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August 09 , 2009

The Healer: a Novelette of Online Gaming


Simon, an alienated computer programmer, prefers games to reality, especially massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPG). One day he comes across a different sort of online game, one that changes him as he plays it – in some ways for the better. But the game giveth, and the game taketh away.

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A somewhat satirical and somewhat serious look at online gaming, as well as a cautionary tale on the importance of reading the manual.

Simon booted up the game and saw grassy countryside. Nice graphics, he thought. His character stood in a hooded robe with his back to the screen, a leather bag strapped to his waist.

Simon hit the W key to make him move forward. Nothing happened. He tried the Up arrow key. Still nothing. Simon muttered a curse and twiddled keys at random. Something, he thought, must move the character and he would be damned if he was going to read the manual.

There, he had it. The little fellow jogged forward. Simon saw a stone wall in the distance, with a stile in it. Just then, there was an odd jump in the scene, and the wall and stile appeared to be about six feet closer. It took a moment for Simon to figure out what had happened; he'd slipped into a first-person point of view somehow. He could no longer see his character; he was his character. He saw only the locks of hair curling by his jaw, and his hands protruding from the tan, coarse sleeves.

He'd forgotten how pleasant country air smelled, of grass and leaves and just a touch of sheep dropping. He jogged along and felt how good it was to have strong thighs that didn't rub together. He savoured the absence of jiggling spare tire about his middle.

Something was odd about all this, but Simon could not quite think what. He decided not to worry about it....

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