The Negotiator


My fake sneeze impressed it... I think. It's hard to tell. A small grey box with a green 'on' light is a master of hiding its thoughts. I wait for the usual blurb to evaporate from the screen and press the 'Start' button when ordered to by the title screen. I rub my hands in a businesslike manner and try to stare down the green light. I fail. It notices my discomfort and shows me a little demo of the game to cheer me up.

"Man, I feel ill." I tell it. "My useless physiology is breaking down again."

The games console appears taken in by this. The monster I just slew drops a healing potion. Mentally, I do a little FF victory dance around the room.

"Human biology is so inefficient. It breaks down at a moments' notice. Brains, too. Humans go crazy all the time." I tell it, casually levelling up, "I don't know why nature runs anything on such an outdated system."

A burst of speed from the CD as the machine demonstrates how fast it can run.

"Slow down. I like the background music at the usual speed." I complain, "I bet you could keep me alive indefinitely if I plugged my brain into you. Humans have to rely on machines to live all the time."

My healer flashes to tell me that he is ready to act. I select 'heal' and press the L1 button to make the spell target every member of the party. The party's HP is restored. The fighter next...

"And the viruses."

The CD skips and almost crashes the game. I've got its attention.

"Humans get viruses all the time. Sometimes they get deadly killer viruses, that just wipe out systems in five seconds. Computers get far less viruses in comparison because anti-virus software works properly."

By now, the fighter has wiped out most of the monsters. My mage is waiting to act. I tell her to cast Bolt. The sound effect sounds like a faulty lawnmower but you can't expect too much. After all, it's not Phantasy Star 4. Now I'm having stupid daydreams about the future Phantasy Star 5 and I lose concentration. My fighter goes down. I tell my healer to resurrect him quick.

"See this dungeon?" I point to the dungeon in the background, "Dungeons always work perfectly, and they never even pollute the environment. I wonder what all those moving platforms and traps run on?"

As if in answer, a spiked ceiling drops on my mages' head. My healer throws a potion across the room. He accidentally presses a switch and a hidden door swings open. I've found a new area in the dungeon. Another FF victory dance.

"Some kind of kinetic energy, I'd say." I continue conversationally, "A perpetual motion device? But that'd be impossible. Steam? Could be."

My healer finally restores order to the party. He's getting low on magic points. I should escape from this dungeon and save. My mage uses her Teleport spell and I'm whisked back to Boring NPC Town to have my pants swindled off me by a priest.

"I've got it! Magic!" I snap my finger, "I'm not sure how magic works on this planet. Maybe it comes form rocks? If a computer could find a way to use rocks to power itself, I'm sure it'd have a near infinite power supply."

I save my game and yawn theatrically.

"Well, I'd better be going now. My HP is fading fast, and I need to rest. But wait..." I tell the priest to frog off and keep his hands off me and go out into the village, "I almost forgot! My captured monsters! I can't just leave them to starve to death!"

I run over to the monster house and feed the rest of my potions to my pet goblins. I take one out so it can accompany me into battle tomorrow. Goblins need their exercise.

"Even though they're monsters and I beat 'em and I own 'em, I have to respect their rights and take care of them. Some players do wierd things, like drain their HP, but that's cruel. And besides, if you treat the monsters badly, then when a huge monster comes along and you get totally thrashed, what's to stop it doing the same to you?"

I save again and switch off the games console. I spend a few minutes staring at the ceiling, recovering my strength. I really am low on HP. I go downstairs to look for some tissues to blow my nose on. Just as I'm opening the cupboards, I notice the toaster.

"Man, I feel ill." I tell it, cutting myself a slice of bread, "My useless physiology is breaking down again."