Published on December 10th, 2013 | by Andy Astruc1
Merging with the fourth wall in Consortium
“Imagine a future where we have solved many of the problems plaguing humanity today. Food and energy are issues of the past, and human beings have established orbital and lunar colonies. We here at iDGi have invented a satellite capable of transporting you to this not-so-distant future.”
My eyes adjust to the digital fuzz and I appear to be inside sleeping quarters of some description. A television screen displays a news program, and outside the window I can see we’re flying. A plane, then. I definitely know what a plane is. Someone is outside the door, asking to be let in. A woman in a blue uniform enters and tells me in a firm Irish accent that we have to go. My designation is Bishop 6 — it must be, she keeps calling me that — and I need to report to the command deck.
I’m a little confused, though, as I’m pretty sure this is just a video game that I’m playing on my computer at home in the year 2013. But everything indicates this is the near future, where gigantic aeroplanes act as mobile government special forces headquarters and can go into space if the situation calls for it. Then again, my HUD seems to know I’m from the past, tempting me with immersion-breaking dialogue choices betraying my total lack of understanding on the subject of B.U.S. suits, the third World War and why every crew member is named after a different chess piece.
Playing along seems the best course of action, so I avoid telling anyone I recently came through a psychedelic wireframe air duct and simply answer all questions with reassuring yet dismissive vagueness. Rook 25 tells me to suit up and that perhaps I’d like to test out the Bishop Training Program. No thanks, training is for people who don’t know what they’re doing, and I’m an expert at whatever Bishops do. Outside I flirt with a Pawn and accidentally stumble into another crew member while she’s trying to quietly use the toilet in the dark. In the hangar, a woman tells me how refreshing it is that I didn’t try to hit on her, because apparently that happens all the time. I can’t tell if this is because she’s full of herself or Consortium is making some clever point about the activities of main characters in video games.
Sorry, Consortium is the name of the governmental peackekeeping system in this universe. Their universe. My universe. After a bit of exploring and healthy social intercourse I discover that Rook 9 is the pilot, he loves the plane slightly more than his mother — who is kind of rude — and he’s very Australian.
Knight 15 is the lady in charge, evidenced by her fancy chair and posh English accent; she likes a little professional irreverence and when people show interest in the details of their work. Rook 13 is the medic and he likes 2Ds, which is what we call non-holographic, non-virtual reality films in my time. Pawn 24 is really into video games and wants to play with me once the mission is over, and Pawn 1 hates my guts for reasons I am not privy to. I tried to ask about it and his answer was drowned out by static; then my voice changed and I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to know specific information about myself. After that I informed the command deck that I was very tired n0w and needed to l1e down…
In another universe following almost the same path, I throw caution to the wind and shit to the fan as I abandon all attempts to pretend I know what the hell is going on. My constant probing queries about what this widget does, what year it is and why I’m even here quickly begin to annoy my crew members. Rook 25 even becomes concerned that I’m insane, and suggests I visit the doctor. I tell said doctor that I’m from another dimension and viewing this from the past. He asks me if it’s like The Matrix, and I concede it is a bit like that; his coworker is unnerved both by my psychosis and the dated references.
Knight 15 thinks I’m just being funny when I do stupid things like ask how their telepathic communicators work. We find one of the Pawns dead in his cabin — apparently murdered, apparently in a society where murder is a strange occurrence — and because this is a video game I make a flippant remark about him being a Red Shirt. Rook 25 gets that reference and looks like she might disembowel me and throw my organs out an airlock. I guess we’re not friends in this universe.
It’s probably less awkward than the quantum stream where I decided not to say anything at all, and probably came across as either unbelievably callous or mentally deficient.
Regardless of the dimension, I’ve gathered this much: the Zenlil is under attack by a man with a very husky and European voice. This attack has something to do with the brutal murder of a Pawn in the last Bishop’s cabin and the strange fluctuations in ship systems. It also might have something to do with me. Either me as Bishop 6, the competent lunatic schizophrenic who has just been assigned this post, or me as myself, the game player who is teleporting his consciousness into a person who lives in the future. This is just a game, right? I’m not actually witnessing — and altering — the future, right? That would be silly. I scoff at the idea because it definitely isn’t true.
It’s so untrue that I certainly don’t feel incredibly guilty for brushing off the fannish affections of that poor kid who subsequently died in the first attack. I don’t feel at all terrible about murdering a dozen mercenaries all because I couldn’t figure out how the non-lethal settings on the future guns worked.
There are gaps, anyway. Holes in the simulation. This is an unfinished look into the reality yet to come, peppered with connection errors and approximations of reality. If this is really just a video game, then it’s one extremely close to exiting the beta stage and recently approved through Steam Greenlight. If it’s just a game, then iDGi are just game developers potentially creating one of the most unique and memorable RPG experiences I’ve ever seen. If it’s not a game then someone on this ship is a murderer, and I need to stop sticking my fingers in the space-time continuum.