“Okay, are you there? The door should say ‘to Ophidian’s Cloister.'”

Harv worked his controller. “Yeah. Who’s Ophidian?”

Jim’s sigh was audible even through the crackly cellphone connection. “Haven’t you been reading the books in-game? They fill you in on all the little bits of backstory!”

“Look, if I did that I’d be dropping 100 hours into this game instead of just 50,” said Jim. “I’m only playing it to match your awards and get my score in a reasonable place, and because it was Game of the Year in twenty different places.”

“And the fact that it’s been praised as having the deepest and most original story in years makes no nevermind to you, huh?” Jim said.

“Look, I called you to guide me through the Maze of Insanity, not to get a lecture,” Harv said. “I like games where the story is ‘kill the evil alien overlord and his 10,000 troops with big guns.'”

Another crackly sigh. “Okay, whatever. Once you’re in the cloister, go right, then up the stairs, and then right-left right. That will bring you to the Oubliette of Redemption.”

“And from there?”

“Pretty straightforward. Two circles of doors; just take the ones for the Solarium of the Holy Haunt and then the Spire of Honor and Truth and you should see the cutscene before the final boss.”

Harv shook his head. “Where do they come up with the names for these rooms?”

“Certainly not the team of award-winning fantasy and sci-fi authors that were mentioned in all the reviews you didn’t read as part of crafting the story you mostly skipped.”

A certain young man once bought a video game, despite its glowing reviews and rabid fans on the inter-web. Putting it in, he soon noticed a curious occurrence–the hour and minute hand on his wristwatch seemed to spin somewhat faster than before, and the cosmic ballet above his humble abode proceeded to dance doubletime as night followed day dar quicker than it ought. The young man was as a starving man at a banquet, ever craving more until the last drop was savored and done.

Upon finishing and feeling the solemn pride that comes with victory (as well as the bittersweet taste that comes with the end of many things), the young man went outside and spoke of his experience to friends.

“You have wasted your time!” said they. “While you lolled about in front of a screen, you could have been composing a sonnet, or painting a picture. We have been reading great works, and singing songs, and living, while you have been shackled to your set with the vacant stare of a simpleton?”

The young man thought on this. At length, he replied: “The worlds I have visited are no less unreal than any I could read or create myself. They are all equal in their untruth. And I am as inspired as I have ever been; a dozen new worlds may have their origins in that which I have seen, those for whom I have cared, though they be not real.”

Some were swayed by these words, others not. But the young man soon acted on them, and proved, at least to himself, that he had spoken truly.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Sean. “I had to stop by Fabrics Plus. Abby wants new curtains.”

Adam and Job snickered from behind the games counter, the half-processed inventory of Streets of Fury 3 all but forgotten.

“What’s so funny about that?” Sean asked. “Also, the first person who makes a lewd pun about drapes is fired. That’s my wife we’re talking about.”

No, no,” said Job. “It’s just…can you imagine what would happen if they ran Fabrics Plus like a GamerStore?”

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot that Yarn 2.0 drops today,” said Adam. “I’m glad; Yarn 1.0 was too easy to snarl.”

“I bet you had that plus last week’s Threadbane III on pre-order” Job retorted. “I sewed in the beta and got to keep a square yard as long as I didn’t show it before the release date.”

“Do you have any used paisley cloth? I want to trade in three square yards of berber for paisley,” Adam said in falsetto.

“I’m sorry, we only have enough paisley for our pre-order customers,” Job replied, putting on a stoner voice. “We’ll be getting another shipment in a week.”

“You two are idiots.” Sean sighed and walked toward the back of the store. “No wonder we’re behind in sales this month.”