🎮 The Game by E. Florian Gludovacz

🎮 The Game by E. Florian Gludovacz

🎮 The Game

by E. Florian Gludovacz

“Here, check this out!” the girl told her friend enthusiastically, pointing at the game console on her desk.

“What is it?”

“It’s a world-builder game and it’s the coolest toy ever!”

“Very nice! How does it work?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know how it works, but it’s easy to operate.”

She flipped a switch and the display projection lit up, showing a blank slate scenario.

“That doesn’t look like much,” he said dubiously.

“Not yet, but it will. This is just the beginning. We start by creating the universe. First we have to define some parameters, and then we can get started on the actual world.”

“What kind of parameters?”

“We get to decide whether we want a closed universe or an infinite one.”

“Let’s make it infinite, that sounds much more interesting!”

“Okay. Here we go. It’s infinite now,” she smiled. “All you have to do is flip the menu switch here and press confirm.”

“Can I try it?”

“Of course. The next parameter determines whether the universe is expanding or contracting.”

“Let’s go with expanding. Infinite and expanding just go really well together,” he said and turned the appropriate dial.

“That’s a lot of space to fill.”

“I guess so, but I have an idea. We could put in some galaxies to fill the empty void.”

“Sure, why not? Here is the selector setting for that. How many do you want?”

“I don’t know, a few hundred billion maybe? It doesn’t really matter. It’s just a backdrop, isn’t it?”

“You’re right. So, I’ll set it to 200 billion? That fills up the space and doesn’t noticeably slow down the game’s processing speed,” she offered.

“Sounds good to me,” he examined the projection critically. “Yes, that looks nice. It gives the universe a certain sparkle. Anyway, what happens next?”

“Now we start to build a world. This is where it gets interesting. There are so many things to choose from. Like, for example, do we want a flat planet or a round one?”

“Flat sounds more intuitive to me, because things will stay on the planet.”

“Unless they fall over the edge,” she pointed out.

“We could put a dome over it and keep everything inside, couldn’t we?” he mused.

“Of course, but then what is the point of having an infinite universe with billions of galaxies. We could have simply put some fake stars on the dome instead and been done with it.”

“I hadn’t thought of that! So, I guess round planet it is,” he paused, looking sheepish. “But how will things stay on the round planet?”

“Oh, that’s easy. We adjust the gravitational force projection from the ‘Down’ setting to ‘Omnidirectional’,” she demonstrated by twisting the dial to the right and continued. “Now we confirm the selection and then the system will throw in a bunch of random parameters for our planet. This is where the fun really starts, because you never quite know what you’ll get. When the machine generates the planet’s solar system, it picks the number and configuration of other planets at random. Sometimes they’re habitable, sometimes not. I played one game recently where three planets had life on them, but it was all different. One was water-carbon-based, and the other two were methane-based.”

He stared at the unspectacular little round planet.

“And that’s it?”

He sounded disappointed by the anticlimactic result and lack of action.

“We’re only getting started. Now we zoom in and see what kind of world we have created.” She manipulated the dial again and looked at the profile summary critically. “It says here that it is a water-carbon based world. Those are great, lots of stuff can happen on them.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Evolution, of course. The world comes pre-seeded with tiny organisms that will grow over time until you have complex organisms all over the place.”

“How long does that take?”

“Oh, billions and millions of years. It isn’t exactly a quick process, you see.”

“But we don’t have time for that before dinner,” he sighed.

“That doesn’t matter. We can use this dial to move things along in the fourth dimension. Like this!”

The girl turned the dial rapidly and as they watched, many things began to happen on the surface of their little planet. The oceans stopped boiling, the continents emerged and began their endless journey across the surface, sometimes colliding with each other, sometimes drifting apart. The oceans began to teem with life, then animals emerged, first small amphibians, then larger creatures. Some returned to the oceans while others remained and thrived.

“I kind of like those big things, but this game is a little passive, if you ask me,” the boy mused. “I was hoping that there would be more to do. All we’re doing is watching the little creatures move around and evolve.”

“We can influence things, if we want. For example, let’s have a little mass extinction event and see what happens. She pressed a button and moments later an asteroid appeared. It slammed into the small, blue planet with a resounding crash and the children watched intently as the results of the detonation played out, darkening the sky, killing many–but not all–of the creatures that had populated their world.

“I feel kind of sorry for them,” the boy sighed. “Killing all of those creatures isn’t fun.”

“There are more than enough of them left, don’t worry. Here, let me speed up the time function some more and you’ll see.”

They watched in fascination for a while.

“I like those little creatures, they’re cute. They are building things too! Look! Did you see that? They are hauling stones and building little pyramids! How cool is that?” he said.

“Yes, that’s the weird thing with all the planets I have made. Nine times out of ten the intelligent life forms will develop some kind of religion. I have no idea why, but it almost always happens. It’s the craziest thing.”

“It probably makes them feel less alone in the endless universe?” he ventured. “But what happens when no deity answers their prayers?”

“That’s taken care of. Here, watch. The system knows what to do. There is one praying right now. And then this happens.”

A message ran across the projection.

Thank you for contacting [deity’s name]. [Deity’s name] cannot answer your prayer right now. If you leave a message, [deity’s name] will get back to you at their earliest convenience. Thank you for your continued belief.

“Hey kids! It’s time for dinner! Come on down and don’t forget to wash your hands!” the girl’s father yelled from the bottom of the stairs.

“We’ll be down in a minute! We are just finishing up our game!” the girl called back.

“All right! But don’t take too long! You don’t want your food to get cold!”

“So what do we do now?” the boy asked. “Do we have to pause the game or what?”

“We don’t have to do that. We can just let the simulation run and leave the creatures to their own devices. Things will progress on their own.”

“They will?”

“Yeah… well, kind of,” she admitted with a shrug. “Those little beings will muddle along, build a civilization or two, and then proceed to wreck the place.”

“Wreck it?”

“Oh, you know, they will have some wars and kill each other, pollute the planet and the environment, and make an absolute mess of things. Sometimes it’s climate change, sometimes it’s nuclear war, but they usually manage something destructive. Oddly enough they always end up fighting over the stupidest resources, differences in opinion, or just because they enjoy strife.”

“That’s bizarre and also kind of sad, isn’t it?”

“I guess so, but they aren’t all that special. Anyway, we have to get dinner now,” she said dismissively. “If things don’t work out by the time we get back, we can always reboot the game and create a new world!”

E. Florian Gludovacz has been a writer, musician, and artist since his teens. He was born in Austria and grew up living in different parts of Europe (Germany, France, the UK, and Austria). He currently resides in rural Southern California with his wife and their mixed Great Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

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