Hate the Player? Hate the Game?

a futuristic arena
Illustration by Helio Frazao
It was an awful game, he learned. It didn’t seem that way at the beginning.

When he first approached the room, it was like an arena. It seemed like it’d be fun. There were three valuable playing pieces, and he had one. He used his piece effectively and in support of the other players whose pieces had more specific functions. It was like being a midfielder playing offense or defense as needed and helping to set up the next plays.

Part of the game was acquiring new players to extend the game. As new players came on, additional playing pieces were added in the arena. The new pieces were only for the new players.

The game was changing. Where he had sometimes drove the play and other times assisted, his piece and his play became more peripheral. He wasn’t in the middle anymore. He didn’t realize it for a good while, but there was a radial force moving him to the edge. He was doing less defending and more standing in a fixed spot. He didn’t feel like he was really playing most of the time.

He was still in the game. He tried to get in on more plays, but the new players and their new pieces functioned autonomously. He now saw that there were other players on the fringes. He motioned to them. The fringe players motioned back, some waving their playing pieces impotently.

A few new players came in. There was some shuffling of playing pieces. A few pieces were split and shared with two of the new players. Dividing the pieces didn’t diminish their capabilities. It seemed that they might even be stronger. Maybe not. He wasn’t close enough to see for sure.

He knew that his piece was less important than it was, but he knew he could still participate in the game. He could use his piece and maybe a fragment from one of the other players’ pieces. The other players, the ones in the fray, acknowledged him. He got a splinter of a piece passed to him as the players on the inside played on.

He looked down and realized that where he stood was a now a level below the main arena. He could climb up before he was eventually forced back. He wasn’t sinking as much as the rest of the arena was rising. He was separated from the other peripheral players. He wasn’t sure how to communicate with them. Maybe they could help each other get back in.

The newer players would sometimes come close to him and he could provide them a power up. But the play was getting away, or maybe he was receding.

He didn’t see it coming, but the wall of the arena next to him collapsed. It collapsed on top of him. He was under rubble and tried to get out. He shouted more and more desperately for the other players to help him. Even to see him. He held his hand above him and hit a barrier. He realized that there were walls around him now and he was closed off, compartmentalized.

He screamed out, “I’m here!” He screamed it again. And again. Another player came near him and asked him what he needed. He shouted “I need to get out of here!” The other player came over and closed the top of the cage. He was trapped, and the other player went back to the game.

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