Ghost In The Game: A Mysterious Tale From Online Gaming
All of the following events are true. The names were changed to protect the fact that I don’t actually remember the handles of my fellow party members–one of whom had a mysterious identity we never discovered. Was she a ghost? An artificial intelligence bot posing as a player? Or just another troll hiding in the wilds of MMORPG gaming? Now gather round as I tell a tale of triumph and treachery from the treasured trenches of a Realm Reborn.
Deep in the ruins of Halatali, an ogre named Tangata thrashed about. I was called to to put an end to its rampage before it escaped its den, but I needed help. I met three local adventurers, folks I may have seen in passing but never actually met.
Concerns over Tangata exiting his lair and attacking nearby settlements (not to mention the promise of payment for our services) brought us together to venture deep into dangerous territory. With not even a hello between us, we pushed forward and went to work. That was the first sign something was terribly amiss.
I was a Monk, level 40 and proud, trained in the art of fluid movement and brutal hand-to-hand combat.
My comrades, whom I’ll call Biggs, Wedge and Jessie, were skilled in different arts- Healing, Black Magic, and Swordsmanship, respectively- and even without prior meeting I had to trust they knew what they were doing. After all, dullards, greenhorns, and Call of Duty fans would not have made it this far anyway.
Jessie took point and assaulted the first pack of creatures she saw. That was her job, to draw enemy fire and trade blows while the rest of us did our jobs. My role was versatile; at any point I could be called on to tag-team an enemy, protect our mages, or divide and conquer. Teamwork was critical for these types of quests, especially when facing foes far stronger than any of us individually.
Jessie, apparently, was not in the mood. After we finished off the first batch of Fire Sprites and Golems, she sprinted ahead straight for the goal- something that boggled my mind.
There was treasure to be looted, up the broken staircase to the right, and she didn’t care. I can’t express just how much of a deviation that is. Adventurers live for loot, and brave the toughest of foes to add to their collection.
Even more bizarre, Jessie continued assaulting enemies without backup, like she were a loose cannon just trying to get her cannonball to the other side.
She was knocked out more than once for her rash behavior, and Biggs and I shared some concerns as I glanced at my map.
We continued on, stumbling our way through some moderately tough beasts that blocked our way time and again. We rushed to keep up with Jessie, and in hindsight, we probably should have left her to her devices. But Adventurer’s Kinship is stronger than foolishness, so we continued to provide her with backup. It was our only way to victory, or so we thought.
And then we reached the gate. The outline of Tangata heckled.
Jessie, of course, was the first there. Wedge needed to prepare a little more for the oncoming fight, but Jessie didn’t care and unleashed the mighty boss before anyone could react. Biggs and I rushed in, hoping to buy Wedge enough time to complete his preparations, but it was too late. After a couple of long moments, he was locked out of the room.
I immediately began landing hits, whittling away the health of the beast. Biggs backed me up, casting protective and healing spells in between laying in some offense of his own.
After a couple minutes, I noticed something peculiar. Jessie was nowhere to be seen. A quick look back to the gate confirmed my suspicions- she had made no effort to join us, despite being so gung-ho from the start. She stared blankly as I parried and dodged for my life, and I knew Biggs and I were in for one hell of a fight.
Fire Sprites and Will’o’wisps surrounded us, casting waves of flame every second. I did my best to clear them out, but they were wily and hard to punch. My effort wasn’t enough. Tangata grabbed hold of two and engulfed his own massive hands in fire, and Biggs and I were in for a whole new world of hurt. Flaming fists smashed sections of the floor and the walls, causing the stonework to liquefy on contact. Imagine what a direct hit could do to an adventurer’s skull! It was dangerous work indeed.
To his credit, Biggs was doing a great job alternating between offense and defense. He was essentially doing the jobs of three people, and he did so bravely. Between the two of us, we managed to weaken Tangata enough to extinguish the flames, and the end of the tiring battle was in sight.
That is when Biggs fell.
Tangata got in a lucky strike, catching him off-guard. Bigg’s last spell before his death was one final Cure, restoring me to full health. “Sorry.” he said in last breath. Those words echoed throughout the smoky chamber as Tangata grumbled. Perhaps he was angry or hungry. It sounded to me like laughter. I wasn’t going to let that stand.
He was far stronger than me. Three or four hits, and I would be just as dead as Biggs– but I was faster and smarter. I could outmaneuver him, but that would buy me only so much time. I had to fall back on my “tag and dash” routine I’d learned early in my training.
So I laid on a two-hit combo, ran, waited for another opportunity, tagged him again, ran, and repeated that pattern over and over, occasionally sipping a spare potion or two to keep my strength up.
It happened slowly and steadily, but I was doing it. I was surviving. I was winning. I was doing it for the lost Biggs, the trapped Wedge, and to prove to Jessie that her betrayal would not mean the end of us. She continued to stare, but I could swear there was more slyness to her face than there was moments ago. Had this been her plan all along?
Tangata roared and threatened one more mighty swing. I took the opportunity and dove in for the final blow, a stunning heel kick directly to his stone-like belly that echoed like a thunderclap. His arms drooped to his sides, his knees buckled, and he fell in front of me in a clump. I was victorious, but at the highest cost I could imagine. I really didn’t feel like celebrating, but I made a point to show off a little in front of Jessie.
The barrier dropped, and Wedge immediately ran to Biggs. Luckily, he hadn’t been down long, so Wedge was able to work some curative mojo and revive him from the brink of certain death. When we were sure he was okay, they congratulated me on my- our– victory, but one voice was welcome in its absence. Jessie continued to stand where she was during the fight, and spoke not a word on my triumph despite the odds. Biggs and Wedge gathered their spoils and said their goodbyes. After a tense few minutes, I dusted myself off and exited, closing the exit behind me.
I never saw any of them again. I sometimes think back to the battle of Halatali, and one question burns in my soul. One question above them all.
Was Jessie a troll, or a bot?