Randal left his team trying to replicate his bug and went in search of food. Free pizza was still well over half an hour away, but he was hungry now, and a good old-fashioned food raid on the upper levels would be a nice distraction. He already knew there wasn’t anything new or good in the cafeteria fridge on his floor, but he swung through long enough to grab a can of Coke before heading upstairs. He took the stairs instead of the elevator so he wouldn’t have to go through the main cubicle farm, but could instead come in from behind and raid the art department’s break room with a minimum of contact. He passed one of the artists coming out as he was going in. Randal couldn’t remember his name, but thought he was an animator. He just thought of him as Brace Guy because he always had one or the other of his knees in a thick, black plastic brace and yet always seemed to be wandering the halls. They nodded to each other as always, and then Randal had the break room to himself. He finished his Coke and tossed the can in the recycling bin before opening the fridge. Ahhh, cupcakes. A yellow box with a half-dozen left in it, five vanilla, one chocolate. Judging from the slight crust on the frosting and the dried out crumbs, they could be two days old, but he was betting only one. He took the chocolate and one vanilla along with a second can of Coke and sat down at one of the tables.
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Chapter 2: “I FEEL ASLEEP!!”—Guard, Metal Gear
“Shit,” Randal whispered to himself. “What the hell?” He wiggled the analog stick on his wireless game controller, pressed all four colored buttons and pulled all four triggers. His avatar wouldn’t move. She just stood there. He wondered if it might be the batteries, but no, he could still bring up the console’s menu screen. It looked like the game had frozen. They hadn’t had a game-freezing bug in over a month, and a new one this close to shipping meant someone was going to get their ass handed to them. He made a note in his log and turned off and then restarted his machine. Then, for the first time in too many hours, he stood up, stretching his arms above his head, cracking knuckles, and exposing a sliver of white, not too terribly flabby belly below his logo-free, plain blue t-shirt. Looking at the clock on his PC on the desk next to him, he exhaled a long breath. 5:30 was quitting time in most of the world. Not here of course, not this month. It was crunch time, and he’d only been here nine hours, the day was hardly getting started and free pizza wouldn’t arrive until 7:00.
He checked his office e-mail, leaning over the back of his chair and poking at the keyboard. Memos, meetings, jokes, alerts. The usual. He unclipped his phone from his belt and checked his personal mail. More alerts, more jokes. Something from Adult Friend Finder listing 35 hot singles in his area. He opened that and scrolled through quickly, but none of the new faces caught his eye. He winced inside when he saw one of the familiar ones and erased the e-mail. He took the time to confirm in Outlook that he would in fact be attending tomorrow morning’s optional (but not actually optional at all) Production Feedback Meeting, or “bitch session” as everyone referred to it outside of company e-mail threads. He glanced back at the console and saw that the game was back up and ready to go. At least it no longer mattered to him exactly how long it took the machine to boot. His first job in the industry had been as a day-hire, sitting in a lab with a stopwatch turning Xboxes on and off over and over again and timing how long it took them to fire up and load Halo. Somewhere in the building there were probably poor shlubs doing something just as brain-numbing for $8 an hour, but he wasn’t one of them anymore.
Chapter 1 of Rage Quite is available in .pdf format here.
This was familiar alien territory for Lea. She and 2,311 others like her had fought and died on this ground over the past two years, and as far as she could tell there was no end in sight. But that was OK; fighting and dying was what she was supposed to do, the only thing a 100% dedicated, veteran soldier like her was supposed to think about. At that moment the mission was all most of her was thinking about – how to fight her way through the warren of hostile-infested caves without some spiny-tailed thing dicing her into blood-red mist. Only the smallest part of her thoughts harbored any hidden doubts about fighting another battle against the endless legions of alien soldiers entombed in the fortified tunnels, and she wasn’t ready to listen to those doubts. Not yet she wasn’t.
Her HUD’s radar showed four green dots, the one in the middle was her, the three behind and to the left her squad mates. She knew that if she’d looked at them she’d see identical male figures wearing green and brown power armor, dark visored helmets covering their faces. Visually there was no way to distinguish between them, but she always knew exactly which was which. In contrast to her own unique yellow armor was tightly tailored to match the curves of her body, a symbol of her rank that left no doubt as to who was in command. She’d trained all of them herself and trusted them to fight to their best ability, but they all had only 36% of her experience in battle. None of them possessed her instinct. To win they would have to obey her commands without fail or delay. Assuming of course those glitches in the comm system had been ironed out and there was no longer any lag between her thinking an order and them carrying it out. Clearing the caves of enemies would require perfect timing, and even then, experience told her that it was probably impossible. She knew the layout of the tunnels backwards and forwards, down to the placement of each auto-turret and the murder holes of every hostile trooper. There were a million different tactical options open to her once they got inside, none of them very hopeful. Right now the gaping maw of the tunnel forty meters in front of her was the only course that presented itself. She and her team had no other choice.
Only two weeks! Only two weeks until a new Bioware RPG comes out, and I can sink dozens of hours into another sprawling, epic narrative and then do it again for another dozens of hours so I can see what I missed the first time through. These are the games that I game for and even did the usually unthinkable for me: I pre-ordered the limited, special, fanboy edition of Dragon Age II. Despite it’s somewhat clunky combat and less than stunning animations, I loved the first Dragon Age, playing through the whole main game twice, including the massive Dragon Age: Awakenings mega-DLC pack both times. I’d also devoured the earlier small DLC additions, most of which added content to the core game. But then came Mass Effect 2 and other, alarmingly non-Bioware made games, and I lost track of my old friend.
But with just a month to go before new, Dragon-sequel goodness, I thought that I’d catch up on what I’ve missed since I last slipped that disk into my Xbox. I wanted to both reacquaint myself with the game and its story and stoke the fires of my own anticipation for the coming glories. And so I played them all, and now, depending on what your own preferences are, you don’t have to. In some cases, that’s my recommendation exactly.
I play games every day. Literally, every day. I recently tried my best to think back and try to remember some 24 hour period when I hadn’t played any games at all. Even while traveling in London and Berlin, I always found time in the evening to play something on my DS or my Ipad or my laptop. I haven’t been so sick that a few minutes of some digital distraction didn’t seem like a good idea. Of course, there must be some time when I haven’t played a game, but I can’t for the life of me imagine when it would have been. It would have to be before I bought my first Nintendo DS, which was in 2006, so probably five years ago. From a detached point of view, this probably seems like rather juvenile behavior for a man who’s just begun the last year of his thirties and is charging towards middle age.
To be clear, I do not feel one iota of bad about my gaming habits. Rather, I take great satisfaction in them. Mine is a restless—some would say wandering—mind, and I always want some form of active engagement. And while I like a good episode of Top Chef or Castle as much as the next person, most television simply cannot hold my full attention. Indeed, most television plays just fine as a radio play with occasional glances at the images. Similarly, most video games, especially the kind that I play on a DS or an Ipad, aren’t particularly demanding of my entire attention either. Building tower defense arrays or manipulating falling blocks or even deciding on my next turn’s strategies don’t quite entertain my whole brain. Thus, the perfect synergy of casual games and casual TV. Nothing like a Top Gear marathon to clear through those Plants vs. Zombies levels.