Just as Mnemosyne said, when I reopened my eyes, I find myself in the middle of a crowded plaza in what appears to be Ancient Greece. Most are new players that have logged in, while there are a few who are already high level. I assume they were part of the beta testing that happened before the game's official release.
The plaza has a mosaic ground, with two-room homes with triangular roofs surrounding the square. NPCs lounge on the open porches in front of their homes, stuck in a conversation loop the developers placed them in. Each building is supported by Greece’s famous white columns, with carvings of gods and goddesses from Greek mythology. There’s a large fountain in the center of the plaza, depicting the abduction of Europa.
The feeling of being in the game is similar to reality. The breeze tickles my skin as a soft aroma of freshly baked pastries envelops me in a tender embrace. The smell of fried food taunts me, goading me to deviate from my schedule of learning the game and give in to my deepest desires.
“Welcome to the Plaza of Memories, Mai. Before you begin your journey in experiencing all of the one hundred and fifty floors Mythic Kingdoms has to offer, we must go over a few key elements of the game to ensure you succeed. The green bar above your name is your HP bar, which depicts how much health your character has before it dies. The blue bar is your MP bar, which tells you how much energy you have left to cast a spell. It’s similar to a stamina bar,” Mnemosyne explains from beside me. I glance up at the floating green and blue bars above my head, seeing them just above my username. Since I haven’t done anything to exert my energy, they’re completely full, but rather small.
“Is there a way to increase the cap on my health and mana?” I ask, knowing it’s going to be somewhat of a crutch until I do something about it.
“You can increase the length of these bars by leveling up and equipping items from your inventory. Fighting mobs of monsters or completing dungeons will give you an opportunity to replace your existing equipment, sell rare items at our designated shops to buy better items, and even level up! Each player is equipped with a map that will show you places you can eat, sell and purchase items, and rest for the evening. Everything in the Plaza of Memories is free for players, but as you progress through the game, you’ll need more and more gold to unlock these special perks. It may be useful to create a guild where you can farm items and gold with allies of your choosing. Remember, how you choose to play the game will determine whether you are a hero or a villain.”
Pretty standard for a game. But what does it matter how I choose to play the game? Aren’t we all heroes? It’s almost as if she’s implying there’s a hidden agenda. I ponder over her words, but before I get the chance to ask what she means, the sun disappears as a total solar eclipse darkens the plaza.
I turn to Mnemosyne, hoping she can explain, but she’s vanished. It sends everyone into a panic as they begin talking about what’s happening. A red-hooded woman appears by the fountain, her voice booming loudly over the commotion as though he has a microphone in his hands.
“Welcome players of Mythic Kingdoms! Most of you may not know who I am, but you’ll find out soon enough. The Darkness is approaching quickly, and only one of you can find the Goddesses of Light from each world and save this universe as we know it. Many of you will fall, but only one will reign victorious as the true hero. Until then, I can’t permit any of you to leave. You will notice your log-out button has been disabled,” the hooded woman announced.
Interesting plot twist. The developers really fought hard to make this seem like a difficult mission. Though a flawed system. They can’t disable the log-out function on a game. That would trap millions of people and their company would be held liable, I silently speculate.
“Hey! She’s not kidding! I can’t log out!” a female voice rang out amongst the crowd. It appears to incite hysteria as everyone goes through various stages of grief: some are in denial, thinking they’ll wake up from the dream. Some are furious, while a handful, who may be rich outside of the game, think of ways to bargain with the developers to let them leave. Then there are the people who are hit with sadness and defeat, crying in the corners of the town or lying on the ground in the fetal position, begging for their mother.
I raise my right hand, triggering the settings screen in front of me. And there, in a dull gray, is the log-out button, disabled as the mysterious woman said. As much as I should be upset, I can’t. What did I have left for me back home? A broken family, which includes an angry mother who didn’t understand me and a brother I needed to sacrifice everything for. Here, I can do whatever I want and not fear judgment. I can be free, and Maê would have Ari, instead of me, an unforgettable disappointment. Can I be a little selfish, Yai?
“Some of you may admit defeat, others may seek a quiet life until one brave soul beats the game and saves all of you. How you choose to play the game will determine your fate as a hero or a villain.” Her words make me look up from my settings, as they are the same words Mnemosyne uttered just moments ago. “Will you save us or stand idly by?”
I ball my hands into fists, having found my resolve. “When do we get started?” I reply, ignoring the shocked, watchful gazes of my fellow gamers.