Turns out, I was considered a boring person by the general populace. I took offense to this, because other endearments ascribed to me are ‘nerd’, ‘geek’, ‘gamer’, and ‘that one kid who watched Ripley’s Believe It or Not and tried to eat a lightbulb, landing him in the hospital for a couple of days’. While I’ve since failed to learn how to digest glass, or obtain anything related to an electricity-based superpower, I did not much care for the opinion that because I played a lot of video games, I was a boring person. Those things are not, and should not be considered connected. I mean, I didn’t call the jocks boring people because they play a lot of sports. No, you’re considered boring if you do those things poorly and thus have nothing fun to say about them. You can play sports and be boring. You can play video games and be boring. I tried not to be one of those.
“Twice,” Perry grinned, maneuvering his thumbs around the analogue stick and mashing buttons in an asymmetrical frenzy, “Twice I’ve managed to pull off my counter against your–”
I interrupted him by throwing his character off the ledge, my synapses afire as I swallowed the glow of the television, watching the shift of every pixel, reading the glorious frames running at sixty-per-second.
Perry went quiet as I applied pressure, ushering my character off the ledge in pursuit of his own. He tried to disrupt my flow with what we Anarchy players (or, Anarchists) call a ‘back-air’, a simple command input meant to have his character attack backwards while floating in the air. I dodged the attack and returned fire, shooting his character off the screen where he exploded into a miasma of smoke and cartoon color.
A steady, indignant stream of irritation whistled between his teeth, “Good stock, Joel.”
“Thank you,” I said.
So we played video games. We played a lot of video games. Rayman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, Dig Dug, Mass Effect. Perry was particular to your first-person shooters, stuff in the vein of Halo and Call of Duty, while I was a little more of a platforming enthusiast. What can I say? Portal is a killer franchise and I always return to Crash Bandicoot like a whipped dog to its master. But there is one game, different from all of these, which arrested our attention more than the others. So the heavens should declare it the focus of our story.
Just realized I’m telling you a story. That’s kind of cool. Just call me ‘Joel the Travelling Bard’. Man, I could have so much fun with this if I screwed around. I could say ‘Hitler died in the end’ and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Don’t worry, I won’t do that. Even if I’m really, really tempted.
The game I’m talking about is Anarchy, which is –wait, let me just grab the game case and read the exact description off the back. Okay, here we go. Imagine I cleared my throat or something. Also, pretend for the moment my voice is as rich and grandfatherly as Morgan Freeman, because that would be awesome.
‘Anarchy gathers all of your favorite RequiaTek characters and pits them against one another in a battle royale! Three decades of characters can now face off to see who is truly the ultimate warrior! Now with online multiplayer! ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Mild Suggestive Themes’ and some stuff in Spanish that I’m assuming is exactly what I just told you, but with a touch of rice and tacos in it.
Wow, that was incredibly racist and stereotypical. I promise not to make it a habit.
You should know, I have a history of being a compulsive liar. Just something I should add for full-disclosure.
So Anarchy was a big deal. There was a competitive scene where big-name players gathered to duke it out for large monetary prizes and to bask in the affection of a glowing crowd. While I was good, I was not good enough to stand among those titans. They were Anarchy gods.
Sm0ke. Styx. Phaaroh. Double J. Spade. boss. Lollipop. Master Thief. Oh Yugi. Hanshotfirst. I Am. Captain Derp. xprophetx. Yuki Yuki. Ninja lady (who was totally a dude). <3Villains. The Shire. Billyboy. Sunday Funny. trueNOVA. The Clansman. Fractal.
Freaking Fractal. I’ll get to that one later.
These were a lot of Anarchists who poured their hearts, souls, and hours into mastering the art of the game. They’d mastered the percentages of Damage Debt, the idiosyncrasies of the physics engine, the hit-boxes of each character, and familiarized themselves with combo schemes as well as technique priority. If this is white noise to you, fret not, it will become known. Just understand that it wasn’t simple. Anarchy is a family friendly experience, because it’s easy to learn and fun for most audiences. But at high-level gameplay, it’s profoundly difficult to master.
“Let’s go,” Perry said as he navigated back through the character selection screen, making no changes, and moved into another arena for us to battle.
My mind settled into the familiar groove as our match started. We played with tournament rules, even if we never went to any tournaments. No items, and only select stages where obstacles did not cause a disturbance. Tournaments cared about skill. If a lucky stage prop killed you, it sort of defeated the purpose.
Perry was good. His Anarchy tag was ‘OD!N’, which I found frustrating because I thought the exclamatory mark was completely unnecessary in most names. I bided my patience when crafting a tag until I eventually came up with something I could wear with pride. A tag which synergized just the right quantity of epicness and humility that I didn’t come off as a completely overzealous jerkwad. I wanted a name that sounded cool both when whispered, and spoken loudly to a stadium. For flavor, I also needed it to sound mysterious. For reasons.
And so it was, in accordance with the prophecy and all cosmic harmonies, my gamer tag was ‘Myth’.
C’mon does that not sound like the greatest thing since capital punishment, or what? Myth and OD!N, locked in combat through the ages, challenging all who would oppose them. Mind you, those are not the characters we played as, they were simply the way we preferred to be addressed as part of the Anarchy crowd. They were our second identities, our Batman cowls.
Perry side-stepped on one of the stage’s upper platforms, avoiding my bladed strike. I read his next move incorrectly and prepared to counter. Nothing happened, and I countered again, waiting for the moment his character would hit mine and I’d retaliate by redirecting the damage back at him. Again, nothing. Perry stalled until the last possible frame, and his character unceremoniously punished my defensive position, sweeping me into a combo that ended with me ultimately losing one of my three stocks. I winced.
“I was getting counter-happy,” I said, a little salty.
We kept playing. We played until we ran out of strength to keep our eyes open any longer. That’s where we spent our nights, our eyes glued to the flickering screen, tossing soda cans into a graveyard in the corner of my basement where aluminum goes to die, our butts idly becoming one with the sofa cushions. Life was admittedly a bit stagnant sometimes, but it was good.
Still, I feel you don’t fully understand what this tale is all about. It’s not about Anarchy, or my love of all things nerdy. Those are just aesthetics. This is a comedy, a tragedy, and, believe it or not, a romance. It’s also the harrowing tale of how I avenge my fallen brothers by running a lightsaber through Gengis Khan’s chest, bringing peace to a troubled dynasty. About how my glorious deeds were sung by all minstrels throughout the land, and I found the princess who was in another castle.
Okay, maybe I’m jesting a little bit. But seriously, Hitler does die in the end.