The year is 2027. Humans continue to make breakthroughs in technology ever since the leaders of the world came to a peace agreement. However, there are new threats emerging during these times of peace. Independent groups who do not stand with any nation use the Internet as their own personal playground. One group called Mirage has been in the news recently due to their breach into a popular video game creator’s server. This hack delayed the release of a new virtual reality gaming system. This system was sold out before it was even in stores. The VR system is named Portal, as it makes you feel like you were transported to another world. The user will have all their senses and appear identically as themselves while in this virtual world. This advancement in gaming technology will be remembered for years to come.
Waking up at seven A.M., 16-year-old Mike got ready for school like every other weekday. He was one of only 20,000 people who were able to pre-order the VR Portal system. Little did he know today, May 6th, he would be much more than a high school student. He walked to the bus stop with his childhood friend Ashley. Mike is only one year older than her and they practically grew up together.
“Someone woke up on the wrong side of bed,” Ashley jokes about.
Mike irritably responds, “Who are you, my mom? She said the same thing. And for your information, I did not wake up on the wrong side of bed because I fell asleep in my chair. I was up all night trying to find out more about the Portal.”
Ashley lets Mike ramble on about the Portal like he does with all his video games. She does not have as much as an interest as he does in video games but no one else will listen to him.
After lunch at school, Mike received an email notifying him that his Portal was ready to be picked up at the game store. Overjoyed, Mike faked being sick to go home early. He ran to the store and picked up the system. It came with a game called Kingdom of Heroes. He set up the system around his room. The Portal consisted of a helmet like headset, gloves with many different lights, and several sensors that are used to scan the player. The sensors scanned Mike for a couple moments.
Once inside Kingdom of Heroes, Mike learned that there were not controls like normal video games. He was the controller! He was able to move about as if he was walking around outside. A door popped up in the middle of the field he was in. Mike opened it and was blinded by a light. When he opened his eyes, he was in a dark room with glowing words surrounding him. They read out, “There’s no need to create a character because it is you.” A mirror appeared and it was revealed to Mike that in-game people look exactly like they do in real life. Mike wasn’t nervous about being noticed because he did not have many friends in real life anyway. The words changed and then asked Mike to create a gamer tag and select his class. Mike tried to think of a name that struck fear into his enemies, but nothing would click. Then he got an idea. He remembered watching the movie Superbad last night, so he chose the name of his favorite character, McLovin. Next the dark room transformed into a cave. The cave had four paths each with a different class.
A voice from the game said, “Choose your class. The class you choose has its own unique abilities that sets it apart from the others.”
McLovin, how we will refer to Mike in-game from now on, investigated each path. There was a swordsman, a tank, a mage, and a healer class. This decision took McLovin much longer than choosing his name. He loved to play first person shooter games, so he was familiar with running into a fight without much of a plan. With this in mind he chose swordsman. He faced the swordsman path and began to walk towards it. The path then lit up to reveal some light metal armor and a sword. McLovin equipped these and was transported back to the field where he started.
Something was different though. He was not alone in the field. There were hundreds of players interacting with each other. McLovin approached a big guy that looked like a tank class. Above his head it read “SmoothieMan.” McLovin tapped him on the shoulder and introduced himself.
SmoothieMan said, “I’m still getting used to this world. There seems to be a lot of people just standing around. I bet the pro players are already out leveling up. Oh, you can call me Smooth by the way.”
McLovin smiled and explained, “Well Smooth how about we get out of here. There is no point standing around, we have a job to do!”
After chuckling Smooth said, “Oh yeah and what job is that? How about this? You go do your own thing. Since you’re a swordsman you can probably make it on your own. I can’t as a tank. I want to find a good group where we will become legends!” Before Smooth walked away into the crowd he said, “I hope to run into you somewhere down the road Lovin!”
As Smooth disappeared a loud siren sounded. The sky above the field turned from blue to red. The siren stopped and a voice spoke.
In a robot-like voice it said, “I hope you guys are used to Kingdom of Heroes, because the real fun starts now.” The crowd cheered thinking this was some sort of special event, but they were oh so wrong. After cheering stopped, the voice laughed maniacally. It said, “You should not be happy because this is anything but good. This is not a game anymore. With the Portal’s technology we basically have thousands of real people trapped in here. Yes, you heard me, trapped. You will not be leaving anytime soon. The only way any of you are leaving is by beating the boss we just added to the game. This is not a boss the game developers made, we made it ourselves, so it won’t be a cakewalk like the normal ones are. Good luck everyone… you will need it. Long Live Mirage!”
As the voice laughed again, everyone in the field started to panic. They were unable to exit the game as that the “Leave Game” button was removed from the menu.
The voice stopped laughing to say their closing words, “Oh yeah one more thing, be careful in how you play because if you die in here, you die in the real world. We hacked the Portal all of you have attached to your heads and it’s rigged to blow as soon as you die in game. Have fun!” Amongst the now screaming and crying crowd, McLovin worked his way over to a nearby town.
He kept saying, “This cannot be happening, there is no way. Mom is going to kill me, well that is if I make it out of here alive.”
The town was empty, so McLovin decided to explore. He headed towards the forest. Running around were some deer-like creatures. They were black with white stripes, so a reverse zebra with antlers of some sorts. McLovin approached one that was grazing in the field. He had to be no less than 30 feet away when the creatures head popped up from the grass and looked directly at him. It noticed another player was in the field picking some flowers. The deer let out a ferocious tiger-like roar, revealing its mouth full of sharp teeth. From the nearby forest, two more of the creatures appear. They were all staring at the other player in the field with glowing red eyes. McLovin drew his sword and approached the creature that was closest to him. It whipped its head around and tried to kick him. McLovin retreated back and wildly swung his sword. The deer was too far away to hit. The two deer from the forest rushed at the other player. McLovin witnessed the player take out a staff, meaning they were either a healer or mage. While too busy looking at the other player, the deer headbutted McLovin in the stomach and he fell to the ground. He felt the wind get knocked out of him and his stomach hurt. During this, McLovin looked to his top left and noticed a green health bar deplete a little. The deer began stomping at McLovin while he was down. He kept rolling around to avoid it. The deer eventually stomped on his foot and McLovin froze in pain. The deer then lunged at him with its sharp teeth. With his sword, he blocked the bite, but the deer chomped down on the sword and would not let go. McLovin punched the deer in the nose and a red health bar appeared above it. The bar decreased a small amount. The deer let go and with his drool covered sword, McLovin stabbed the deer. The red health bar slowly began to drain and it eventually fell over. Recovering from the attack, McLovin saw the other player fighting off the remaining deer. They launched several fireballs at once and the deer vanished into thin air. McLovin noticed their gamertag, Ash, and their health bar which was halfway gone. The player pulled down their hood revealing long black hair and a sweat covered face.
“That was pretty cool how you can use magic,” McLovin commented.
Ash responded, “Well, yeah I am a mage. It’s all I can do.” She pulled out a blue potion from her pocket and upon drinking it, her health bar slowly refilled.
“Got any for me?” McLovin asked.
Ash said, “Yeah, thanks for the help.”
McLovin quickly recovered after drinking the potion. Ash started heading back to the town and explained what she was searching for to McLovin.
“I was in that field looking for a specific flower that can upgrade my staff. I guess those monsters were protecting it.”
McLovin interrupted her to ask, “You must play a lot of video games, huh?”
Ash stopped walking, gave him a dumb look, then continued towards the town.
McLovin put his head down in embarrassment, “I’ll take that as a yes then.”
The two arrive at the town’s merchant. When they enter the shop, a man appears. Ash places her staff and the flower on the counter and says, “Upgrade please.”
The man responds with, “Error. Head north to the next town through the forest, it’ll take about two days.” Ash collects her stuff and leaves. McLovin thanked the man for the information but he disappeared immediately.
“That was an NPC, a non-player character,” Ash said. “They are not real people. You don’t have to say any more than you have too to them because they are programmed to pick up key words.” She then pulled out a map. “If we go north through the forest where we met, it should be a straight shot to the next town.”
And that they do. While in the forest, they encounter more deer monsters. They easily defeat them and level up. After some traveling, the sun began to set. They then entered a tundra region.
“We should probably find some shelter to get out of the cold until morning,” McLovin stated.
Ash notices a nearby cave and the two set up shop inside. Ash makes a fire with her magic while McLovin watches in awe. He then pulls out some water from his inventory to share with Ash. Around the fire, the two shared stories about their real lives and other video games they play. They end up having more in common than you would think. A couple hours fly by as the two hit it off quickly. They fall asleep as the wind howls outside the cave. In the morning, McLovin felt like a new man, but he looked around the cave and noticed Ash was gone. He ran outside to see her making a snowman.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” Ash said as she stuck branches into the snowman to give him arms. “Ready to get going?”
McLovin excitedly responded, “Yes ma’am!”
The two continue north on a straight path. They ran into an NPC with a cart drawn by horses. They were able to pay for a ride and arrived at the town quicker than expected. Ash noticed the blacksmith where she would most likely be able to upgrade her staff. McLovin noticed a town hall with several players and NPCs.
“Meet me in there when you’re done,” McLovin said as he pointed to the hall.
Ash nodded. Upon entering the hall, McLovin noticed a poster asking for the mightiest of heroes to join a team. Ash appeared out of nowhere and saw McLovin’s eyes were glued to the poster.
She asked, “Hey, you’ve been staring at that poster for some time, you going to join?”
McLovin assertively said, “Hell yeah! My family is probably worried sick right now. I bet my friend Ashley is too.”
Ash’s eyes lit up and she said, “Hey, that’s my real name, and you do kind of look like one of my real-world friends.”
McLovin approached Ash and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He pushed over the long black hair that covered half of Ash’s face, revealing a very familiar person.
When McLovin’s mouthed opened with shock, Ash did the same after realizing what was happening.
McLovin said in a shocked tone, “What are you doing here? I thought you hated video games!”
Ash yelled back, “A girl has her secrets, ok! It does make sense though with how well we got along this whole time. There’s only one thing to do now, Let’s get out of here together! And once we’re out, maybe we can play some games together, ha-ha.”
McLovin’s shock turned into joy. He smiled and said, “Sounds good to me. The sooner we get out of here, the better.”
They agree to apply for the team on the poster called the hunting party. This is the team of skilled players who are looking for the boss that must be defeated to leave the game.
“We played it safe staying in low-level areas but now it is going to get risky if we join,” Ash states, “I think we are ready, just the two of us are a solid team. Imagine us with a high-level tank and healer too. The hunting party is probably full of all the classes!” The two approached an NPC behind a desk in the town hall as they talked.
Ash asked, “How do we join the hunting party?”
The NPC pointed up to the second level of the town hall. The two went upstairs and there was only one door. Upon opening it, they were blinded by a bright light. Moments later, they were able to see again; however, they were no longer in the hall. They were inside a bedroom. Looking out the window, Ash saw many players in the streets. They heard a lot of talking as well as music coming from downstairs. They left the room to be revealed a tavern full of NPCs and players. Next to them was a man drinking alone.
He noticed them and jokingly asked, “So we got ourselves a couple of lovebirds, huh?” McLovin and Ash’s faces turned red.
“We’re just friends. We were teleported in there anyway,” claimed McLovin. “Teleported? You must be new members. Welcome to the hunting party!” he said as he went in to hug them both.
After releasing them, he and McLovin locked eyes.
A few seconds passed by, then they simultaneously said, “No way!”
Ash watched awkwardly as the two bro-hugged it out. Smooth then explained to the two of them that this is the hunting party’s town.
He said “The team is heading out tomorrow in hopes of finally finding the hacker’s boss. Everyone is celebrating because we plan to leave this game soon. I just hope we don’t lose any people in the battle because those are real lives being lost. Alright enough chit chat. You two should go get some better equipment and rest up. I’ll meet you at the front gate tomorrow, along with the rest of the team.”
After that, Smooth headed downstairs. Ash and McLovin went to a nearby merchant and upgraded their equipment to be on par with the other players. They booked a couple rooms at an inn and prepared for tomorrow. When morning came, they headed to the gate. Smooth was there with several other players, all varying in classes. They were all investigating a map.
Smooth pointed to a red dot on the map that was moving erratically and said, “That’s the boss. It’s jumping all over the place and we don’t know where to go, we can’t track it.”
The sinister robotic voice from the beginning of the game spoke, “You don’t have to go anywhere. I was getting impatient. You guys best get ready for a fight.”
Everything was silent for a moment. Then it was upon them. A giant black dragon swooped in from the sky and landed in front of the team. It stood over 50 feet tall. A large red health bar appeared above its head. All the players armed themselves and prepared for the worst. The dragon let out a terrifying roar and the final battle began.
The tanks, led by Smooth, charged the beast. The healers were right behind them to keep them in the fight. The swordsman flanked from behind. The mages used their magic to attack from a distance. The dragon took some damage before fighting back. With one swing of its tail, all the tanks were knocked down. The mages used light magic to blind the dragon to give the healers time to recover the tanks. At the same time, McLovin climbed up the dragon. It was flailing out of control and he held on for dear life. Noticing her friend in trouble, Ash worked with the other mages to cast a spell that froze the dragon solid. McLovin quickly recovered and climbed onto its head; however, smoke was coming from the dragon’s mouth. It then released a devastating fireball aimed right at the mages. McLovin saw them clearing the area but Ash refused to move. She slammed her upgraded staff into the ground, there was a bright flash, and then the explosion from the fire ball followed. She was no longer visible from all the smoke. McLovin was terrified as the dragon struggled beneath him. He started swinging like a maniac at the dragon’s head. Eventually, McLovin managed to knock off a cover of some sorts. Revealed was a red light inside the dragon. He raised his sword high, aimed for the light, and with all his might, he slammed his sword down. As soon as the sword connected, the dragon exploded, turning into just its code of ones and zeros. McLovin began to fall, but Smooth caught him in the nick of time.
“Thanks bro! We did it!” said McLovin.
Smooth had a worried look on his face and asked, “Where’s your girlfriend?”
McLovin looked around and could not see Ash. He jumped out of Smooth’s arms and rushed towards where the dragon’s fireball made impact. He commanded the mages to get rid of all the smoke covering the area. They blew it away with wind magic and as the smoke cleared, Ash was standing tall with her staff in hand. The entire hill was burned up except for a small area around Ash’s feet, which was a garden full of the flowers she found at the beginning of the game[. McLovin rushed over to check on her.
Ash cut him off and said, “So can we go home now?”
McLovin smiled and answered, “Yes. Now let’s get out of here and play a different game… together.”
As they hugged each other, all the players were logged out of the game and woke up in their rooms to where they started.
Christian Killino, freshmen at Wilkes University. I plan to major in history and education and become a high school history teacher once I graduate. In my free time I enjoy working out, playing video games (like Smash Ultimate and Apex Legends), watching anime (Guilty Crown and Re:Zero are my fav), and watching football (Go Birds!).
Albert H van, d. V., ⨯ Adrian, J. T. A., Longo, M. R., Wong, H. Y., & Mohler, B. J. (2018). Where am I in virtual reality? PLoS One, 13(10) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204358
This article helped me describe how certain games are set up to immerse a user. This includes the sensors that scan Mike I described in the story. Most game do not scan but they have motion sensors that are set up around the area you are playing in.
Gaming in Virtual Reality: What Changes in Terms of Usability, Emotional Response and Sense of Presence Compared to Non-Immersive Video Games? (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1046878119831420
This article gave me the idea that users can feel pain if they were attacked in-game. The immersion can be so realistic, their emotions respond as if their life was actually in danger. This is also used in more therapeutic ways and not found in many games on the market now.