“How do you play this game again?”
“There’s a keyboard and a screen. I get it. But what do I type?”
“This would be so much simpler with a game controller, even a gaming mouse.”
“That kind of defeats the whole set-up. ‘Interactive fiction’—a story you engage with.”
“It sounds cool but when it comes down to looking at that blinking cursor and the two lines of introductory text, it’s…discouraging.”
“Since when were you someone to be discouraged by words?”
“I have no idea what words have been programmed into this game.”
“That’s the whole point. Play. Discover. Win!”
“Really? There’s such a thing as winning in this game? I thought we just had to complete it.”
“Enough talking. More typing.”
A finger raised above the keyboard. Hovering above one letter, then the other. Finally descending upon one key.
You are in a dark room. The words appear underneath the introductory text.
“Try another key.”
This time the finger selects the key instantly.
Your head hits the ceiling.
Your head hits the ceiling.
“Is that all?”
Do you want to knock yourself out?
“Yes! Go unconscious, finish this game.”
“It can’t hear you.”
“It should be able to. Voice recognition. I should be able to talk and walk my way through this game.”
“Yeah, then it wouldn’t be a ‘text’-based game, then, would it?”
“Enough sarcasm. More typing.”
The ceiling is hard.
“I know that, smartypants game.”
Watch where you’re going!
[left arrow] [right arrow] [up arrow]
“What are you pressing the arrow keys for?”
“I’m moving my player!”
“You have no idea what to do!”
“Well then, give me a hint!”
“You need to see.”
“No, you need to light up the room so it’s no longer dark. The game won’t respond otherwise.”
“And how am I going to do that?”
“That’s the whole point!”
“That’s it.” Chair pushed backwards, away from the computer table. “I could write a better game then this.”
“OK, then. Go ahead. Write the game and I’ll play it!”
“So, when do I get to play your game?”
“Let me play it, then.”
“Here you go.”
“Going straight for the enter key. Nice move.”
“Be quiet. Let me see.”
Which way do you want to go?
“That’s how I code! Do you want to play or not?”
“OK. I want to go straight.”
“Er—perhaps you are mistaking me for voice recognition software?”
“Oh, let me play.”
You can’t go up.
You have nothing to dig with.
You take a step to the right.
You are out of moves.
You can’t move.
“What are you up to with this game? You should have told me there were a limited number of moves.”
“And you should have told me some of the basics of the first game.”
“OK. I was being smart with you. You’re so good at games, I wanted to frustrate you. But only because you beat me every time.”
“It’s not always about winning.”
“Yeah, sometimes it’s about making a point.”
“Now let’s go code that assignment for class. We’re on the same team, after all.”
This was originally published in Us Magazine for the youth, The News International, on June 1, 2018: https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/us/323839-dark-room