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Empire on Ice #32: Overheard at PAX J

This week, on Empire on Ice: Ever wonder what it's like to go to PAX in the Sovereign Empire of Greater Joshalonia? Is Josh's ATH video game going to revolutionize the market? What is Silence's take on humanism in video games? How does Afiach handle passionate, socially awkward fans? Come take a look at the keynotes, the panels, the fan interactions in all their geek glory, and absolutely no bathroom humor of any kind!

[In Dragon Theater, Josh is giving a keynote on After The Hero: The Motion Picture: The Video Game.]

Josh: —which is why we commissioned a team of world-famous artists to deliver you some of the most gorgeous, life-changing error windows you have ever seen. The amount of detail and the level of artistic profundity in these error screens is comparable to recreating a city-sized Mona Lisa using only the finest Chinese calligraphy, whose letters collectively recite some of the world's greatest poems and novels.

Josh: Meanwhile, when you're playing the game rather than journeying through what I like to call Error Valhalla, one of the new gameplay features that I'm most excited about is something my design team calls Prescient Scrolling. I can safely say, with complete modesty, that this revolutionary new innovation in game design is going to be the subject of a lot of conversation in the industry after today.

Josh: It works by taking the in-game camera, anticipating where you'll want it to be three seconds from now, and showing you that instead of whatever your character is actually looking at. Think about that. You want to know the future? In this game, you've got it! Prescient Scrolling forces you to think about gaming in a whole new light, because rather than living in the moment you have to dream the future in real-time.

Josh: It's such a paradigm shift that there's no reason to limit it to video games. We've even been in talks with Google to bring this technology to their self-driving cars…

[Meanwhile, in Fox Theater, a panel on Humanistic Philosophy in Video Games is underway with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Gloria Steinem, Philip Pullman, and Silence Terlais. Wil Wheaton is the moderator.]

Wil: Now we'll go ahead with the Q&A portion of our panel. Remember to speak directly into the microphone when you ask your question. Go ahead.

Querent: Hello. How do all of you think we can get more humanism into video games?

Wil: That's a good question. Mr. Pullman, as a highly accomplished storyteller do you have any thoughts?

Pullman: To me humanism isn't something that's separate from our daily affairs and the sort of things to which we aspire, which means that wherever there is story there is an opening for the message of humanism without the need to club anyone over the head with the announcement that they're going to learn humanism now. Humanism is an ordinary quality, occurring everywhere. I think its inclusion in games is quite straightforward as a matter of story themes and probably also the gameplay mechanics themselves.

Wil: Fascinating. Silence? You're in the storytelling business too. What do you think?

Silence: Honestly Wil, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Bethesda, and all the other top developers are fucking idiots. I think their business model is written on a piece of toilet paper stapled to the wall that says "Fuck you!" Stop and think for a moment that video games today are defined by their genre. By their genre! Fuck!

Wil: Interesting, but…what does that have to do with—

Silence: I mastered Gradius III in the slums of Nagoya on Christmas Eve in fucking 1989, Wil! Do you have any idea how high I was?!

Wil: Um…

Silence: You think you were piloting the flagship of the Federation in 1989? No! I was piloting the goddamn Vic Viper, the flagship of fucking all humanity, utterly alone against the onslaughts of the Bacterian Empire! If you had even managed to glimpse one fucking instant of the terror of the God of Destrunction you'd have shit yourself so hard that even Worf would've thrown up!

Wil: I didn't say anything about—

Silence: When I scraped my half-baked flesh off that non-slip metal floor with its gum wads and manga wrappers, I went and designed one of the best goddamn fucking video games the world has ever known!

Wil: What game is that?

Silence: Super Metroid.

Wil: From 1994? I'm pretty sure that was a Japanese game—

Silence: [Flipping the table over in rage.] I AM JAPAN!

Wil: But, Nintendo—

Silence: I mastered it at the top competitive level before it even came out! The hacks? The speedruns? The sequence breaking? The glitches and the exploits? All that other febrile bullshit?!! I left it all in there on purpose just to see how long it would take you morons to even sniff at my records! And no one ever has.

Wil: Maybe we should go to Gloria Steinem.

Silence: There came a point when video games weren't about gaming anymore, but about recreating the familiar and then substituting that with the even more familiar and calling it "subversive." Do you know what subversion is? Subversion is throwing your console out the goddamn window into oncoming traffic because you beat the game in your fucking mind!

Wil: I think—

[Silence grabs Wil by the shoulders and bores into his soul. Her veins are pulsing in her forehead, her eyes are wide, her face is flushed red and bathed in sweat, and her right eye in particular is twitching softly as she whispers to him.]

Silence: If you want humanism in video games, it's there right now, Wil Wheaton. You just have to be enough of a human to see it!

Wil: …I need an adult!

[Over in Bandland, Afiach Bard has a booth where she's schmoozing with fans, signing autographs, and playing a little music informally. One particularly fervent fan is rapt as the bard finishes a soft, sweet song.]

Fan: That was beautiful. What do you call it?

Afiach: Thank you. "The Apple."

Fan: Because it's a song about the sweetness of potential.

Afiach: [Her big smile squeezes her eyes shut.] Exactly! ^_^

Fan: Would you sign my lips?

Afiach: [Surprised.] Your lips?

Fan: Whenever I speak, whenever I open your mouth for anything, I want your name to be the first thing on my lips.

[The fan's boyfriend is standing next to him and gets a puzzled, slightly disturbed look on his face. The boyfriend looks at him quizzically, but he doesn't notice, because his attention is completely on Afiach.]

Afiach: That's a little unusual…but then again so am I. Sure, I'll sign your lips. Are you allergic to capsaicin?

Fan: Nope, not allergic to—wait, why capsaicin?

Afiach: I use it in all my ink. The Scoville rating is about 4 million. Is that okay?

Fan: I don't know how high that is.

Afiach: The ink is roughly 25 percent capsaicin, if that helps.

Fan: Is that a lot?

Boyfriend: It's a lot.

Fan: Don't tell me you're getting jealous again.

Boyfriend: Nope. Go right ahead.

[Afiach takes her boldest pen.]

Afiach: What hand do you want me to sign it with?

Fan: What do you mean?

Afiach: Yesterday an intense lady got really angry at me for signing her copy of my album with my right hand.

Fan: Why?

Afiach: I'm not really sure.

Fan: Well, sign it with whatever hand you want.

[Afiach signs the top lip "Afiach" with her right hand and the bottom one "Bard" with her left.]

Afiach: There!

[The fan begins to cry.]

Afiach: Aw, that's sweet…

Fan: IT BURNS!!! Aaaaaaahhhhhh!

[He runs away screaming.]

Afiach: Yep. That's the passion of art.

Boyfriend: Maybe the lesson here is…"passions burns."

Afiach: I like that.

Boyfriend: You know, the thing is, I'm the one who's going to be in the doghouse when we get home.

Afiach: I don't want you to be in any trouble. When he's mad at you, why don't you show him this picture of me naked riding a piano and playing the drums? No charge.

[She pulls it out from her folder of prints for sale and hands it to him.]

Boyfriend: You're more savvy than you let on, Afiach.

Afiach: Thank you!

Boyfriend: But why do you have these? They're a little…private.

Afiach: It's not my first time dealing with fandom.

Boyfriend: Ah. Gotcha.

Afiach: You know, I used to be really shy about showing anybody my personal piano, but then I came to realize that it doesn't matter. The people we love, the people we covet, the people we aspire to be, they are all dreams. I don't mind being somebody's dream. I think it's an honor.

Boyfriend: That's really cool. … Say, I don't suppose you'd sign my lips too?

[But just as Afiach is lifting her pen, a Google self-driving car crashes through the wall of the big expo hall, scattering a number of displays and sending people scurrying for cover. No one is hurt. About a dozen police cars, sirens blaring, screech to a halt behind it.]

[In the expo hall…]

Police Officer: [Shouting.] We've got you now, Google Car! Turn off your engine and submit for decompiling!

Google Car: Check out these graphics!

[A series of machine guns emerge from compartments in the car and begin firing at the police, who scramble for cover behind their cars.]

Police Officer: Shots fired! Everybody down!

[The Google Car speeds off into the crowd inside the expo hall, driving very recklessly. There is yelling and panic and people disperse in all directions.

[It looks like complete and utter pandemonium, until, suddenly, a column of light shines down from on high, and an angelic chorus rings out, upon one young, twenty-something male, a Nerd King. He has a neckbeard and a face full of acne, and perhaps a touch more body odor than is socially courteous. He is cosplaying Celebrimbor, the Ñoldorin prince and last of the House of Fëanor.]

Nerd King: [With tears of rapture in his eyes.] This…this is the moment I've always waited for. This is my chance to show the world that video games are a force for good, and that video gamers are as decent and worthy and whole as anybody else!

[He strides boldly into the path of the Google Car.]

Nerd King: Google Car! Desist! By the power of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I push thee back!

Google Car: New immersive gameplay!

[The Google Car accelerates furiously, making a suicide charge toward the Nerd King, who draws his sword—upon which is a USB keyboard—and hacks into the Google Car's system. In a mere two seconds, he cracks the encryption, figures out the data structure, and implants exactly the correct command. The Google Car turns off completely, and comes to a stop inches before the Nerd King's rather gelatinous, fragile body.]

[A moment of astonished silence is swiftly followed by roar of triumphant cheer and applause. All the convention goers are ecstatic! They sweep the Nerd King from his feed and carry him above their heads in a spontaneous parade of honor!]

[In front of one of the restroom areas, Celeste arrives. DeLatia is there, waiting outside the doors.]

Celeste: This place is so big! Is this the "Metal Flush Solid" restroom bay? Celadon told me he'd meet me there.

DeLatia: I'm afraid this is the "Triflush" bay. Sorry.

Celeste: Nuts. But I can't hold it any longer. Gotta go!

[She scrambles into the restroom. As soon as she opens the door, bright golden light pours out of the restroom, and music swells from its every tile.]

Triflush: Welcome, Celeste…I am the Essence of the Triflush.

Triflush: The Triflush will grant the wishes in the bowel and bladder of the person who sits upon it.

Triflush: If a person with a good bowel sits upon it, it will make their good wishes come true…

Triflush: If an evil-boweled person sits upon it, the city will drown in a flood of befouled waters.

Triflush: The stronger the wish, the more powerful the Triflush's expression of that wish.

Triflush: Ganon's wish was to conquer Joshalonia. That wish transformed this restroom into the Golden Land and the Dark Brown World.

Triflush: Ganon was building up his power here so he could conquer Joshalonia and make his wish come completely true.

Triflush: But now, Ganon's poor dietary choices have completely destroyed him. His world will vanish.

Triflush: The Triflush is waiting for a new owner. Its Golden Power awaits your buttocks…

Triflush: Now, touch it with a wish in your posterior.

[The restroom door swings shut.]

DeLatia: Oh, brother. Still, it's probably better than the "Call of Doody: Advanced Warfare" restroom.

[Fade out.]

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!