dwindling to zero – and then your Adrenaline Mode activates and your Stamina kicks in. With a mighty swerve, you kick upwards at your foe…

…And miss! Note to self: Start developing an Accuracy stat. Addendum: Three carrots a week is apparently not enough to get it up too high. PAUSE!



> Music Volume: 100

> Speech Volume: 100

> SFX Volume: 100

> Subtitles: Unavailable

    >> Difficulty

> Easy

> Medium

> Hard

> Very Hard


ERROR: Difficulty cannot be lowered once you have started the game! Reverted to Hard by default.

Go Back

Damn it!

Another few Health Points lost and your visuals start to glitch out…

$2421 -> $2121.

When you come to again, you’re in a hospital, recuperating. Your Health Points are coming back up, but it was at the cost of a good few dollars you’d earned (or looted; no judgment). You look around and realize you’re in a save point – damn it again! The game autosaved as it always does, and you can’t go back to fix things. You lay back onto the pillow and let out a groan, thinking it’s Game Over… But then you notice the doctor standing by you. She looks back at you with an amused smirk on her face. You raise a hand in greeting.

photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet 161002-N-SF984-055 via photopin (license)

photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet 161002-N-SF984-055 via photopin (license)

Doctor: Lost a bit of blood there, friend.

You nod.

Doctor: Yes, see… I have your stats here on this chart. Your inventory’s a bit lighter too now; guessing the thug helped himself to some of your cash before the hospital did–

You slam your fists on the side of the bed, wishing you could level up more, fight back…

Doctor: That’s not going to do anyone any good. Listen. You’ve been very focused on yourself lately, player. But the thing about life is, it keeps spinning back to the same lessons. It’s not a single player game, or even a homogenous one. We play different levels, play on different difficulties decided at birth. You’re in here with the rest of us, and we’re meant to work together, to help each other grow, no matter our differences. Hell, your surgery’s the reason I leveled up today. Got a good number of Wisdom points – enough for the boss to offer me a promotion. Tomorrow, I’ll be leading a surgery for the first time…

You lie back at last, ready to listen for the first time. You’re not going anywhere, so might as well hear out what the NPC has to say. Or is she an NPC? The more you hear, the more you realize she just might be another player character, with an experience as whole as your own. And the more you hear about her other patients – the man whose vision glitched out while he was driving, or the woman whose cheat code abuse got her addicted and careless – the more you realize, for the first time at last, that it might be nice to play with others once in a while.

Featured photo credit: Dzokii Dinka Jester #2 via photopin (license)

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Aaraf Afzal

About the Author ()

Aaraf Afzal is many things, but he's not particularly good at being any of them. He continues to work towards this goal, among others, studying Film & TV and Economics at Boston University. An avid subscriber to the belief that all forms of media have their own sense of artistic beauty, he is particularly invested in writing fiction and recently released his first novel "Re: Revolution" in Bangladesh. Alongside his pursuits at Culture Shock, he's currently at work writing an online series called "The Chosen Zeroes." Fandoms and inspirations include Neil Gaiman, Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, Marvel Comics, and Culture Shock. Giggity.

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