I laugh. By using the Everglade Corporation Full Immersion Halo, or EcFi Halo, to play Augmented Stars, I agree to potentially be enlisted in Everglade's research and development program. I could required to play the game for over twenty-four hours at a time with no chance to log out. It's ridiculous. I bet someone put that line in there as a joke to see if anyone took time to read the paperwork. It takes me over half an hour to read the legal information, which was surprisingly printed on paper, before I'm able to power up my new EcFi Halo. Once it's working I find myself no longer laying on my bed. Instead I'm in a dark room. The only light is around me. In front of me another figure stands, that looks exactly like me. A head's up display is visible in my vision that includes the current time and a list of options with drop down menus. I remember from the paperwork that Augmented Stars has the option for a person's default avatar skin to look and sound exactly like they do in life. I just didn't expect it to be so uncanny.
"How the hell?" I ask in the dark room.
I sound like I do in reality, which, somehow makes everything even stranger. I only have ten minutes until the end of the hour I set aside tonight to play Augmented Stars. After quickly changing my hair color to a black with a deep red undertone that's barely visible in the light I find the location for character skin slots and save my default. My online handle wasn't taken. 'Fire Sign' is gonna rock Augmented Stars. When I log out my senses return to me and I sit up in bed, remove the EcFi Halo, and go to sleep.
Work the next night is uneventful. I work at a microwave dinner plant in my home town. The town is small, and the plant employs quite a few folks despite other places like it around the country being automated. I guess my town is just behind the times. I'm not, though. I've been saving money for years while the Full Immersion game system went through the testing and approval process before it was deemed safe for the public to use. I pre-ordered the EcFi Halo with Augmented Stars as soon as I was able to. When it arrives I don't waste any time heading home after work. I go about my normal early morning routine of preparing for bed as quickly as I can before laying down to spend an hour playing the game. I formerly had allocated to reading or watching a show but this is, potentially, much cooler.
Once logged in I'm notified of a login bonus and find myself back at the character creation page, or room. It's really more of a digital room, that feels very real. Before me stands a copy of myself wearing Augmented Star's default clothing, a button up t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I remember seeing the free user accounts come with twenty empty character skin slots so I get to work customizing my avatar skin.
Normally I'm a little over five foot tall. I weigh about one hundred thirty pounds. I don't have a lot of extra fat, but also don't have much muscle either. I am gender-fluid but was assigned female at birth. In my day to day life I present myself pretty androgynously. My hair is shaved into an undercut. I sweep the longer portions to the side sometimes. I wear baggy shirts and jeans.
Now I stare at my avatar skin. The shirt on the character is tighter than I normally wear. I decide to mess with the shape sliders some and pull those up. I make myself a little taller. It doesn't seem like anything has happened until I spot the height gauge behind the character has changed. My perspective hasn't. I'm still eye level with my avatar. I pat myself down and feel every touch. I pull my hair in front of my eyes and see that it's dark black with a hint of read just like my avatar.
I'm experiencing things as my avatar skin in real-time as I change the character's appearance.
I wonder how it might be to play Augmented Stars with this avatar skin. Then I remember that, apart from being a bit taller, it looks just like me. The game starts with you in the same area you live in in reality. If I ran across someone else from town they'd see my avatar as me and may not even notice the height difference. I decide to discard the skin and immediately my body is returned to normal, save for my dark hair.
I look at the clock and see I only have twenty minutes left until I need to log out and go to sleep. I quickly head to the character creation sliders and see that, apart from several non-human options, there are gender options. They're not as diverse as I'd like but, crunched for time, I try out the first male option. The avatar before me looks roughly the same as my default save for my chest is flat and my pants fit differently. I am pretty androgynous to begin with so I sort of expected there to be not much of a change. My I do notice I feel a bit different as I walk around the room. Sensory-wise this game is incredibly accurate, apparently. But I can't tell if whoever designed it had Trans people in mind or not. The option to create multiple characters of more than one gender to play as could be something that mimics older games that were directed at cis heterosexual men who liked to oogle boobs. Of course, in this game those people would have to experience what it's like to have the boobs. Maybe they did have some Trans folks on staff?
I need to log off so I quickly adjust the avatar's height and muscle mass a bit to look less like I do in reality. I save it, then log out.
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