The kitchen was the coldest room in Garrison, no matter the season. It was part of the original old Garrison mansion, built with poor insulation and air vents too small to properly clean. The chill was biting in the winter months, cold enough that the faculty that came in would bring their coats to shield them on their hazardous journeys to refill tall mugs of coffee. Later in the spring semester, the room was almost a pleasant temperature. Bored of the monotony of their offices, professors and TAs would cluster around the tables to chat and grade papers. The faculty kitchen was on the smaller side in Garrison. There was a large, cheaply made table that took up much of the space of the room, and it was surrounded by mismatched chairs likely appropriated from various classrooms in the building. A few smaller, desk sized spaces lay in empty spaces. At the wall furthest from the door lay the sorry excuse for a kitchen set up- a large refrigerator for storing lunches, a sink, some cabinets, and an overworked dual water cooler and heater. There used to be a microwave, according to Professor Dynner, but it had been hurriedly taken away after one too many incidents concerning overtired graduate students and metal spoons.
Iliya unlocked his phone and took a quick selfie to send to his friends. Still grading, he captioned with a frown. He gave it a once-over before sending it out to the world. Yep, still him. Fashionably long light brown hair pulled into a messy bun. A pale, lean face littered with freckles, thin nose, and lips pulled into a pouting frown. At least his eyes were nice, round and a green so dark they were almost brown. Before he could post it, a message notification popped up on his screen.
Iliya side-eyed his phone, hoping it wasn’t another email from his landlord. He had a stipend for his degree, sure, but rent in the city was hard to pay, especially when Iliya had to contend with his massive student loans. It will all be worth it, Iliya liked to tell himself on the colder days. He would get a good, steady job and live peacefully in his nice, little apartment. Maybe he would even find someone to share it with, one day.
Iliya shook himself free from his thoughts to check his phone. He sighed in relief when it turned out to be a discord notification from his friend and fellow TA, Dassi. Aside from the fact that they worked in the same department, they had a similar taste in games and memes. Dassi loved to send him the stupid things she was reading, and Iliya usually returned with gimmicky apps he had downloaded on a whim. Surprisingly, it was Dassi that had sent him a game rec this time.
Click on this, please. Dassi’s message below the link was strangely serious.
owo whats this? Iliya responded. Immediately, there was a string of ellipses that meant Dassi was responding. Weird, she usually took her time.
Please, Iliya. Just click on it. I’m begging you.
Iliya squinted at the phone screen. It was probably some sort of awful meme, or prank. If the link clearly didn’t lead to the app store, Iliya would have dismissed it as some terrible short story Dassi wanted to commiserate about with him. Besides, it was unlike her to ignore an owo. They usually sent Dassi into a violent, keysmashing rage. If she was in a good mood, maybe he’d get a comforting perish, scum.
okay? clicking the link now
There was no immediate response from Dassi after that. Noticing that, Iliya was relieved. That was more like her. Dassi was a contradiction of a girl squeezed into a body under five feet tall. Iliya himself wasn’t the tallest, but hanging out with Dassi made him feel like a giant. Woe betide him if he mentioned it, though, because Dassi was a stubborn woman who would not forgive and never forget. Resent and remember was her motto. Proper punctuation, begging and rapid responses were not like her, and she rarely contradicted her steady personality. Maybe the app was some sort of tough game, and she was reluctant to ask for help beating it. A sly smile began to work its way onto Iliya’s face. It would be nice to have some ground over Dassi. You know, over the literal, physical ground he held over her.
Iliya scrolled back to the link, and clicked it. The game was free and was called “World Game Room” and seemed to have come out just two days ago. It had a simple description: Want to be a winner? Curious, Iliya went to look at some of the reviews. Holy shit, his eyes widened. There were already thousands of reviews, and all of them were five stars.
What was truly strange was how they all said the same thing. “The World Game Room is the most rewarding experience I have ever undertaken. 10/10”
Was this some sort of joke? A meme? Was there a bug of some kind. Iliya just shrugged his shoulders and downloaded it. A little weird, but he liked weird. He exited the app store, and saw that the app was already waiting for him on screen. It stood out compared to the other apps on his phone. Half were mandatory or useful, like the calculator, maps, and so on. The other half were the trashiest games you could find for your phone. Ridiculous dating games, harem stories, gacha games with badly proportioned anime girls, they all took up valuable memory on Iliya’s phone. Even if he didn’t play anymore, he liked to keep them. It was half due to the good memories he had while playing, and half as a punishment and reminder to himself not to download any more crap games. The game Dassi recommended looked different though. The image was a simple black box, with the words “World Game Room” written in blood red font.
Ready for a break from his grading, but not quite ready for his meager dinner of a PB&J, Iliya loaded up the app. The screen went black. For a moment, he thought the game had crashed his crappy old phone, and he almost whacked the phone against the table in a futile effort to make it work again. Then, words appeared on the screen.
Welcome to the World Game Room!
We are thrilled that you have taken the initiative to join the game. As thanks, you will get to select your first tutorial challenge to see if you are eligible to become a Player.
What was that? The game was offering him a tutorial mode? Iliya scoffed. This wasn’t his first rodeo, he didn’t need a mandatory tutorial, thanks.
We see that you have been referred by Challenger Myrtle. Is this correct?
Iliya then had the option to choose yes or no. Thinking that Myrtle must be the name Dassi chose, he clicked yes.
Thank you! As a reward, both you and Myrtle will receive a gift. Be sure to check your mailbox if your tutorial challenge succeeds.
Before we begin, why don’t you give yourself a name? We recommend that you do not use your preferred name.
Ah, so there probably was a multiplayer function. Maybe he and Dassi could make a guild together? He hadn’t played this kind of multiplayer game in a while, but one of his roommates was always up on the latest games that had angry guys with swords as their icons. Last month, his roommate barely made rent because he had poured so much of his cash into microtransactions. For names, his roommate usually picked something that sounded tough to him. Dassi preferred names that referenced mythology, or nature. Iliya just looked down at his red hoodie and shrugged. He usually chose his real name, but he usually played single player stories.
Iliya typed the name “Red” into this little white box stark against the pure black screen. After entering, the first loading bar appeared. It filled rapidly enough that Iliya was not even sure why it was necessary.
Welcome, Red! Thank you again for choosing to play the World Game Room. You have officially been bound.
Please select a tutorial challenge.
Under these words, four pictures appeared. The first showed a cardboard box with a rather sad looking black kitten poking his head out. Next was a knife with pixelated blood running down the handle. After that was a green snake coiled up. Finally, there was a happy looking clown. Iliya shuddered. He was definitely not picking the clown, hell no.
He gave the pictures another look. How was he supposed to pick based on a small image? Iliya was a words guy. He liked having something to read, and he liked having all information possible before making a decision. He held his finger down on the first image, the one with the kitten in an attempt to pull up more information. Nothing. Frustrated, he released his hand.
Thank you for choosing Feed the Kitten for your tutorial challenge. Do your best to win!
Great. Iliya grimaced. Looks like he selected his first game by accident. At least it had a cute little kitten.
We are currently looking for another challenger. Please wait patiently!