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(Excerpt from VGame Premium magazine)
New Virtual Reality Battle of the Kings Game Takes Market by Storm
29 Apr 2027: The release of the Battle of the Kings game by VR Agent Inc has seized the attention of millions around the world. With its proprietary, realistic AI-based avatars that are larger than life, players can interact with existing characters and experience the world first-hand using the custom built headset…. You can get your own copy of the game today in stores!
Peaceful was not exactly a word Farah would use to describe the Battle of the Kings game where slaying monsters and losing comrades were the staple events of that world. Yet sitting beside the game character Kristian as they looked out on the night sky was the most tranquil part of her daily life. With the high-resolution quality and perfectly rendered visuals, the twinkling stars on the sky canvas looked even prettier than in real life.
It was amazing how the world of Battle of the Kings looked so real and felt so real. From the detailed visuals and textures, to the fluid movement of the characters and creatures, to little things like the feeling you got when you touched the objects in the game. But the game had taken it a step further - adding more color and vibrance to the virtual world than the dull and tainted landscape of Earth.
Greenery covered most of the land with few man-made structures scattered across the area. Animals roamed free, alongside the mystical monsters. The sky was always blue, the air fresh and unpolluted, the water crystal clear and clean.
Farah sucked in a deep breath, enjoying the refreshing air. She looked out lazily at the endless field of green illuminated by the bright moonlight. There was nothing to obstruct her view - it was like she was on the top of the world.
She was dressed in the standard white shirt and pants, her hair styled the way she always dreamt of. In this surreal game world, she could change her looks any way she wanted and not feel like an outcast. It was a world where anything was possible, much unlike her own one.
“Hey, are you sleeping already?”
She lifted her gaze to meet Kristian’s. Looking at him from up close, it was easy to see why he was the subject of many gamers’ affections. His intense grey eyes and angular jaw coupled with his standoffish attitude were the hallmarks of a typical bad boy. Yet the concern he displayed for his comrades showed the other side of him that made many girls’ hearts melt.
Shaking her head, she gave a wistful smile. “Nah, just… thinking I guess.”
“About your friends again?” he asked, his tone dripped in sarcasm when he mentioned the word ‘friends’.
Farah grimaced and dipped her head in response. “I just got a text from them,” she explained her lack of presence in the game world. “Apparently they’re all going to this Kpop concert or something. I don’t want to go but…”
Her voice trailed off in a sigh. This was not how her childhood friends used to be back in the day. But with the onslaught of puberty and technology, everything changed. Fashion, boys, video games… that’s all they would talk about – leaving her stuck in her own unchanging world of books and soccer.
She couldn’t just throw away years of friendship just like that. The thought of having to part from them and venturing out to find a new clique was daunting. Despite their differences, her friends were still… familiar. If they couldn’t adjust to her, then she would have to adjust to them.
Of all their new interests, video gaming was the closest she could get to liking. It was why she had started playing the Battle of Kings game initially but as time went on, she too had gotten more and more addicted to the world. And she finally had something in common to talk to them about. But it never felt like enough.
She cupped the back of her neck. “I guess I just have to suck it up and try to sit through it.”
Kristian clicked his tongue in disapproval. “Just don’t fucking go. Simple as that.”
Her head tossed back, she chuckled. “If only it were that simple, Kristian. I’d honestly rather escape and spend the day with you here.”
Silence settled between them, as it often did when they were left to their own thoughts. It was a comfortable few seconds filled with just the sounds of crickets until Kristian broke the stillness.
“It’s fucking hilarious.”
Farah looked at him, noticing the downturn of his lips. “What is?”
“All of you guys play this game to escape your world. But… every single game character here, whether they know it or not, want to escape these walls. This world of torture and death.”
He returned her gaze, his voice a mixture of bitterness and curiosity. “I want to leave this world so badly. Yet why do you want to leave yours?”
That question was not programmed into the game. Characters didn’t ask “why”.
What made him different and set apart from the other AI characters… no one would ever know. And no one needed to know. If word ever got out that an AI being had obtained self-awareness, it would have made the news. Debates would erupt, research would be undertaken, the AI being stripped to pieces and exposed for the world to see.
No one should know.
Until today, she never quite understood why Kristian had revealed his self-awareness to her. He didn’t just come out with it, of course. He had started off probing her with rhetorical questions about the game world, assessing her personality.
She had found it strange when none of her friends had similar experiences. When she cautiously confronted him about it, the truth was groundbreaking. To find that she was not just playing a game, but interacting with a one-of-a-kind AI being that… was real.
Although she could not contain her excitement, Kristian had sworn her to silence. And she fully understood why. One careless slip of her tongue and his whole existence was threatened.
But it certainly changed her gameplay. She now had a real… friend to talk to. Just like her, Kristian was alone in his world. No matter how much he cared for his comrades in his world, he could never interact with them outside of how they were programmed to.
Both desperately in need of companionship, they were two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together perfectly. And because Kristian was familiar with his world, he had the ability to manipulate certain events to his will. He could tip the odds in fights, slow down time, and take her to places that were forbidden – like the rooftop.
Alone together, they could talk freely and away from all eyes. She confided in him about everything – her distant friends, the stress in school, her busy parents. Problems that were so different from his.
And he would ask every single thing about the real world. His questions made her see things in a different light. From the simplest things like food to the different mechanical and electronic advances of the century, she learnt to treasure what she had.
It was eye-opening.
She knew it was the same for him too. She saw it in the way his eyes lit up each time she described something new. To know that there was a better future outside of the world of giant monsters, to know that people could live without the fear and anxiety of impending doom. It was both a beacon of hope as well as a beacon of despair, for he was a caged bird looking out through a third party’s eyes.
Knowing that he would never leave his cage, it simply broke her heart. Maybe it was fate and circumstance that brought him into her life, but he meant so much more to her than just a convenient friend. He didn’t use her, he listened. He didn’t lecture her, he advised. He didn’t ignore her, he cared.
In her whole life, no one bothered to ask for her opinion. No one cared to ask why.