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Crouching behind a twisted chunk of metal, I waited for the mortar blasts to subside. As soon as I could not hear the thunderous roar of explosions, I ducked out of my hiding place and ran up the beach. The whining ring of a bullet sounded through the silence, and I looked to see where the gunner was hiding. The enemy locked another bullet into the chamber and fired his scoped rifle. The bullet met flesh, and I fell to the ground.
Only minutes before Willis and I had been sitting on the couch, listening to loud punk music. It was too hot outside to do anything, and the flies were out anyway. Inside was cooler and more hospitable, but boredom had set in. "Day of Defeat?" asked Willis in a muted drawl. "Yah," I responded, and bounded up the stairs. Within minutes, Willis and I had booted up his computer, connected to the internet, and logged onto a clan server of Day of Defeat. Suddenly we were not in the messy upstairs of Willis' house, but on a virtual battlefield, slowly working up towards an enemy encampment up the beach. In a matter of seconds I was killed by an enemy sniper, who was carefully protecting his team's base, Willis took over, choosing a more accurate rifle over the clunky machine gun I had chosen.
Willis' computer desk was a heap of gaming equipment and disks. On the shelf above the desk, a row of outdated games were lined up with surgical precision. The old games were never used, so they were never out of order. Below the shelf, on the desk, lay a stack of new games, their wrappers and cases, handbooks and strategy guides. A PC Gamer magazine lay in among the countless piles of demo disks Willis had picked up here and there. Rising from the mess was the brand new Elements 19-inch monitor, emitting a cold, bluish glow. The keyboard sported a custom key cover, changing the standard set of keys into the control panel of a complex helicopter, and the W, A, D and S keys-- the keys which are commonly used to control a character-- were smudges and worn down compared to the rest of the clean new keys. The brand new high accuracy optical mouse glowed a dull reddish color, and sat on top of a cat-theme mouse pad Willis' dad had bought.
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Finally, hidden under the desk was the Computer itself. The beige-white PC tower hid under the desk, this heavy metal machine, lights blinking and humming quietly, transformed the encoded data to a near realistic virtual world. Next to the tower sat a set of pedals for flight games. Willis had not been satisfied with just a joystick to control his virtual dogfights, and had put down fifty dollars for rudder peddles to increase the realism and control. Across the skylight, a small tee shirt was stretched to keep the light from creating unwanted glare in the monitor.
The mess extended down the hallways. A shelf near the computer was crammed full of cardboard boxes that games came in, their bright labels and bold graphics dimmed by a thin layer of dust. The couch further down the hall was covered in PC Gamer Magazines. But it was not the desk that mattered, neither was it the mouse nor the customized PC. It was the virtual world that these things created, where a person could go to a completely different realm.
Because my parents never let me play video games at my own house, I spent endless hours on Willis' computer, partaking in the joy of a banned activity.
Willis and I had started playing games on his computer when we were about 8, spending endless hours gunning down the hideous otherworldly creatures and reveling in the pixilated and cartoony gore. Soon Willis had purchased other games and we had become stuck on an endless level of Duke Nukem (an early shooter), and instead of taking down the baddies, we built complex cities with futuristic skyscrapers and massive mansions in SimCity.
With a computer upgrade, we moved to such games as POD, a futuristic racing game with graphics that beat almost all else at that time. When Willis' new computer crashed, after only a month of gaming on it, we went without video games three or four months, and when I went to Willis' house we spent the muggy summer days teasing his dog and reading magazines. When Willis finally ordered his custom PC from an internet company, gaming became more intense, and the realism of the virtual worlds was impressive. With its brand new graphics card, Willis computer was able to render environments that were almost mistakable for a movie or a picture.
As I traded Willis positions at the computer, and the character (named yoyoyo by Willis) respawned, I flopped down on the nearby beige couch and picked up a PC Gamer to read. Finally, after securing a vital point in the map, and driving of a squad of opposing forces, Willis met the same fate as I had: a sniper rifle. It was my turn again, and I walked up the beach, ducking behind cover whenever possible. First I his behing a massive chunk if twisted I-beam, next a fallen log. The roar of gunfire was all around me, ringing in my ears and making me twitch with nervousness as it became closer. A soldier in a tan uniform jumped over the dilapidated stone wall, and I crouched lower in my hiding place so he would not notice me. Since the opposing forces were controlled by people, they were thousands of times smarter that the computer controlled "bots." Lifting a heavy pack of explosives from my backpack, I placed it under the moss covered stone wall we needed to breach, and, with a tap of the keyboard and a twitch of the mouse, hid behind a tree as the charge detonated. Chips of grey stone flew by my hiding place and thudded into the tree. I squinted as the screen flashed with a searing brightness, and an ear shattering thud emanated from the speakers. Troops poured through the gap in the wall to take control of the opposing radio tower. A dorky victory song played, and Willis and I logged of the game server to go get some lunch.
The Day of Defeat servers were shutting down, so Willis and I were stuck playing a single player game. Morrowind was a completely different world from the war torn battlefields of Day of Defeat. Rolling grassy hills led into a forest outside the quaint town of Balmora. My character sported a small enchanted dagger, gleaming faintly in the twin suns of Vvardenfell, and a small rucksack filled with potions.
"Okay Ian, my turn." Willis said bluntly from behind me. I had just finished picking a lock on an ancient, rotting treasure chest in the virtual world, and I was eager to see the riches, but I reluctantly moved from the computer chair. Willis started up the game with one of his characters, a fighter, and proceeded to continue a job he had gotten from a guildmaster.
My eyes blurry from looking at the monitor for so long, I went to play with Willis' dog. Willis and I made some dinner, and hung out for a while. Willis played his electric bass, and I read....but soon we were both drawn to the computer again. People had started up some Day of Defeat servers as they returned home from work, and I logged onto the fastest one I could find. Gripping my small assault rifle, I crawled through a claustrophobic and gritty trench, approaching the site of a towering enemy mortar cannon, in the virtual world.