<p align="center">ATTRACT MODE</p> <p align="center">a STORY</p> <p align="center">push [[START->intro1]] to begin</p>The BOY is at a PIZZA HUT in the COUNTY SEAT. Nearby a YOUNGER GIRL stands in front of a Super Mario Bros COIN-OP MACHINE. SHE yanks the JOYSTICK around at RANDOM and mashes BUTTONS during the game's TITLE SCREEN.
When MARIO begins to run to the RIGHT SIDE of the SCREEN, the LITTLE GIRL squeals and pulls the JOYSTICK to the RIGHT. SHE hammers BUTTONS as the first GOOMBA waddles into VIEW. SHE lets out a CHEER when MARIO grabs the SUPER MUSHROOM.
The BOY's hand is full of QUARTERS. HE shakes them with VISIBLE IMPATIENCE, glaring at the GIRL.
<li>[["Have patience. That little girl is having fun. She must like video games, too."->node2]]</li>
<li>[["Give that girl a quarter and teach her how to play. Then you'll have a friend to do two players with!"->node2]]</li>
<li>[["Look at that! She's not even really playing! She's just hogging the machine so no one else can play it! You're not going to stand for that, are you?"->node2]]</li>
</ul>YOU have barely finished whispering the WORDS when it seems like SOMETHING snaps inside the BOY. His SCOWLING FACE twists into a MOMENTARY SNARL and HE runs forward, shoving the LITTLE GIRL aside.
"It's my turn," HE says. "You're too young for video games!"
The LITTLE GIRL begins to cry. HER MOTHER comes running out of NOWHERE. The LITTLE GIRL is too upset to explain HER FEELINGS, so she looks to the BOY, who is putting a QUARTER into the MACHINE. HE looks a LITTLE GUILTY.
<ul><li>[["Ignore her! So nosey. You don't owe her any explanation."->node3]]</li>
<li>[["Maybe you should apologize?"->node3]]</li></ul>
The GUILTY LOOK on the BOY'S FACE momentarily deepens, then vanishes completely. HE stares straight ahead at the SCREEN, muttering only "She wasn't really playing anyway."
The MOTHER takes HER CHILD by the HAND. The LITTLE GIRL calms down a bit, and says to HER MOTHER, "I wanted to play with the new Donkey Kong."
"Oh, sweetie, that's not..." the MOTHER starts to say, then SHE looks at the SCREEN of the ARCADE MACHINE. "It does kind of look like the guy from..."
"He got bigger, Momma!" the GIRL says. "He went all bigger!"
"Well, come on," the MOTHER says. "You can play with it some other time. I know how much you love video games."
An UNDEFINABLE TWINGE passes over the BOY'S FACE.
<ul><li>[["Listen to that. She really likes video games. Imagine how you might have felt if some bigger kid had shoved you out of the way when you were her age, reaching for the controls on a Donkey Kong machine."->node4]]</li>
<li>[["Forget them. You were in the right. If they really knew anything about video games, they'd know the guy was Mario. And you don't ''play with'' video games, you play them. The girl wasn't even playing."->node4]]</li></ul>There is a WAR visible on the BOY'S FACE for SEVERAL SECONDS, but it passes quickly and the BOY loses himself in the PLEASURE of the GAME. YOU cannot tell if he feels GOOD or BAD or ANYTHING about what happened.
<p align="center">push [[START->node5]] to continue</p>MANY WEEKS pass. On MORE DAYS than not, the BOY rides HIS BICYCLE to the PIZZA HUT to play the NEW VIDEO GAME. Sometimes the LITTLE GIRL is there. Sometimes SHE is playing with the STAND-UP MACHINE. SHE always runs away when she sees the BOY.
<ul><li>[["Good. Guess the little brat has learned her lesson. See how easy it is to put someone in their place? See how good it feels?"->node6]]</li>
<li>[["You've scared her. Maybe you should try being nice to her."->node6]]</li></ul>Despite YOUR WORDS, it seems the BOY has written off the LITTLE GIRL. YOU cannot tell if HE gives HER any FURTHER THOUGHT at all.
Then comes ONE DAY when the GIRL does not notice the BOY as HE approaches. SHE is utterly entranced by the GAME, which appears for ONCE to be responding to her ACTIONS.
A FURIOUS LOOK covers the BOY. HE raises his VOICE as HE storms up to the GIRL.
<ul><li>[["Stop! Wait! Can't you see she's actually playing this time?"->node7]]</li>
<li>[["Who does she think she is? You play this game every day! Who is she to move in on it?"->node7]]</li></ul>So caught up in his RAGE, it hardly seems the BOY hears YOUR WORDS at all. "Get off my game!" HE yells, knocking the LITTLE GIRL over as HE shoves her away. HE does not even turn his ATTENTION to the GAME but stands over the GIRL, shouting at her.
The OWNER of the PIZZA HUT comes over.
"Hey!" HE says. "You think it's cool to pick on little kids? You think it's fun to shove girls? Who taught you to behave like that, huh?"
The BOY lowers his HEAD and shuffles his FEET.
<ul><li>[["He's right. You should know better than this. Apologize and maybe it'll still work out okay."->node8]]</li>
<li>[["He's getting it all wrong. Explain what happened and he'll see you were in the right."->node8]]</li>
<li>[["Listen to this bozo sticking up for that baby. You're in here paying your quarters every day while she just takes up space. Stand up for yourself!"->node8]]</li></ul>"Well?" the MAN prompts.
"I-I just..." the BOY stammers while YOU urge HIM silently on.
"I just wanted to play my game." the BOY says.
"Your game? Your game? Buddy, that game doesn't belong to you," the MAN says. "If it's anyone's game, it's mine, but I put it there for anyone who wants to play it."
"But she doesn't even really play it!" the BOY says. "I see her in here all the time, just hanging on the joystick and laughing like she's really doing something, but she's not! She doesn't even have any quarters!"
"So a kid can't play pretend now?" the MAN says. "Isn't that what these games are all about in the first place? Anyway, I know she doesn't have quarters, but she loves the thing anyway and she's not hurting anything. That's why I gave her one myself today. If she gets a taste for it now, she might grow up to be a customer later."
<ul><li>[["Okay, you've screwed up but you can still fix this. Tell him you'll share your quarters with the girl and maybe you won't get in any trouble."->node9]]</li>
<li>[["Is this guy crazy, sticking up for a little moocher like that? You're a customer right now! He should be glad someone comes into pay for his stupid arcade machine so he has quarters to give out."->node9]]</li></ul>"If she wants to play video games, she should get her own quarters," the BOY says. "It's not like anyone ever just gives me any."
"Yeah, smart guy?" the OWNER says. HE points to the COINS in the BOY'S HAND. "You work hard for those, did you? Hit the bricks. You're outta here. I don't want to see you in here again until you've learned some manners."
"What?" the BOY says. "Just for wanting to play a game? Is that a crime now, wanting to play the game I always play?"
"For hogging the game," the OWNER says. "For picking on someone smaller than you. For shoving a girl. Now, get!"
<ul><li>[["That was bad, but I hope you learned something from this experience."->node10]]</li>
<li>[["What was wrong with that guy? It had nothing to do with the fact that the little brat was a girl. And you hogging the game? You only ever played it, just like anyone with a quarter is entitled to. She was the game-hog, not you. If you think about it, you just got thrown out for standing up to a game-hog. I hope you learned something from this experience."->node10]]</li></ul><p align="center">push [[START->node11]] to continue</p>It the MID 1980S. YOU are a CONSCIENCE, an INVISIBLE SPIRIT of PURE CONSCIOUSNESS. Your TRIAL is to guide a YOUNG BOY. YOU have the POWER to whisper INPUT to the BOY, which YOU hope will influence HIM to a DIFFERENT PATH.
YOU have NO IDEA exactly how much ACTUAL INFLUENCE can be exerted at ONE TIME, nor how SUCH INFLUENCE will manifest itself in the ACTIONS of the BOY.
YOU must simply do YOUR BEST and hope for THE BEST.
<p align="center">push [[START->node1]] to continue</p>It is the LATE 1980s. The BOY is visiting the HOUSE of a SCHOOL FRIEND. The FRIEND has a NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM with a DIFFERENT SELECTION of GAME CARTRIDGES than the BOY has. This INFORMATION formed the BASIS of the INVITATION for the VISIT, but the BOY is not impressed with the FRIEND'S CHOICES.
"Chubby Cherub? Athena? The Adventures of Lolo? What is this crap?" the BOY asks, looking through the CARTRIDGE LIBRARY. "These are all baby games."
"Well... my little brother and sister buy games, too," the FRIEND explains. "That's why we have so many. They're all kind of fun, if you give them a chance."
<ul><li>[["Why bother? There are enough ''good'' games out there."->node12]]</li>
<li>[["Can't hurt to give one of them a try."->node12]]</li></ul>The BOY puts the CARTRIDGES back on the SHELF with a DISUGSTED LOOK.
"Do you have anything with spaceships or guns?" HE asks the FRIEND. "Like Gradius or Life Force?"
"Oh, yeah! My new favorite game is Stinger!" the FRIEND says. "Do you know that one? I just got it. It's the best!"
A LOOK comes over the BOY'S FACE. YOU know HE has never heard of it. YOU suspect HE is feeling some EMBARRASSMENT.
<ul><li>[["Hey, you came here to try new things."->node13]]</li>
<li>[["If it were any good, don't you think you would have heard of it?"->node13]]</li>
<li>[["Is this jerk saying he knows more about video games than you do?"->node13]]</li></ul>"I'll bet it's not as good as Life Force," the BOY says. HE catches a GLIMPSE of the CARTRIDGE LABEL as the FRIEND puts it into the MACHINE. "That's not another baby game, is it?"
"No, it's like Gradius but better," the FRIEND said. "It's wild. You have to see it!" HE holds up the SECOND CONTROLLER. "Come on, it's better with two players."
<ul><li>[["This could be pretty lame. Proceed with caution."->node14]]</li>
<li>[["It would be nice to have someone else to play with, sometimes."->node14]]</li></ul>
"Maybe I should just watch first," the BOY says.
"Okay, I'll just let the demo run, because it's pretty cool anyway," the FRIEND says. "It's like Gradius, some of the levels are up and down and some are side to side. I haven't made it past level 1, but one of the levels is under... oh, here it comes!"
The TITLE SCREEN gives way to a VERTICAL SCROLLING LEVEL depicting an UNDERWATER SCENE. A BLUE SPACESHIP with CARTOON ARMS is doing BATTLE with UNDERSEA CREATURES.
"What the hell?" the BOY says. "It looks like a cartoon!"
"Yeah!" the FRIEND says, picking up the controller and pressing the crosspad as the ship moves back and forth on the screen. "Isn't it great?"
<ul><li>[["You didn't come here to watch a kiddy show."->node15]]</li>
<li>[["Why not give it a chance?"->node15]]</li></ul>
The BOY seems to ignore YOU completely. HE stares at the CONTROLLER in his FRIEND'S HANDS.
"I thought that was the demo," the BOY says.
"Yeah, but it pretty much does what I tell it to," the FRIEND replies. "See? Left, right... I can dodge most of the bullets, but then there's one where it just completely... oh, damn it!"
As YOU and the BOY watch, the cartoon SHIP makes a BEELINE for an ENEMY PROJECTILE and explodes.
"Huh," the BOY says.
"My brother discovered that, messing around with the controller," the FRIEND says. "It's like it will mostly let you control the demo right up to a certain point, where it takes control away so the demo ends."
"Why would they do that?" the BOY asks.
"Maybe they think it makes it more interesting than just letting you watch?" the FRIEND says. "Like a taste of what's to come. But you have to actually make it there to play all the way through. You want to play for real?"
"Okay," the BOY says.
<p align="center">push [[START->node16]] to continue</p>YOU watch as the BOY becomes briefly engrossed in the GAME featuring blue and green ANTHROPOMORPHIC SPACESHIPS fighting a VARIETY of bizarre ENEMIES such as COATHANGERS and various FOOD ITEMS with BULLETS, BOMBS, and HEARTS that fly upwards from their COCKPITS.
"The stupid hearts don't do anything!" the BOY shouts as one passes through an ENEMY.
"They're not weapons," the FRIEND says. "You use them to bounce the bells that shoot out of the clouds to change their color so you can get power-ups..."
YOU can tell the BOY is not about to say something HE might regret later.
<ul><li>[["This is the game that's better than Gradius?"->node17]]</li>
<li>[["Keep cool, man. You're a guest here."->node17]]</li></ul>
"That is the single dumbest thing I've ever heard," the BOY says.
The FRIEND'S FACE falls a BIT.
"Yeah, it sounds kind of dumb," HE says with an apologetic TONE. "But it's how you get power-ups, like in Gradius. Watch!"
The FRIEND shoots a passing CLOUD, which ejects a copper BELL. The FRIEND's SHIP shoots the BELL to bounce IT upwards a FEW TIMES, then moves underneath IT and begins juggling IT with the heart power until IT changes color, then lets IT fall to his SHIP.
"See? I'm faster now!" the FRIEND says. "There's lasers, and a double shot, and ghost ships... and if you die, you can catch your angel to get your powers back."
The BOY is barely listening, but trying to repeat the TRICK. His TIMING is poor and HE either drops the BELLS or accidentally collects THEM before changing THEM.
"You'll get the hang of it," the FRIEND says. "It took me a long time to even figure out how to do it."
<ul><li>[["What a smug little jerk. The games you're better at are way harder than this stupid little cartoon game."->node18]]</li>
<li>[["Listen to him! If he can do it, you definitely can. It just takes time."->node18]]</li></ul>"This is a bunch of crap!" the BOY shouts, spiking the CONTROLLER like a FOOTBALL as his SHIP collides with an ENEMY in the PROCESS of collecting a white BELL. "This game is nothing like Gradius! It's just a stupid game for stupid babies!"
Before YOU have a CHANCE to intervene, the MOTHER of the FRIEND comes into the LIVING ROOM and says, "I think you should go home if you can't control your temper."
<ul><li>[["Quick, apologize! This isn't worth losing a friend over. Plus, he might have some games you'd actually like."->node19]]</li>
<li>[["That's the best idea anyone's had since you got here. Let's get the hell out of here."->node19]]</li>
The BOY says NOTHING for a long TIME, merely stares at the MOTHER, his FACE red and his BREATH hard.
"Fine," the BOY says finally. HE collects his THINGS and leaves.
The next DAY at SCHOOL, the BOY hears the FRIEND talking about SOMETHING and imitating the ACT of throwing a CONTROLLER. The BOY is briefly embarrassed, but then starts telling OTHERS that his former FRIEND is a BABY who plays stupid THINGS.
"He sounds hella gay," a slightly older CHILD says.
"Yeah," the BOY says. YOU are fairly sure HE has never heard this WORD before except in very outdated CONTEXTS. "He's so gay."
<ul><li>[["Keep it up! If you sound like the older kids, you'll have loads of new friends in no time."->node20]]</li>
<li>[["I know your feelings are hurt, but don't you think you should learn what a word means before you throw it around carelessly?"->node20]]</li></ul>
<p align="center">YOUR TRIAL HAS ENDED</p>
<p align="center">push [[START->node1]] to try again</p>
<hr><p align="right"><font size="2">ATTRACT MODE by <a href="http://www.alexandraerin.com">ALEXANDRA ERIN</a>
SUPPORT THE AUTHOR on <a href="http://www.paypal.me/alexandraerin">PAYPAL</a> or <a href="http://www.patreon.com/alexandraerin">PATREON</a></font></p>