With a flourish, Gene leapt to his feet and put on a theatrical voice that boomed around our apartment: ‘But, what about the Realm of Elder Tales? It has been many weeks since our last quest, I am sure that there are scores of broken-hearted maidens who lament my absence‘.
I had to laugh. Sure, he always looked cute in his armour, but there was nothing sillier than watching him flirt terribly with the in-game characters. Especially since the last update when the gamemasters had quite literally been besieged by furious micro-blog dwellers who had just made the horrified discovery that people still made SIMs in the fantasy genre.
After the update, Gene had been chased out of the quaint village of Greenoire by four sensibly-dressed tavern servers who now suddenly objected to his character’s usual bawdy greetings. I hadn’t stopped laughing for days.
Taking the diplomatic option, I said: ‘There is, I am afraid, a curse upon that land. Evil mages from LANCorp have cast a time hex upon all realms except their own.‘ It was true, almost all of the city’s bandwidth had been hogged by the “Winter Wonderland” SIM where everyone spends the holidays. We’d be there too if it wasn’t for the fact that they’d capped admissions at ninety million after a buildup of acid snow had burned one of their backup servers.
‘Ah, but I feel a yearning for adventure! To hear the clash of steel upon steel once more, to taste the mead of the old lands and to rest beside..‘
‘Resting is all we would be doing, noble knight! But I hear that the loading area is quite comfortable.’ I muttered.
‘Alas! Alack! What are we to do? To quest against such a foe as LANCorp would be folly, for their realm is one of ICE and snow!‘ Gene raised an eyebrow knowingly, as if he’d made some clever reference that I was supposed to get.
I opened a can of pina colada, before passing one over to him. We drank in silence for a few minutes, before an idea popped into my mind. ‘I’ve got my old touch wafers somewhere. Sure, the games are a bit clunky, but you don’t need a net connection for them. We could even do a direct link.‘
Finishing my drink, I walked over to the bedroom and rifled around under the bed until I found my box of touch wafers. Sure, they could only hold a few hundred terabytes each, but they’d been built to be platform neutral. Despite numerous lawsuits, you could run them with literally any net port thanks to the fact that they worked through nerve impulse transmission instead.
Returning to the lounge, I plonked the box on the table and picked out a few wafers: ‘How about “The Grim Dungeons Of Arkatoor” or maybe “The Dwarven Holdfast”?‘
He finished his drink and sighed: ‘Past glories it is then. What say you to a venture into that forgotten land of Arkatoor?‘
Putting my right hand in his, I began to rub the wafer with my index finger. Due to the added player load, it took a bit longer than usual, but the world around us gradually dissolved into millions of little pixels.
‘Is it just me or does this place look more… cartoonish… than I remember?‘ Gene said, staring at a bright grey castle in the distance.
I glanced up at the angular clouds drifting along the flat blue sky above. ‘Yeah, I remember this place looking WAY more realistic!‘
Dispirited, we set forth for the nearest town. As we passed another identical withered tree, I muttered: ‘ I’m sure I saved my game near a town. I mean, it’s been over a decade. But, I’m sure of it.’
‘What say we raid yonder castle that we passed not five minutes ago? I would wager that there is much plunder within, and my sword yearns to taste blood once again!‘ He held up a gleaming broadsword. Neither his reflection or my reflection appeared in it.
Shrugging, we headed back towards the castle. When we reached it’s stout oaken gates, a goblin lurched from the shadows. Letting out a hearty cheer, Gene clove it in twain with his mighty sword. Or, he would have done if it wasn’t for the fact that the goblin had flashed bright red and disappeared as soon as his sword touched it. Glowing green “+5 XP” text hovered in the air before us.
‘It just isn’t the same. Where are the entrails?‘ Gene sighed.
‘If I remember rightly, censorship was WAY stricter back in the day.‘
‘I feel like drowning my sorrows. What say we resume our quest for a tavern once more? A tankard of stout, frothing….‘
‘..Milk? Like I said, censorship was way stricter back in the day.‘
‘Ok then, but surely there are comely maidens, eager for the company of a bold adventurer?‘ He said, puffing his chest slightly. I tried not to giggle too much.
‘The only thing they’ll give you are quests. Or syphilis. I can’t remember.‘ I laughed, rolling around on the crunchy grass below us.
Gene sighed and said: ‘Seriously? Why the hell did we used to play this back in the day? Even the modern games seem liberal by comparison!‘
The irony was too much to bear. My neural activity surged as my ears were filled with the sound of laughter. Reality snapped back into focus, and I found myself lying on the apartment floor, trembling with involuntary laughter. When I’d finally caught my breath, I looked up at Gene.
He raised an eyebrow and said: ‘Huh? I don’t get it.‘