It's over! 17,000 words later and at last we have a victor for this, the most miserable and guilty of all AARs. Will the galaxy enter the rule of Kieron's glittering red Empire? Or will it be empurpled by the all-powerful, all-duplicitious Graham? Or perhaps blue underdog Jimothy Rossignol will at last spring his winning gambit. Read the grim and salty conclusion to our game of Neptune's Pride after the jump (or read it over at the PC Gamer blog here here).
Graham: Apparently I'm a street kid who lives for revenge. I'd had a choice between sending fleets while Kieron was offline in the evening, or waiting till bedtime. If I waited till bedtime, I was fairly sure it would be too late. I sent them earlier, without really thinking about the why of Kieron being offline.
I spent the night squirming, waiting for the moment of discovery. I even pictured the reaction: Anger? Frustration? An acepting laugh? A weary sadness?
Kieron logged on to MSN. I knew he was home, and I immediately opened up Neptune's Pride and started refreshing. That's when I noticed Kieron's planets started to switch to my side. He was just giving them to me! No no no no. Not like this! I didn't want it to end like this.
I opened up a chat window.
[01:01] Graham: :(
[01:03] Kieron:There you go.
Kieron logs off, and a cold weight drops from my ribcage, slides down my legs and into my feet. It might be the small chunk of black coal that sits where my heart should be. I feel fucking terrible, just unspeakably guilty. I've played the game with a single-minded focus towards gaining the only meaning Neptune's Pride has: those 93 stars, and victory. I've betrayed everyone - and I've been betrayed plenty, including by Kieron - but this time is different. We'd explicitly talked about our tiredness of betrayal, our desire to work together properly, and our hope that we could make it work, if only for the hopeful message it'd add to the end of the inevitable story we'd write based on the game.
But I'd gone and done it anyway.
For the five weeks this game had lasted, I'd been speaking to my fellow players via instant messenger every night. While we were called AdaLovelace, swiss and Gonnas in game, in real life we were Kieron, Jim and Graham. I'd invested so much time and thought and energy into playing this game, that somewhere along the line, it stopped feeling like a game and started feeling very personal. People's betrayals of me didn't hurt. But now betrayals of them did. The 93 goal stars wasn't the only meaning the game had anymore; by working together, we'd imbued it with something far more powerful.
I continued to feel fucking awful.
I fought against the coming rush of Kieron's gifted planets the only way I could.
Kieron: I'm sitting around, listening to pop-music and thinking, and decide to check Neptune's Pride. Something odd's happened. Graham hasn't won. In fact, a load of planets haven't transferred over at all. Is this some fucking bug? Was I drunk enough to fuck this up. I decide to talk to Graham.
I turn back on Messenger.
[01:17] Kieron: How annoying.
[01:17] Kieron: I can't just seed you all the planets
[01:18] Kieron: But it did take my money
[01:18] Graham: You gave me a bunch of planets and I have 93.
[01:18] Graham: It didn't end.
[01:18] Kieron: refresh
[01:19] Kieron: I have them all back
[01:19] Graham: I'm utterly ashamed and don't want to win anymore. I gave you as many back as I could afford.
[01:19] Graham: Any fleets in motion will hit your planets and immediately turn back and go home.
It's at this point I realise what's happened. Graham has actually given me all the planets back. I laugh hard. We've both disappeared down a guilty hole, and I feel awful. I realise that the only defence I had - actually being nice to someone and taking an alliance seriously - has worked.
[01:19] Kieron: This is ludicrous
[01:19] Graham: I'm also pulling all my fleets back to a single planet at the back of my territory.
[01:19] Kieron: (I'm seriously LoLing)
[01:19] Kieron: Dude
[01:20] Kieron: I can't win by making you feel guilty
[01:20] Graham: Well, I reached 93 and it didn't end, so maybe no one can win.
[01:20] Kieron: I dunno
[01:20] Kieron: Maybe there's a thing
[01:21] Kieron: That it has to be 93 for a bit
[01:21] Kieron: Yes, I was off celebrating the end of the last 5 years my life coming to an end
[01:21] Kieron: Which is on par with stabbing knowing I'm at a funeral
[01:21] Kieron: But it'd have worked at any time
I immediately regret saying all of this. Well... maybe a shitty funeral of someone you don't know very well and you're mainly there for politeness' sake. Not like, your mum's funeral. But I'm trying to show my cards, but...
[01:22] Graham: I had the choice of doing it while you were or when you were in bed. I chose the first available time. Doing it at any time, I think, is equally as horrible. Either way, I don't much like, well, this.
[01:22] Graham: Or me or the game or whatever. I don't know.
[01:22] Kieron: Dude:
[01:22] Kieron: I'd have given you the planets if you asked
[01:24] Graham: Yeah, but isn't the point of the game to win, within the rules? And isn't that the fun? I can ask you to knock over your King in a game of chess, but that's not really playing the game.
[01:24] Graham: But then, it turns out that winning within the mechanics isn't fun.
The conversation is taking a strange turn.
[01:24] Kieron: It's a diplomatic game, man
[01:25] Kieron: The only reason we teamed up was because we were tired
[01:25] Kieron: The out of game explanations are everything
[01:25] Kieron: I mean, I knew guilt was my main weapon against you
[01:25] Kieron: Which is why I so obviously 100% trusted you
[01:25] Kieron: And left me open for a stab
[01:26] Kieron: Because I knew the only defence I had, really, was making you feel really bad if you did it
[01:26] Graham: Yeah, but then I'm looking at the board, and I can see that you're going to win, and I'm thinking, well, why am I still playing? I'm in a position where I can willfully lose by doing nothing, or willfully win by attacking you. And if I'm doing nothing, then I'm not playing. I may as well not login and just let you get on with it.
[01:26] Kieron: Totally
[01:26] Kieron: So why do you feel bad?
[01:27] Graham: Because it was a lousy thing to do, in a very obvious ethical way. Because winning isn't everything. Because we're friends, and I hurt you in some small way.
[01:27] Kieron: Nah
[01:27] Kieron: don't feel bad
[01:27] Kieron: I manouvered it to make you feel as bad as possible if you did it
[01:28] Graham: I don't feel bad when I backstab a trusting Medic in TF2, but this is way, way worse.
[01:28] Kieron: I mean, you were in a much stronger position
[01:28] Kieron: In that, you were only fighting one person
[01:28] Kieron: And, frankly, not even fighting them
[01:28] Kieron: As they had no chance to hurt you
[01:28] Kieron: I was stuck with Jim
[01:28] Kieron: We said when we teamed up
[01:28] Kieron: That I was fine with coming first or second
[01:29] Kieron: I do wish you said it
As in, said it, and I'd have given him the planets.
[01:29] Graham: I am the space slug, you are the space squid. There's no separation between us and the game, so it's basically like I've just walked over and kicked you. While you were at a funeral.
[01:29] Kieron: Because - y'know - you stabbing me or me giving you the planet
[01:29] Kieron: I knew i had no defence
[01:30] Kieron: I said to Jim 5 days ago
[01:30] Kieron: "All you can do is stop me from winning"
[01:31] Graham: Sorry, Kieron.
And we both head to bed. Victory is mine.
They say that War doesn't have any winners. They were right.