Down my street, there is a small bookshop called Outer Limitations within walking distance. I go there every Thursday evening to see if I missed any nostalgic comics from the nineties, old Disney movie books, or X-Men action figures. Just for kicks I browse a small section of computer video games from the early 90’s to the early 00’s, and notice a game that I’ve never heard of: Life Playing. The title itself carried no charisma or charm, but I pull it out and look at the booklet’s cover on the CD anyway. Poorly done 3D, one character was on the cover and had giant lips and no eyelids or hair, plain red shirt.
I bought it simply out of curiosity, and because I needed a good story about a shitty game for the weekend to tell my cousin so we could make fun of it. The cashier never played the game (I could imagine why) and says it was sold to him, free of charge, by a mute glass eyed weirdo that walked in a year back. Anyone who bought the game said it was so bad they didn’t want it in next to their other video games. I’m assuming the clerk (Dave) just keeps it on the shelf just to have an excuse to sell it to others as a prank, which I thought was funny.
“So, ready to put it back?” Dave asked me.
“Nope, I gotta see this donkey shit before I give it back” I joked, the horror stories were too good, no going back now.
I didn’t want to waste my laptop on this crud, so I used my older computer in the desk in my basement. The game’s title screen started. Giant capital letters appeared “LIFE PLAYING” in a sickly green color. The mouse icon was green, and a picture of a lone, animated bald pale man appeared with a dope smile on his face. Badly animated movie lights flashed on the screen suddenly at the bottom of the title screen and shined on the letters. It felt like an educational game some douche created without any real work put into it, as if the people behind it just wanted an easy buck.
Then only one option appeared. No “continue”, no “new game”, no “settings/controls” etc. Just “play”. I click on that option and suddenly a large, low toned pinging sound startled me, I forgot to turn the volume down on my computer from when I last used it, but even after I turned it down, the sound would stay at that level still. Weird, I guess no time really was put into it. Or maybe my computer was crapping out. Regardless, another option came up, surrounded by nothing but pitch black, “ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO PROCEED WITH LIFE /P._AFV?” What? I don’t exactly get why it would ask me if I was sure I wanted to play the game that I bought with my own money. Fail. I can already tell this is going to suck. Then, the main character’s head pops up, “GO AHEAD AND CHOOSE!” it says with a smile, while sounding like he wants to shove my ass off my chair for being so slow. Well, I pressed the yes option. The main character’s head then frowns, his eyes staying the same, and vanishes. The entire screen stays black for three minutes, I jumped in my seat when it startled me with “WAIT, DON”T LEAVE!” as if I was walking away, but I wasn’t. It sounded like a child’s voice.
The screen finally changes to a bedroom that’s entirely white, one window (daytime, blue skies outside), and a bed with the main character inside. I could already tell that this game would be a boring piece of fuck, but still wanted to see why it always made its way back to the owner of Outer Limitations. The character wakes up, looking hung-over, and crawls out of bed with a scowl, takes one look at me and says “Whaddya want me to do this time, Aaron?”
I have absolutely no clue how it knew my nickname (I always hated “Anthony” growing up so I preferred Aaron from middle school to freshman year), but said nickname was rarely used, I didn’t pay mind to it just yet.
Then an option sheet appears on the righthand point of the screen, crudely crumpled up notebook paper, and asks me to circle one “stay in bed”, “go get breakfast”, and “go outside”. I pick the third option, and the character walks through his house to get to the front door. His house is completely white, looks like it was modeled in the 1980s, and has dead plants everywhere. I never read the booklet so I wasn’t sure what the story was, or if he’s some careless loser. I grab the booklet and open it, nothing’s inside but someone’s printed phone number, I chose to save that for later.
The character finally walks outside and takes his dog (who had blank, black eyes, black fur, and didn’t bark, which I thought was strange for a dog in a video game) with him. The dog and the character then looks at me and another option sheet pops up “Play with dog”, “get mail”, and “get breakfast”. I pick option one, the character then throws a ball across the screen. The dog chases after it and never returns. The guy (who I’ve dubbed ‘Doucheshit’) walks over next to the mail box and gets the mail, I didn’t have the option screen pop up and didn’t understand why he was just doing things without my orders. He grabs the one piece of mail in the mailbox and opens it. A blank piece of paper pops up and presents the following words:
You have been playing this
Well, it was in that exact format and bland text, after regards the character that sent the mail never printed his name. Doucheshit walks back into the house and a small window pops up, “Doucheshit needs to go back inside”
I didn’t say Doucheshit, nor did I type it into anything anywhere at any time, but the CD somehow picked up on it.
I let him go back inside. The first thing he does is go for the fridge and finds nothing, he goes down to his flooded basement and swims over to his cabinet and finds some soggy crackers that he starts to eat once he gets back upstairs. He then walks to the couch and sits down, his permanent frown appears to get more lifelike each minute, he simply stares at me for the entire duration of the time he sits down, and then finally speaks. It sounds like the book manager’s voice, but two people are speaking in unison with exactly the same tone, “what do you want?” an option screen pops up with only one option, “Nothing”. I press that one and his eyes become yellow and the edges of his eyes become red, possibly trying to appear bloodshot. He then goes back to check his mail three times. Nothing.
He then sighs and goes back into his bedroom, it’s suddenly night time and he takes a nap without getting under the covers. Then, the screen just shows dead pixels and flashed to morning. Doucheshit walks outside and checks the mail, a screen then makes a close up to what’s inside the mail box: A realistic, rotting crow corpse with maggots crawling around it. The screen pans out to a crying Doucheshit, who then walks farther into to the opposite side of the screen, the farther he goes the music, which previously sounded like a corny 8 bit 1980’s theme, then came to a chalkboard screeching halt. The character I cruelly named then walked farther and farther, until it becomes night time, and then stops at a cliff. He begins to cry, I bite my lip as I hope he doesn’t do what I’m thinking.
As he jumps, a child screaming is heard, and on one of the jagged edges of the cliff, the dog’s ball is shown with poorly animated blood. Then, the dead crow that the character found in his mailbox limps in the middle of the screen, maximized in size with pulsating wounds, and the following text comes up, “He lost at life, perhaps in death “Doucheshit” will be saved by oblivion. Your treatment of the character was pointless as his fate was sealed, but now you will realize that your first choice will be one of regret. Thank for playing Life AF_V”
Wait, my first choice? You mean, when I was given the “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO PLAY” bullshit? I didn’t care anymore, I was glad the game was over. But when the CD ejected, a scary chord was heard and the screen shut down, along with the computer case, which now smelled like it was wet and damp. The CD itself was fine; I put it back in the case and waited for next morning, unable to sleep.
I woke up and went back to Outer Limitations on Friday morning. The store was open, but I noticed something creepy on the side of the building. “Doucheshit” was etched into the brick wall. I walked in and saw Dave’s roommate subbing for him.
“So, how was it? I heard it sucked. I can’t believe Dave talked you into it.”
I feel nervous to ask, “How is Dave doing by the way? Why isn’t he here today?”
“He’s at home. His dog passed on and he wanted to just sit on the couch and sulk I guess. Don’t blame him, really.”
I blinked, “I’m actually going to hold onto this, thanks anyway.”
I went back to my house, smashed the CD into pieces and burned it. I called the number on the guidebook before proceeding to burn that too. All I got was a message repeated constantly in a monotone voice:
“Play the game again”
I couldn't exactly do that now, considering I just demolished it, but I went down to my basement to see if I could turn the computer back on, see if it’s changed at all since last night. The monitor wouldn't turn on.
I reached down and unscrewed the bolts on the computer case, and a maggot crawled onto my hand, I reached my hand back and screamed as a black feather and some decayed flesh oozed out.