Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

Do you suck at this game?

   by Daniela Medina

Here’s a confession: I don’t play video games because I’m not good at them. It’s true! I admit it; that’s the only reason. But is that such a crime? I just don’t know what I’m doing; my characters run into walls, drive off the road—they’re all hot messes. None of which actually concerned me until a few days ago, when I was watching my boyfriend play a video game on his phone. Or, to state it more accurately, watching him watch a video game being played on his phone, his characters running wildly around the screen, out of his control. 

“Fhack! I’m getting pummeled.”

“Why don’t you do something? Why are you just looking at it?”

“I can’t, I already provided their defenses. It’s up to them now.”

And at that, a terrifying thought descended upon me, rendering me speechless as I stared out into space in sheer horror.

Quite recently during an interview, Elon Musk came out with a theory he holds that humanity as we know it exists in some advanced civilization’s video game. Meaning that our world, our solar system, or galaxy, our entire universe, is all, in essence, an illusion. Which is discomforting, but I can get over it; I just look at it as being in a weird dream or something. However, one thought haunts me:

What if my super being is a bad gamer?

Like, what if this thing controlling me is as shitty at video games as I am? Which, if I may reiterate, is very shitty. It’s a troubling notion. Is its inability to maneuver a joystick the reason I always bump into things and hurt myself? Is that the reason I jump the curb on right-hand turns? I can only imagine a creature resembling Doctor Manhattan studying the buttons on a controller, pondering, “A is go straight and B is turn? Or . . . ?”

And what about the issue of levels, of advancing within this game? Is there a point system? I, without question, will have zero brownie points. In fact, I may even have negative brownie points, due to an unfortunate character trait that compels me to act in the opposite fashion of which I am instructed or requested to. I may find redemption if we’re on a karmic system, but let’s be real, I live in New York: keeping up with karma here can be like watching a pyramid scheme unfold. 

On a related note, are there bosses to defeat in this video game we’re living? Our own personal Bowsers? A lot of video game characters use the aforementioned point system to garner special powers that are instrumental in defeating foes. To date, the only skills I’ve acquired through my negligible brownie points and suspect karma points, are crying very easily and passive aggressiveness, which I deploy against enemies such as mean yoga instructors and passengers who sing loudly to themselves at 8am on crowded subways.

Or perhaps this is a strategy game, in which case I’m absolutely fucked. Though, it would explain why I squander my resources, i.e. paycheck, on shoes rather than say, oh I don’t know, food. What gives me most pause, however, is when I mull over the possibility that I, we, are in a role-playing game. To be more specific, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game—another civilization’s World of Warcraft where dragons and sorcery have been replaced with airplanes and Wi-Fi. One in which our purposes are to go on quests and accomplish tasks delivered to us by non-player characters, or computer-controlled characters. But who are these NPCs? How do we identify them? And how can we be sure they aren’t sending us on wild goose chases (read: dreams not realized *sob*)? The truth is, we can’t. Or at least I can’t. Yet I find an odd comfort in this, because I haven’t given up. That is to say, my super being hasn’t given up. As shitty of a gamer as it may be, it continues to play, and continues to grow. I continue to grow. So maybe it knows something that I don’t.

I’m crossing my fingers really hard that it’s the winning numbers to the next mega lottery. But honestly, I’d be content with just learning how to drive straight.