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The Game of Life

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Are you— are you ready to begin? 



Hate that I can read these stupid symbols... 



Are you alright? 



And I hate that I can understand you damn things as— wait. Wait. Are you kidding me? 


ARCHIVIST (overlapping) 

Excuse me? 



Are you fucking kidding me? Sims? Your— your name is Sims? 






Unbelievable! I can't believe this. 


[A THUMP as the subject smacks the table.] 



Please don't be so— 



Are you expecting me to think this is real? That this isn't another part of this game? 


ARCHIVIST (tired) 

I don't expect you to think anything, Mr. Reeves, I— 



Not you. The game. 



Yes, you mentioned a— a game. 



[disgusted noises] 



Why don't we take this from the beginning? 



I may as well humor you. Just to pass the time. 



Um— good, okay. 

Statement of Alden Reeves, regarding a video game he began playing a month ago. Statement recorded direct from subject, 8th July, 2017. Statement begins. 



It was a mistake. That's all. A stupid little mistake that put me in— 

Okay. Ok. So I was heading back from my dad's house, right, because I visit him every week. Or, I visited him. Haven't been to see him since. Can't bear the thought of him becoming just another character. I don't even want to see his lips flap while absolute nonsense flies out of his mouth. Why do I have to understand it? And besides, they haven't let me visit him. Won't even let me take his calls, those bastards... 

Right, uh, I'll back up. So, anyway, I uh, I took a wrong turn, somewhere in there. I dunno, dad lived— lives out in a suburb, it's never made much sense to me, I always need my GPS to get there and back. Guess I forgot this time, or overestimated my navigation. I ended up driving down this dingy old street, I'd never really seen it before, but it looked just like all the others. Houses all alike in a straight line, gardens out front. There wasn't anyone outside, though. Not even any cars parked in the driveways or on the roads. It was getting toward sunset, but it was the weekend, so I just figured everyone was going out to eat. I guess something didn't feel right, but how the hell was I supposed to know? 

Anyway, I'm pretty lost and just about ready to turn around when I see a guy standing in his driveway. There's a folding table in front of him with these old, uh, shirts, maybe some records on it. A sign by the lamppost said "YARD SALE." 

I didn't think about it then, but it was nearly eight and the streetlight and my headlights were off, but I could read the sign. Whatever. So I decide to roll by and ask for some directions. I slow down and pass by the table and look at this man and— 

I swear he was perfectly normal. He was all bald, I think, but his head was kinda oily despite it. He wasn't exactly old, maybe 50-something, but he didn't look so well. Maybe he was dying, trying to get the last of his useless junk gone and make a couple bucks to put in his will. Who knows? None of my business. So I pull up and start to ask him for directions when he just stares at me. Like, really stares. Creepy as hell. I'm starting to think maybe he's trying to lure me out so he can kill me when he starts to smile and god— that smile. He was missing half his teeth, and the ones that were there looked like wood. His eyes were shinier than his head. He held up something, he must've been holding it behind his back, and showed it to me. He said something like, "aren't you quite the gamer, young man?" but I was looking at the case. 

Pristine copy of The Sims, the original game, in its jewel case. I just bought the new one a couple months ago, but I was kinda getting tired of it. My copy was all bogged down with mods and I swear, half of them must've been viruses. Didn't matter, they weren't this game. I played the original back on my parents' computer when I was a kid. They didn't exactly give me permission, probably because they didn't want me asking what woo-hoo meant, but I'd sneak on the family machine and give it a shot most nights. 

"I know you're dedicated," the guy said then, smiling. His face, I could've sworn it was something wrong with his face— but I was tired and kinda lost and disoriented, so I just counted it off. Same with the bad feeling I got. But I wanted that game— I needed it, actually. Suddenly, the only important thing in my life was that game. I'd've cut off his hand if that's what it took to get the damn thing. 

"How much?" I asked him. 

"Free for you." That's all I needed to hear. So I took the game and the man just kept smiling at me. I was so excited, though. My own real copy of the Sims, right, for free. Looked like it was in good shape, too, when I cracked it open and checked the disk. He backed away from my car window and gave a little wave before I kept driving down the road. 

I realized that I'd forgotten to ask him for directions, but he was almost out of sight by the time I looked. He was still watching me, though. And just before his house disappeared over the horizon, I swear to god, the man and his table just blinked out of sight, like a culling error in a video game. I know that's kinda cliche, but it's how it looked. But I was tired and it was suddenly a lot darker out than I thought, so I figured it was just that. 

Anyway, from there I found my way back to the main road and got home. The drive was kind of a blur, though, I was more excited about playing this game. 

I was so excited I didn't even do anything but play the game when I got home. I know it sounds kinda weird, but literally, that's all I did. Didn't even turn on any lights, just booted up my computer and stuck the disk in. I was so glad it worked. I mean, the Sims never really kept me up that late before, but I swear I was up all night playing this. Setting up my house, getting everything together. I made a Sim based on me, even. I guess it was after I made him that I passed out. 

I don't know how long I was out, only that I woke up and I was still at my computer. My guy was there, too, sitting on his little computer. I must've forgotten I gave him that, I realized. Somehow, I'd also forgotten that I'd rebuilt my entire flat in the game. 

So I, I noticed I really had to— I had to pee. And I was starving. But my eyes were just glued to this game. And my guy needed to eat and stuff, too. So I figured I'd take care of the immediate things before I got myself up. I directed him to go to the bathroom. 

That's when it got real. 

I couldn't move my own damn muscles. They just stood me up and forced me to walk to the bathroom. I watched my guy do that, too, until I couldn't see the screen anymore. I didn't even— I couldn't even control myself. I just went. And then I returned to the computer. I was still hungry, and so was my character, and he was also just sitting in front of his computer. I tried to get up to eat, but my guy just shook his head. What the hell? I wondered. So I told him to eat. 

Same thing. I went and I ate something in the kitchen. The ingredients all just appeared out of nowhere, and they were all sort of... generic? I didn't have pasta in the cupboards before, that was for sure. I don't even know what, it didn't taste like anything, but then I was full and I went back to the computer.  I stared at it for a while, not able to tear away from it, and then I played when I realized that was the only way I'd be able to move. 

I was too scared to leave the house for the first few days, but then my guy got the low socialization warning. I felt lonely, too, the worst I'd ever been. So I told my guy to go to a party next door. In the game, it was being hosted by the guy who actually lived the flat next to mine. And, like before, I just went. 

Nobody there acted like normal. It was so weird— people walked up to each other and exchanged words, but without speaking. I'd see a little plus icon appear over them most of the time, and a little minus sign some others. Once or twice, they'd just start making out right there, which sounds a lot more normal than it seemed. They weren't really kissing, I think, just mashing their mouths together. Everyone I talked to felt kinda like a robot, and their words weren't— they weren't exactly right. They didn't sound like words, but I understood them anyway. And, as I left, I saw they all had those little green things hovering over their heads, just like Sims characters. 

That sounds crazy. You think I'm crazy, don't you? If you're even real, I mean.






Right, whatever. 

That's how it started, but then it got worse. I always ended up back at my computer at first, able to make decisions, but then whatever controlled me started steering me back to the couch or to my bed. I couldn't resist. And there were a few times where it seemed to torture me, or try to kill me. Made me beat on a wall with my bare hands in a dark room after they removed the door. They took the ladder out of the swimming pool while I was in it, and it only came back when I was almost drowned. 

Worst, the next party I went to, there was a fire after all the doors and windows vanished. Everyone else died. Hell, I swear I saw the Grim Reaper. But a door opened up right before I burned and I left as fast as my legs would take me. They kept doing it, torturing me. I mean, I did it a few times as a kid, I think everyone has— you know, fucked with or killed a few Sims just for fun? Just because they're so stupid? 

Words stopped... they stopped making sense. Things people said on TV, things written in books, none of that was words. It was just gibberish. I understood it all, but it was just a bunch of random sounds put together to sound like words. People everywhere, they got the little indicators over their head, too. I couldn't sleep on my own, couldn't eat on my own, I couldn't do anything on my own— they even made me, well, have an accident a few times. Sometimes they'd almost kill me, and I'd see the Grim Reaper and finally feel some hope that this was the end of it, but it never happened. They made me sleep with a few girls, and we didn't even have sex— we just rolled around under the blankets until a bunch of hearts popped out. And even if I wanted to, they wouldn't let me answer the calls. Except once, where I swear I made her cry. But it was kinda hard to tell, since her words didn't make any sense. 

And now, funniest of all, they sent me here. To give a statement. I don't think I'm even saying words at this point. Everyone looks like blobs of polygons with green things over them. Even— even you. It's been a month and I'm not living a life anymore, I'm just playing out a game for something else. I mean, in high school, I thought maybe we really were in the Matrix. I thought maybe life was just a big simulation, and then I thought I outgrew that. I thought I was in charge, y'know, maybe that's why I kept playing these games in the first place. Maybe it made me feel like I had some sort of control or I meant something in the world. 

But I'm not in control. That damned game made me realize that. I'm not even real. Nobody's real, we're all just a bunch of stupid polygons made to act like puppets. Smiling and speaking nonsense. I just— I just wonder— 

Have things always been like this and I just didn't notice? Or was it the damn game? I mean— 


[Something scrapes; the subject stands up.] 



Is that everyth— 



Sorry, I guess I have to— I guess they want me somewhere else. 



Oh, okay— 



Anyway. Anyway this has all been a big, stupid joke. Why the hell am I even talking to you like you could really help? There's no way out of this, not unless they let me die. 





[Footsteps, walking away from the recorder.] 


ALDEN (more agitated) 

And— and I see the dumb worry on your stupid, pixilated face. It's not real. None of this is real. It's just— 


[A door opens. The footsteps continue.] 



Hey. Hey. Has there always been an eye over your— 


[The door slams shut, rattling the desk. The footsteps grow fainter and fainter until they're gone.] 


ARCHIVIST (slightly rattled) 

Well, uh, I guess that's— 

An eye