up above, in the blazing lights and gold-swathed plazas of the arcology, the games industry is shaking itself apart. bitter sociopaths are screaming loudly, fighting against the equality of others in the name of rights they should not have. gluttonous megacorps swallow up small devhouses, chew them up, spit out Product, leave only bones and dark smears behind. feudal small-time studios clone relentlessly, flooding the open markets with half-finished wares, pandering for time, for scraps of money, for spotlights from celebrity Tube personalities. everyone is suffering, everyone is angry, and every support is being pulled in a different direction.
down below, the runoff falls like rain on the heads of a different caste. fog billows up from slick gutters. sallow, keen-eyed artists, savants, punk-asses and dreamers are huddled together. they are eating salted noodles from steaming cups with one hand and trading thumb-drives wrapped in electrical tape with the other. there are no military shooters down here. there are no Dark Fantasy Epics or open-world crime simulators. a girl with green-silver hair sits before a blanket covered in CDs— her game is about the ghost of a dead submarine who wanders the bottom of the sea, learning the language of the whales. a young man in glasses holds a cigarette between his lips and slides a thumb drive into the pocket of a passer-by— on the drive, his game about the ruins of an alien civilization appearing in the basement of a young girl. a woman in a red dress and a blindfold holds a laptop in her arms, facing outward. there is a red eye on the screen. anyone who inserts a thumb drive into the laptop’s USB port walks away with a digital fortune-telling program. they say it’s eerily accurate.
these keen-eyed savants and punk-asses and dreamers are no longer interested in making games. the word ‘game’ was destroyed by semantic satiation in years that have already been forgotten. they create whatever’s in their blood and hands. they create because if they don’t, they will wither and die. and then, late at night, from the arcology above, guilty-looking players steal down to the gutters like thieves in the night, shelling out scraps of cash for these strange bits of ware. and the savants and punk-asses and dreamers do not fight over the scraps like the junkyard dogs the world has made them out to be. they share it. they distribute it to each other, because they know the value of what they’re doing, and they want to prop each other up. it’s not enough to live, not nearly, because the rest of the world doesn’t think they deserve that much. but it’s enough to keep each other going, enough to say “that was beautiful and you deserve something.”
the green-silver-haired girl is working on a sequel. a fan of the original, who lives out by the coast, sent her a recorded sample of real, actual whalesong, recorded before they all went extinct. she can’t be sure it’s real, but it’s worth the chance.