By Susan McDonough
“Get your nose out of that book and come play a game,” said her mother. “You won’t learn anything sitting there by yourself!”
Reluctantly she put down her book and followed her mother’s tugging hand into the game room.
“Play with your brother and your cousins. You need to socialize and develop your problem solving skills.” Her mother handed her a game controller and sat down next to her. “Pick an avatar. You can be anyone you want to be!”
She picked her first option: a plain-faced boy who looked as uninterested in the game as she felt.
“Don’t be so passive aggressive,” said her mother. “You’re supposed to add traits. How about antlers?” She added antlers. “And a superpower?” Mom prompted.
She gave herself the ability to jump to another realm (which came with rabbit feet).
“That’s better,” said her mother. “Now isn’t this fun? You can attack your brother and then hop away!”
Yes… she could see advantages to that. She tried to gore her brother, but she was too slow. Her younger cousin came up behind her and killed her avatar. Her cousin snorted, “You look like a rabbit with a deer head! A dead bunny!”
“You need to sharpen your prediction skills,” said her mother. “Play more often and you’ll get faster.”
Her brother guffawed. “She could play 24/7 and she’d never get faster. She doesn’t know how to do anything but turn pages.”
Her mother’s lips pursed. “Then you need to help her. She needs to take the GAE this spring.”
Her brother and her cousins nearly rolled off the couch laughing. “Sorry, Auntie,” said her older cousin. “There’s no way she’ll pass the Gamer Assessment Exam and get a real job. She’ll have to be a lawyer.”
The next morning she went to the library. She read The Dummy’s Guide to Game Controllers: “Tap A while flicking the left stick in a safe direction. Slip the side of your thumb off the stick to flick faster.” There were a lot of other techniques, and she memorized them and practiced them when her brother wasn’t home.
Then she read The Beginner’s Guide to Reprogramming: “The player known as xXBatman365Xx manipulated the game’s X coordinate table while playing.” She found a lot of information about the programming glitches of the game her brother liked best.
Finally, she read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
The next time she and her brother were home alone, she suggested, “Let’s play your game.”
“I don’t wanna play with you, duncewad. It’s boring to kill somebody in the first two minutes.”
“Let’s use the headsets.”
“YOU want to go virtual reality? You’ll be a dead bunny in ONE minute!”
“Mom says I need to practice,” she sighed.
“All right, but don’t whine when I kill you.”
He drew blood on her avatar in the first two minutes. He was laughing, barely paying attention. “You should have made a new avatar,” he chuckled. “I’ve had mine for nine months. He’s unstoppable!”
He shot an arrow which should have skewered her, but she hopped to another realm, reprogrammed her avatar (it took on the appearance of a full grown elk and gained energy), hopped back to her brother and gored him through.
Her brother staggered around the room, crashed into the end table and knocked over their mother’s favorite lamp before he managed to get his helmet off. “Duncewad!” he shrieked. “You totally destroyed my avatar! How did you do that?”
“Research.” She smiled. “I don’t plan on being a lawyer. I plan on being a librarian.”
Susan McDonough has been writing since grade school. She has tried her hand at children’s stories, short stories, romances, historicals, essays, fantasies, mysteries, science fiction, numerous letters to the editor and a blog called Renaissance Woman. Susan has been a burger tosser, customer service rep, ad taker, curriculum developer, parent, teacher, reader and gardener. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with two cats and one husband.