Friday, May 4, 2018

Microstory 835: The King and the Scourge

Games. My whole world is about games. Our scientists long ago predicted this concept of the singularity, wherein technology goes so far beyond what we believe it can do, that it’s impossible to know what will come of it. Science fiction writers and futurists tried to come up with their ideas of what would look like in the future, but they were always off the mark. It’s understandable; no one was expecting them to be perfectly accurate, because they were interesting and entertaining. The truth is that the future is boring. Technology, as it turns out, was always working towards one thing: making life easier to live. We have nanites swimming through our blood, constantly monitoring our health, and alerting us to what we need to improve, or to fix an issue they can’t handle on their own. They tell us what to eat, which exercises to do, and how long to sleep. Meanwhile, other nanites are surging through our brains, allowing us to connect with each other on a telepathic level, or experience the limitless possibilities of a virtual construct with no rules. But these constructs are just that; not real, and after a few good decades of this, people starting signing off, because what was the point? Life was boring inside cyberspace, and outside of it, and since we figured out how to subvert death, nothing held any weight. There was no danger, so we had to find ways of creating this ourselves, and doing so in a world where physical laws are immutable. Hence the games. Some are voluntary, some are forced. Some are deadly...most are deadly. For some games, you even have to forego any of your transhumanistic abilities that normally prevent your life from ending permanently. I am technically in one of those games now. Fortunately, it is by no measure the most dangerous one.

Centuries ago, children would play a fairly simple game called King of the Mountain. The object was to be the one person at the top of a hill, and the only way to maintain that position was to fight off any comers. The rules varied, according to how rough the players wanted to be, but they never killed each other, because murder was pretty frowned upon in those days. In the new world, however, it’s normal. We are not just playing a deadlier version of the original game though. Ours focuses more on those left at the bottom of the hill, which is why the creators call it Scourge of the Valley. As with the original, the goal is to get to the summit, but you can’t get there just by running up, and resisting anyone who’s trying to keep you back. It’s more deliberate and methodical than that, combining elements of strategy games, such as the ancient chess. It gets pretty complicated, but the idea is to move as far as possible by killing as few competitors as possible. Sure, you can massacre everyone, and get to the top quickly, but once you do, you’re in real trouble, because every player whose death you were responsible for, now has the opportunity to take your summit for themselves. And if they win, you die for good. No one has ever gotten out of this game having never died at all. Ghosts are incredibly difficult to destroy, and they’re very good at killing others. I’ve always been convinced that the only way to survive unscathed is to make it to the top without killing anyone else to get there. I’m about to prove it. Wish me luck.

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