Ringtones From The Radio: Brain Stew

BrainStew

Green Day – Brain Stew

“I swear every team we get is brain dead,” Mark complains into his mic; his friend on the chat channel is quick to agree. This most recent loss puts the streak at 8 games, a sizable amount, but for players of their caliber nowhere near record-breaking. The game they play is, and has been for years, the most popular e-sport in the world, a 5 VS. 5 arena set-up featuring: 150 plus characters each with their own skill and combo orders, comprehensive stat alteration through an ever-changing item store, strategic team and objective-based gameplay designed to punish the smallest of mistakes, and a daily player base of over 50 million people. To be competitive requires a good Internet connection, a steadily significant investment of time, and some skill.

“Lemme’ go grab somethin’ to eat then we can go again.” Mark was hungry 3 games ago; now his stomach growls, acid swishes with each step. Pizza-rolls are better out of the oven than microwave but at 3 A.M. time is of the essence – he leans against the far counter – stares at the spinning plate, waits…Mark lives alone in his studio apartment but old habits force him to stop the count at 1 second left – he grabs the plate – is back at his chair choking down soggy breading and mostly cold tomato sauce – it’s awful but he’s already sitting down and anyways they’re gone.

“What? Don’t be like that, you know we never end on a loss. Okay, and? You think I don’t have to work tomorrow? Today, whatever, don’t be a bitch.” Mark rubs the fatigue from his eyes and mutes his mic to hide a yawn. The moment they queue up they’re prompted to accept a match, and through character select they’re able to obtain their mains.

Maining is playing the game by shunning the variety rather than embracing it. By playing the same character game after game the activity transitions from mental acrobatics to muscle memory. The brain goes off – autopilot angled toward victory on.

Mark has mained the same character since starting the game years ago, and this ranked season, like every other, sees him sit at a pretty 60 percent win-rate. Mark is confident as the game starts, he guides the magical gnome engineer to the center of the map –

A knock – confused, Mark removes an earbud and turns toward the door – this time he hears the sound and sees the door shake. He mutes his mic, tiptoes to the window, peeks through the blinds – a pair of eyes stare back.

Mark is startled, then angry, he whips open the door, “It’s 3 in the morning who the fu-”

“Mark?” The owner of the eyes, a tall man wearing a padded vest over business casual clothes, checks a tablet in hand, “You’re Mark, right?”

“Yeah-”

The tablet whirrs and a piece of paper curls out from the top, one inch, two – the man rips the receipt then shoves it into Mark’s hands. “This is official documentation certifying me to repossess brain hours from Mark. And that’s you. May I come in?”

“Offi – Wha – No.”

The man pushes past. “The second you opened the door I was authorized to enter. I was just being polite.”

“Get out of my house!” Mark tries to push the man but the contact backfires; Mark is on the ground, overwhelmed and pinned by an invisible force. “What the hell is going on?”

The man sighs, looks at the ceiling. “I hate this job.” He clears his throat, scrolls through the tablet, “Says here you spent 38 days, 22 hours, 15 minutes, and 2 seconds on the game playing a single character – more than a month of your life.”

“Bu-”

 And that’s only a fraction of your total game time. You dedicated yourself to mindlessness when there’s only so much brainpower to go around. My company is contracted to harvest waste then recycle it into potential.” He pulls an arm length syringe with playing card thin needle out of nowhere. Mark screams – the man shushes him. “Relax, you’ll still be able to play your game.”

The work is done – door shut – Mark, alone again, is back at the computer with a line of drool running from mouth to keyboard – a tinned voice comes from the earbuds on the ground, “Mark? Hello?! What the fuck are you doing – you’re playing like an asshole!”


Continue reading Ringtones From The Radio – Preset 2

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