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September 15, 2019

At Blizzard HQ

Talisman of lame
This is a lanyard. It's two uses are: a) carrying small items for those that don't know what pockets are for, and b) advertising that you don't know what the fuck a pocket is for.
Irvine, California was just as I remembered it; a tiny room filled with smoke and the smell of sweat. The room was a colourful array of worn-down old timers mixed with the youthful faces of the newcomers, already visibly draining of the enthusiasm each man in the room once knew. The mood in the air was almost as thick as the smoke and at least 2.3 times as oppressive. This wasn't hell; hell wouldn't be so hot or so dark or so full of lanyards.

As I waited for the conference to begin I turned to my neighbour, who I'll call Mick. Mick has been to these events hundreds of times and he's seen it all. More importantly he's preternaturally skilled in many martial arts and I trust him with my life. I asked Mick if he knew what this was about -- he muttered something about Diablo 3 and returned to clipping his nails. In the moment I spotted a hint of something in his eyes. Something he knew without being able to face it; this wasn't about Diablo 3 at all. I snatched a flying toenail fragment from the air and held it before Mick's wide eyes, demanding he tell me the truth. What I saw in his gaze was a terror I never thought I'd see in Mick, a terror so horrible a cottage industry of pre-shitted pants could be created based on it, saving time and resources for mass market consumers suddenly having a great need for pants shitting.

Mick pushed me away, crying that he didn't know, and disappeared into the fog. I was left squatting on my chair, holding the only part of Mick I had left, hoping it's pointy ends might ward off any attackers. Suddenly Bob from New Hampshire came out of nowhere. I tried to ward him off with my talisman. It was no use.

Bob from New Hampshire isn't from New Hampshire, he's from Vermont. What's more, I'm pretty sure his name isn't Bob. He's worked for a lot of gaming sites over the years: Gamesider, Gamearama, Gamer's Deli, Gaming ExponentGames. It doesn't matter who's paying the fare. Bob from New Hampshire is always there, wearing a short-sleeved shirt that's a little too small for his sloppy gut, expression a little too eager to please, like an over-the-hill rock star. It's his accent that gets to me, a little too nor'eastern, too much civilization for this world. He's big with the Lord, something I could feel creeping up my wrist as he took my hand in his big meathooks and gave it a few enthusiastic pumps.

--You're passing Jesus! I exclaimed, alarmed by this spiritual assault.

--What? Was his reply, as if he didn't know. Or maybe he DIDN'T know, maybe he didn't know He was doing Works through his meathooks. It would suit Bob from New Hampshire, not knowing, with his soft a's and shady place of origin.

I decided to trust Bob from New Hampshire; with Mick missing perhaps the Lord would keep me safe. I confided in Bob from New Hampshire that soon he might have to protect me from Diablo, but he was preoccupied by a nail sliver some jerk had jammed into his palm. I sat him down and told him not to move. Soon things would be starting and I needed to know where he was. Glancing at the clock I saw there were five minutes to go. Five minutes to the unknown.

Dropping my eyes I spotted The Kid reading a Nintendo Power. A Nintendo Power! In a flash I ran over several anonymous laps and tore the rag from his grubby teen hands, hurling it through the air like some kind of retarded bird on it's maiden flight. I cuffed him hard across the jaw when he protested.

--What kind of journalist do you think you are? I shouted dramatically and with great enthusiasm.

I explained to him using equal parts words and the fist how garbage like Nintendo Power would warp and twist his young mind, how a publication about one company could never teach him anything about what it takes to survive in this nest of sharks. I could feel his tiny heart thumping as I gathered up two fistfuls of his Pokemon t-shirt. Something cracked deep down inside, and on his face came shock, sadness, and finally rage at what he had been subjected to. I remember that feeling well.

I knew The Kid was going to be alright. Some day, some how he would eventually land the big gaming scoop, and he would look back upon the path and see my face at the beginning.

A murmur passed through the room. It was starting! I searched frantically for Bob from New Hampshire, hoping I could find him in time, and hoping that if I did find him he had a chance of protecting me. Howling, I shoved through the rising tide of gaming journalists, crying for Bob from New Hampshire. Somebody's elbow met my face, and I tripped over somebody's legs, sprawling on my belly near the podium at the front of the room. Just at that moment out walked Mike Morhaime, president of Blizzard Entertainment, a god among gamers.

From my vantage point he appeared suffused in golden light, striding confidently in an expensive suit to stand before the huddled masses. In his jaw I could see the mark of leadership, between his thighs I knew there to hang a thing that may justify wars. For an instant I felt everything would be all right.

Then he spoke.

--Blizzard has decided to indefinitely postpone production on StarCraft: Ghost to focus the company's console-development efforts on the next generation. He said, as if he wasn't tearing a hole in the universe.

StarCraft: Ghost, telling the tale of Nova, an elite Terran ghost unit on a mission to uncover the truth, cancelled? Could this be true? The countless nights I've spent dreaming of the chance to descend down from the heavens, fully into the head of Nova, experiencing the world as if from a first-person viewpoint, of stealth-based gameplay utilizing technology of the future, of Kerrigan, always Kerrigan. All for nothing, because Mike Morhaime says so?

It wasn't right. I knew it wasn't right. What's more, the rest of the gaming media knew it wasn't right. I heard a bellow and a chair flew across the room. Where moments ago there were sweaty men asking for protips there was now only a seething torrent of nerd rage. What do you mean StarCraft: Ghost is cancelled? Will the project be resumed? What about Diablo 3?

The mystique of Mike Morhaime had all but evaporated, as he was forced to retreat to safety in the chaos. From my position on the floor I could see The Kid in the fetal position under a chair, screaming into the din, tears streaming from his eyes. If he lived to see the morning he would awake as The Man. I had more pressing concerns, dodging a flurry of white sneakers, looking for Bob from New Hampshire. At last I found him sitting in a lone chair, staring wordlessly at the storm surrounding him. I shouted in his ear, Bob, Bob, we need the Lord! We need the Lord! But he remained mute in the face of a cacophony. The last I remember is Kieron Gillen hurtling from the mass with his shirt wrapped around his head, screaming as he charged right at me.

I came to staring at the stars. I could feel grass under me, and sat up to find myself in a park overlooking Irvine. Under a nearby tree Mick was whittling one of his little boats. Confused, I asked Mick what happened at Blizzard. He gestured with his head toward a pillar of smoke in the distance.

--Is this the end? I asked my protector.

Mick continued whittling.

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