Hello fellow Gamers with Jobs!
I’ve been writing these pseudo-reviews since 2014. That’s three years of doing the same thing. I may be someone who’s eaten the same lunch every day since 2002, but even I like to shake things up sometimes.
In 2018 I want to try something new. I’m still going to write about games, but instead of reviewing them, I’m going to tell you a story. Not a series of stories about each game, but one big story that will incorporate the games. Every week, you get a new chapter until the story is done. It’s like a Netflix series, but with more reading, and fewer actors who were popular when we were teenagers.
So I present to you, Too Long; Didn’t Play: The Movie!
Chapter one starts in the most obvious place possible: Dark Souls. I hope you enjoy the ride!
He’d never actually had a hangover before. Oh, he’d imbibed as wide variety of spirits as anyone else when he was in college, but he’d never suffered the supposedly obligatory morning after. His roommates, naturally, hated him.
If this was a hangover, he could understand why. His head felt exactly like they described in those old cartoons, back when cartoon characters could be drunk. Figurative hammers – not literal ones, of course, as that would be ridiculous and probably lethal – pounded his brain in the small space behind his left eye, and his tongue felt like it needed a shave.
What had he been doing last night?
He remembered … something. A group of old friends, that he had just met. Something about a VR headset. PAX, that was it, PAX. He met up with some people at PAX, and they’d gone looking for bars to crawl.
“Ugh,” Thomas groaned again. There was an odd echo to the sound, like he was in a large basement. Was that part of the hangover too? He couldn’t remember what they were supposed to be like. Was he supposed to be this cold? Was this actually the flu?
He knew he shouldn’t have shaken so many people’s hands. PAX pox, indeed.
One crusted eye fluttered open.
And shut again.
That couldn’t be right. It must have been his imagination, or a hallucination. A hallucination brought on by the fever, maybe? That happens. Yeah. He’d just open his eyes again, and he’d just be in the bathroom of his hotel suite. That explained the cold, hard tiles he was laying on. It explained the weird echo. It even explained the occasional dripping that sounded … way too far away. No, it was a bathroom. He was sure of it. He’d just open his eyes and …
See a dungeon.
So either a very persistent hallucination, or something much, much worse.
Thomas sat up and opened both eyes. It was like the dungeons he’d seen in movies. Dark, greenish stones glistened in the light that came through a barred door – the room’s only entrance. A rotting cot sat in one corner next to what appeared to be a corpse. Rats were gnawing on its various soft parts.
Thomas threw up. The noise sent the rats skittering in all directions, disappearing through holes that couldn’t be seen in the dim light.
After some vomiting, and a few dry heaves for good measure (Thomas was thorough like that), he stood and went to the door. There were torches in the hallway outside, which was good news. It meant someone had to maintain them, right? Someone who looked after the people in the cells. Someone who brought them food.
Thomas opened his mouth to yell for help, but a treacherous thought said: Someone who put people in cells with corpses, and he thought the better of shouting.
He tried the door. It was locked, of course, but you never know. There was nothing to do but search the cell. He found a broken sword under the cot, but not much else.
He shivered. It was right about now that he realized that he was mostly naked. A pair of boxers with Gurren Lagann characters on it were all that defended him from the environment. They didn’t even have a button fly, just that gap thingie that cheap underwear manufacturers thought was a good idea.
Note to them, Thomas thought, it isn’t.
Thomas searched the cell again. Surely there must be some clothes, or a blanket. Maybe some rags he could cover his shame with. His search became more frantic, spinning around the small room again and again until he tripped over something.
The corpse! It has clothes on!
Gingerly, he went about the business of undressing the body. It was floppy, but fortunately not rotting. Thomas fought the urge to vomit again as he pulled the clothing off over the parts that the rats had been working on. Something clanked on the floor. A key!
Could he be that lucky? Signs didn’t point to yes.
Hurriedly, he dressed himself, silently thanking whomever put him here for leaving him his boxers. Whoever the corpse used to be had a thing for thong underwear, and Thomas didn’t relish sharing that much with a dead person. The clothes were a bit large, but they fit. Even the boots, which was a surprise but Thomas wasn’t going to say anything lest the lucky streak break before he got to try the key.
Warm, if a bit scratchy, he stepped to the door and tried the key. It turned with the sound of a broken rock polisher, but it turned. The door swung open. Thomas was free! Well, free-ish. He still had to find his way out of whatever this was. In the distance he could barely make out a staircase, heading up. Up had to be good. It just had to.
As he stepped out of the cell, a spot on the floor started glowing. He walked up to it, and it twisted and writhed under his gaze. It looked like it was trying to be language, but he couldn’t read it. He stepped closer.
“Pay attention, Thomas.”
The voice made Thomas spin like a top, frantically raising the broken sword (which was the closest thing to a weapon that he’d ever held). The broken blade glanced off of one wall and fell to the floor with a clang, but there was nobody there to take advantage of the fumble. Slowly, Thomas bent down and, with trembling hands, picked the abbreviated blade back up. Still, nothing. Not a breath, not a movement, not a sound that wasn’t his.
He looked again at the glowing writing on the floor. It started twisting and writhing again as he looked at it, as if it had been waiting for him to pay it some attention. Thomas took another step toward it.
“Pay attention, Thomas,” the voice came again, but this time he was able to keep his response to a surprised flinch rather than a panicked house dance. He stepped back. The voice stopped, and the writing paused in its twisting dance.
He took a step toward the writing once more.
“Pay attention, Thomas,” the voice repeated itself exactly once again. A recording! In the words! But who left it?
He couldn’t even begin to speculate, but a few feet away he saw another one. It was practically waving at him. He stepped over it.
“This is probably the worst of it.” the voice continued.
Thomas walked to another glowing scrawl. “Or the best of it, depending on your point of view.”
Riddles Thomas thought. Riddles in the dark. He pressed on.
“I hope you’re up to it, Thomas. I really do.” said another line of text.
“That makes two of us.” Thomas said aloud.
He was almost to the staircase he’d seen in the distance. He could see another glowing scrawl at the foot of it, but there was a person in the hall between him and it. At least, it looked like a person, but the face was all wrong. It was all sunken eye sockets without eyes and a gaping mouth with a handful of sharp teeth. It looked more like a zombie than a person.
The figure turned to face Thomas, and snarled.
It looked like zombie that had seen him. Without eyes.
As the grotesque figure lurched toward him, Thomas staggered back, remembering the sword in his right hand. He brought it up as the zombie lunged, but he was too late. Thomas fell backward, screaming, with the zombie on top of him. He hit the ground hard, and the zombie gasped, then sighed, then gurgled, then sagged against him.
Thomas opened his eyes, decidedly not dead nor even mauled. The figure lay draped over him like a particularly tasteless duvet, the point of Thomas’ broken sword poking out through its back.
“Some zombie you turned out to be,” Thomas said. “Didn’t even take a headshot to kill you.”
Euphoria at having survived – or possibly the hysteria of a mind twanging like a rubber band – gripped him, and he giggled uncontrollably as he pushed the corpse off. He snapped out of it when he saw the writhing text, seeming to beckon him forward.
“Everything you do from now on will be compared to this moment,” the voice said.
He climbed the stairs. At the top there was a door with one more bit of glowing text. He stepped up to it.
“Welcome to the Community.”
“Is that it?” He mumbled sourly. “No tips? No help?” He breathed a hard breath. “Thanks for nothing.”
He pushed open the door. Something roared, and a giant claw punched through the opening and snatched him up. The last thing Thomas knew was the feeling of his head striking the stone frame of the door, and everything went black.