Flawed: a Sneak Peek

FlawedSMALLGames are a way of life.  Men, women, children – we all love them, and some people make their living in virtual reality.  Whether that’s playing games professionally like Riley Andrews (Challenge Accepted) or designing them, games have become a lot more than child’s play.

Destiny Pierce grew up online.  Her best friends are virtual.  Her gossip revolves around the next release.  By age 17, she’s already made a name for herself blogging about the thing she loves most, and even picked up a few part-time gigs – until they realize she’s just a kid, that is.  But her life is about to change.  Graduation is around the corner and she thinks her toughest decision is whether to take an entry level position at a game company or head off to college on a sweet scholarship.  But nothing is ever that easy.

(Content warning: contains graphic language and situations, may be triggering for some.)

Prologue

Unlocking the door, Destiny tossed her backpack on the couch, grabbed a Coke, and ran up the stairs as fast as she could. First, her finger pressed the power button to turn on her computer, then she stripped out of her school clothes. Baggy fleece pants and a t-shirt so old and worn that it was nearly transparent took their place. She’d promised her guild that she’d join them for the raid at eight but still had to do one more read-through before posting her latest blog entry.

Dropping into the well-worn chair, she ripped open a mini Snickers, shoved it in her face, and opened a browser. A gulp of Coke washed the whole thing down. Probably not the best choice. Chocolate and soda – that definitely wouldn’t help her drop a few pounds. With one hand she pinched the flab at her waist, while the other clicked the button to log into her blog.

Well, not like she needed to be pretty to become a game developer. The biggest question was whether to get a degree first or ride the wave of her recent fame. Electronic Arts wanted her to come in for an interview for one of their massively multiplayer online games, but the letter lying on the kitchen table was too tempting to overlook. A scholarship to the school of her dreams, the University of Southern California, wasn’t something to take lightly. Then again, could she really learn anything new, or would she just be spending money she didn’t have for a dream she was about to achieve on her own?

Destiny shoved her hands through her hair and let her eyes scan the blog. That image wasn’t in quite the right place. Nope, she wanted that to say now instead of not. What the hell was that sentence supposed to mean? Oh, right. Well, it needed to be rephrased. Then she read it all again. When the whole thing was good enough, she pressed the button to post and started on the comments. Most of them were readers who didn’t bother to log in or sign up for an account.

Anonymous: Dum fukin bitch. Nothing wrong with girls in Legend. Them elves are hawt!

Anonymous: It’s called rock, paper, scissors. If you could do more than just make a sandwich you fat fuck, you’d know that.

Anonymous: Talk bout Legend agn & I’ll rape you.

Fyre: Is it more appropriate to alter the attire for female models, or offer equally scandalous clothing to the males? What about offering players both, so that those who choose to sexualize their own avatar have that option, and those who find it foolish can select armor that actually appears to serve a purpose?

Anonymous: I fap to your stream. Luv me a fat hoe.

Soul_Reaper: Face it, more dudes play than babes. Armor reflects that. If you got a problem, go play Hello Kitty Online.

Anonymous: Glad someone said it! Legend is just bad!

She couldn’t take anymore. Yes, she knew she was opening a can of worms when she called out a game for its atrocious representation of women. Not only was their “armor” barely more than dental floss, but the women were always abused, assaulted, or treated like objects. Granted, her faithful fan “Anonymous” wasn’t helping her ego any. Fyre had a point, though. Was her problem the unequal options, or was it simply that she was so sick and tired of being told she was only good enough if she dropped twenty pounds? She clicked his name, which gave her the option to respond to his account privately.

You raise a good point about character clothing options. While I personally find it irritating that a few strips of flimsy cloth represent top tier damage protection, none of us are fooled into thinking that games are equivalent to real life. Mostly, I believe the issue isn’t the clothing (although getting to see some hot guys in leather straps would be nice for a change) but the use of females as quest objectives.

Let me explain. In the few instances where a male needs to be saved, the storyline always includes him doing everything possible to help himself. Women, instead, are stupid, rushing headlong into danger because of a failed love, lost item, or any other superficial BS the designers feel is “good enough” to keep the story going. It’s not. Women make up almost half of the population of online games, now, and we want to be tough, smart, sexy, and super-powered, too.

She sent it and started deleting the most crass of the anonymous comments. Her blog was supposed to be a place for gamers to discuss the mechanics of both the available games and those currently being designed. She popped another Snickers into her mouth, her hand moving down the list, deleting based on the first few words in the quick view. Pressing a button, the icon spun, removing all of the nastiness and hate.

Her computer dinged softly, indicating another private message. Really? When she opened that folder, she was shocked to see that Fyre had already responded.

As a man, the objectification of women is a little too easy to overlook – sad as that may be. I think that people of alternate lifestyles, such as the transgendered and homosexual, also need representation. Back when I was a kid, only little boys played games. Now, that’s not the case. Must say, I love your blog, Deztiny, and enjoy hearing your perspective on your stream.

Pretty sure you won’t answer it, but one last question. As the most influential private gamer this year, if you could persuade a development team to make anything, what would your dream game be?

She chuckled at the misspelling of her name but wasn’t upset. The guy was obviously a fan, but she was neither Dez nor tiny. Easy accident to make, though. Granted, her mom freaked out if she spent too much time talking to any one person so she’d answer this guy another way. Since he sounded genuinely interested in her opinions, she’d give him an eyeful.

See tomorrow’s post for a detailed answer. Short answer: I want it all, and I want something that feels smooth. Raid in World of Warcraft tonight at 8 pm EST, lachesis@streamgamesnow.

He responded immediately.

Will be watching. Won’t cry if you happen to give up the secret to holding agro! Love your blog – best insights I’ve heard in a long time.

That was exactly what she’d needed: a nice little boost to her ego. Granted, most of the work she’d done for Sony and EA so far was contract jobs, but the non-disclosure agreement still held. Not to mention that she didn’t want everyone to know she was just a kid. It seemed like as soon as people found out she was still in high school, they assumed she was an idiot. Never mind that she’d proven herself over and over. Nope, all that mattered was that she was chunky and ugly.

Her inbox dinged again, but this time, the message wasn’t from Fyre. With a sigh, she opened it. Someone had caught a screenshot of her talking on the stream and photoshopped a penis into her open mouth. Destiny just deleted it. If her mom ever found out some of the things these people said to and about her, she’d make her stop blogging.

What her mom didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Destiny focused her attention on the game of her dreams. Oh, she already knew what it was. She’d been wishing someone would make it, but the technical hurdles would require a very specific team. Hm. Maybe she’d address that as well. If nothing else, it would look really good on her resume.

***

Two weeks later, Destiny finally got a response from Fyre to the blog she’d written for him. At first, she’d been a little annoyed, but she realized that since her inbox received a few hundred messages a day – something she didn’t keep secret – he’d probably just read it instead of commenting. Didn’t matter. It still made her smile to see a fan that actually cared enough to hold a dialogue about something other than how girls should be seen and not heard.

When she opened the message, she found it short but oh so sweet.

You are brilliant. I think someone is making your game. Watch TGC, 9 pm EST.

That was in seven minutes! She Googled the channel, opened it, and begged for it to load faster. Her computer was a piece of crap, but it was all her mom would let her have. If she had something better, she might try more than just online role-playing games, but shooters were out with the dinosaur she was running. While the website did its thing, she flew down the stairs, found another Coke, grabbed a handful of candy, and scurried through the living room.

“Destiny?” Her mom called. “Did you get your homework done?”

“Yeah, Mom. Like hours ago. Hey, don’t forget. I have that interview with EA next week. I wanna call Dad and see if he knows what I should expect for pay.”

“You’re seventeen years old!” Her mom sounded exasperated instead of thrilled. “You need to get a degree, or you’ll never have a real career.”

“Doesn’t work like that anymore, Mom. Hey, I gotta go. TGC has a segment on a new MMO. Yell at me tomorrow, but I know the debate by heart, ok? Love ya, night!”

And she fled before her mother could say anything else. Two minutes past, she was back at her machine, thankful that this show had a long intro. She cracked the Coke and took a big gulp, slipping on her headphones.

” – Up and coming development company. Chance Hunter is here to tell us how Deviant Games plans to change the entire landscape of the gaming scene.”

The camera moved to an amazingly beautiful man. His eyes were greyish and sparkled with intelligence, his smile was perfect, but his hair was startlingly red. Naturally red, but he not only pulled it off, he made it delicious. Destiny grabbed her phone and sent a text to her best friend, warning her that this show would be worth watching for the hottie if nothing else.

“Deviant Games plans to compete with the other AAA companies. Unlike most indie game developers, we have the financial backing to make this happen. Our first project is Silk. Set in a fantasy realm unlike any you’ve seen before, Silk explores the galaxy through trade, travel, and of course, the battles that go with it. The journey is smooth as, well, Silk.”

His voice was nice, too. He had to be the public face for the company. No, the text across the bottom of the screen said he was the owner and a developer himself. Chance Hunter. She’d have to look into him – for completely professional reasons, of course!

Then the camera panned out, showing concept art for the game. The world was like a fairy tale. Most modern games were going hard and dirty, with deserts and post-apocalyptic scenes. Silk was swinging the other way. The flowers were gigantic, the trees were in vivid colors, and everything was green and lush. In the sky were visible planets, each of them colored differently, offering the potential for more worlds in the future.

“’Combined arms’ is a common term for first person shooters,” Chance went on. “What we want to do is bring this idea to Silk. Infantry – whether that’s for player vs. player or player vs. the environment – will require actual player skill, not just button mashing. Conversely, vehicular combat, which includes powerful mechanical suits, will give players an auto-locking system. Most of us call this tab targeting. We also hope to have a storyline that is intricate, detailed, and fresh. Raids will no longer be ‘tank and spank.’ In order to succeed, our fans will have to challenge themselves to do more and do it better.”

“How far along is the project?” the announcer asked.

Chance smiled. “Not far enough. Deviant Games has been working for eight months to get a functional development platform and game engine. We’ve achieved that and are now diving into making this dream of ours – the entire game community’s – a reality.”

“So, should we expect the typical races? Elves, dwarves, and the like?”

“No.” Chance smiled like he had a secret. “The old races are tried and true, but also tired. Think more Star Wars and less Lord of the Rings.” He tilted his head. “We also plan to push the boundaries in other areas. Male, white, and straight will not necessarily be the standard for Silk. This world of ours is diverse. We have people with different sexual orientations, different races, and different religions. Why would a fantasy realm that spans multiple planets be any different? In Silk, women are not objects; they are people. Armor is not dental floss – unless you find one of the rare magic pieces available to either sex character. And, not all races come in just two sexes. Some aliens may be… different.”

“Is this a game or a comment on the state of society?”

“Aren’t all games a comment on society, or our desire to escape from it? This is a game, meant to be played for fun, but one that gives everyone a place to belong.” Chance leaned back. “That is why we play.”

The large screen behind him flickered to a blurred and distorted clip of a game. It looked a lot like FoxFlight. She squinted, trying hard to make it out while the reporter kept going.

“Rumors say that you’re an avid gamer yourself. Playing a lot doesn’t necessarily make you able to create something good, though. What do you say to this?”

“They’re right.” Chance turned to look at what was playing. “Yeah. That’s me. Unfortunately, no matter how much I try to assure the public that Silk will be the next best thing, only time will prove that. We want to learn from the mistakes of other games, not copy them. Most of us know about the debacle with that one Star Wars game or how FoxFlight doubled their subscriptions by listening to the community. That is video game history. With that said, we also realize that our community won’t always be right. Making a game easier isn’t necessarily better. We get frustrated by the challenge and rant, but we all secretly love it. It gives us a feeling of success to overcome the impossible.”

It was FoxFlight! That meant his character information was that blur at the bottom left. She squinted harder, turned her head, and pulled her eyes open, trying to make it out. Damned professional videographers and their ability to distort the information she wanted. His character name was just four letters. E? Second letter was definitely a Y. R or N? She leaned her nose to her monitor.

Chance was still talking. “I think Destiny Pierce from The Gamer’s Fate just posted a brilliant article about what the player base is looking for. In a word: inclusion. That is exactly what we hope Silk will be.”

Her heart hung in her chest. He’d just said her name. Her name! He’d just given her blog the biggest promotion she’d ever had! Not that she really had a problem with her viewership, but more readers meant more advertising dollars, which meant more respect in the community. That this guy read her blog was great, but that he cited her as a credible source?

The four letters suddenly coalesced in her mind. Fyre. “Holy shit,” she breathed. “You fucking listened to me.”

***

The Gamer’s Fate

A Blog on the State of Gaming

By Destiny Pierce

The future of the MMO market is looking interesting, to say the least. At this time of year, developers try to increase their investment money by hyping the newest games in the pipeline. A few brave souls have already announced their products instead of waiting for F5 like the big names. Here’s a short list, and something to hold you all over until I can satisfy your appetites for some real gamer news.

Star Wars – Yes, it’s true, they’re making another MMO based on this IP.

Earth 2.0 – Will it be console only? There’re a few hints that a PC version might be a reality. Unfortunately, most of the hype for this game is from unsubstantiated leaks. The screenshots look amazing. The game mechanics and the potential for cooperation with another, more popular MMO are inspiring. Fingers crossed on this one, but I’m willing to bet that concrete news will be sparse.

Silk – O.M.G. These guys may be the wave of the future. [Check out the interview with Chance Hunter on The Gamer Channel here]. If they can manage to pull this off, I think a few big names might be scared. Expect to see popular titles try to steal their ideas and rush them into production (expansions for existing MMOs) before Silk can change the world.

WoW’s next expansion – Oh c’mon, we all know it’s coming. I’m going to bet there are some pigs and at least one poo quest. Probably a new set of gear, a new raid, and a whole new set of daily quests to keep us playing.

Reader Comments:

Anonymous: If you leave your house, I will get you. I will rape you. I will kill you. Keep your vag out of my games, you don’t know shit.

Anonymous: Who gave U the right to say what I like?

Discreet: Love your blog! Saw it on TGC!

Anonymous: I’m gonna kill you, bitch. I’m gonna rape your mouth hole and kill you.

KZP12: No way Earth will go to PC. No money in it. Already have Dust, so don’t need it.

Minx: Post these sexist comments over on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty. They’re epic.

Anonymous: How’d you get the damage modifier numbers for Aimed Shot in yesterday’s post?

Anonymous: I know what you look like. I know where you live.

Anonymous: Fuck me, Destiny. I want to fuck your little ass.

Anonymous: She won’t look pretty after I’m done with her. Fat little fuck. Oh Destiny, you shoulda kept your nose outta the boys club, bitch.

KZP12: You guys are seriously fucked up. If you hate what she says, that’s one thing, but damn.

Anonymous: You think you’re hot shit bitch? Yeah? Just wait until I’m done with you. I’ll tie your ass up and rape you over and over until you never touch a game again. Bitches like you ruined MMOs. We’ll make sure that no one will want you when we’re done, and you’ll beg us for more. Damned bitch like you? Getting raped’s the best thing you can hope for. I won’t even bitch that you’re so damned fat. I wanna see you cry, Destiny. I’ll fucking rape you until you cry, then drink all your damned tears. Ain’t no one gonna find you either. Up the ass, in the mouth, and I’ll rip your twat so wide any other man will feel like a damned broomstick in a cave. You should have quit, you cunt. You’re mine now, and I know where you are.

Soul_Reaper: I’m screenshotting this shit. That’s just fucked up.

KZP12: Hey, wasn’t a new blog due today?

Minx: Been three days since her last post. What happened?

Soul_Reaper: Email attached to my account. Contact me for screenshots. Destiny hasn’t posted in a week, and she always is on time. Anyone heard anything?

Minx: Nothing. Wonder if the guys with little dicks finally got her to quit.

Soul_Reaper: maybe she’s finally on the inside?

Anonymous: Destiny Pierce is my bitch.

Soul_Reaper: Nine days? Seriously? Anyone heard anything?

Soul_Reaper: Update – police contacted me today for screenshots of older comment sections. I think something happened to Destiny. I may not agree with her on everything, but I hope she comes back. I hope she’s ok.

Anonymous: Prayers for Lachesis.

Anonymous: Destiny we miss you.

KZP12: [click here for video] Found that on the news. Shit looks bad, guys. Someone abducted her. Destiny is missing.

Soul_Reaper: Shit, that sucks. Hope she’s ok.

Anonymous: Hope she’s still alive.

Anonymous: Prayers for Destiny.

Anonymous: We miss you Destiny.

[click here to read the next chapter]

FLAWED available June 30th.  Pre-order now on Amazon

 

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