I knew the electrodes weren’t sexy nor all that cool, but once I showed the guys what their data was going to provide, I knew I’d be forgiven. Genuine human responses were needed to analyze our new webcam’s face recognition software CRAIG – Computer Recognition Avatar Intelligence Gaming. Each player connected to the Exsanguinate grid, enabled me to record all their facial responses, breathing changes, heart rates, blinking eye rates, pupil dilations, and basal body temperature changes. What we were developing was a smart program where the computer could learn a gamer’s fear. Wearing the interactivity suit could record every possible nuance of emotion and body movement.

This unique individual data was meticulously being encoded into the database for use in the next gaming round. If our double-blind test was successful, gaming history, as we knew it, would change forever.

I suited up Lady Caz in her shaman priestess outfit and awaited her team inside the bowels of the boss cave for the strike sequence. We had a few bugs to repair and tests to run on a couple prior glitches, but other than those obstacles, we were just about set to develop the design animation with the help from the electrodes. Plus I had a couple new surprises for the guys on this particular boss kill.

Briggs decided to run paladin this time, Roxas set out as the vampire rogue and Harris jumped into the blood knight’s position. Together we formed a basic guild that many of our monthly gaming subscribers created and we prepared to engage the program.

“Ready Gents?” I asked over the headsets. I got a thumbs-up from each avatar and I engaged the sequence.

Briggs struck a Atlas body builder position with his arms above his head and announced, “Unleash the Battle Kroc of Doom!”

With the press of a button, I rezzed the meanest, nastiest looking thirty foot crocodile no one has seen since the unveiling of Godzilla. Immediately the battle kroc took out the paladin with a sweep of his spiked tail reeling him against the stalagmites in the crystalline cave. Wielding a death strike into the battle kroc’s neck, the vampire rogue sunk his katana through the steely scales of the beast and found the soft underlying tissue. The shaman princess slammed the kroc with a massive energy vortex. Stunned senseless for a few moments, the beast staggered sideways and slammed the rogue against a rock wall. The crippling energy vortex to the kroc bought just enough time for the paladin to regain his consciousness from the vicious slam of the infuriated tail. With the brief respite, the paladin jumped back to his feet and chopped away at the kroc’s hind leg. This beast was going down.

The blood knight held his stance in the freezing cave. The icy barbs of his dagger plunged deep into the kroc’s chest and tore out the still beating heart of the massive beast. The rogue jumped onto the back of the beast. He stood and with a final cleave of his sword, he lopped off the kroc’s head. The behemoth’s fiery head rolled down off its body, landing with a powerful, earth vibrating thud.

Our brave warriors momentarily lowered their arms from the weary assault. As the dust settled, they stared at their trophy with awe. Each warrior stood there in disbelief as the severed head had fallen into an open-mouthed, screaming position. A thousand jagged, poisonous teeth lay inside the bleeding gums. Crimson rivers pooled around their boots, and turned the crystalline floor into a spectrum of red. The kroc’s eyes stared holes through their souls daring them to return the intensity.

A victory cry from the shaman princess announced to the warrior gods it was time to celebrate. The villagers would praise them with song, dance, food and drink. The shaman raised her totem to offer praise to the god and goddess for ensuring their successful hunt. The villagers would once again be safe, their children no longer at risk, and their bellies full.

Eager for his trophy, the vampire rogue stooped down to claim a tooth that proved his victory and provided a guerdon to impress the village wenches and guarantee a warm bed throughout the coming wintery months.

Without another breath, the great Kroc’s head exploded, slamming the poisonous daggers of teeth into the celebrating team. Impaling them all through and through, they each fell to the ground screaming in sheer agony, praying for death… and it came within seconds.

The words across the computer screen spelled out,

Q U E S T F A I L E D.

Thoroughly satisfied that the computer program anticipated and sabotaged the final fight sequence of my team, I waited for the response from the guys.
“What the Hell was that, Caz?” Harris asked, my old trusty college roommate, blurted into his microphone headset.

I smiled an evil grin. I watched as Harris’ avatar resurrected itself and stood again in my observation screens. It wasn’t easy monitoring three additional screens plus my own, since I was playing the role of the shaman princess today. Through my headset, a barrage of profanity spewed forth stinging my ears.

If the electrodes worked as anticipated, everything from happiness, satisfaction, shock, disbelief, and horror downloaded in huge data dumps of information on each player for CRAIG . It initially learned each player’s fears by flashing objects, and sounds, and then gaging the player’s reaction to them. If the game could anticipate how the player would act in a certain sequence, CRAIG in theory, could customize a unique playing experience for that gamer by making their levels harder, easier, or scarier depending on their settings. It could create any gaming scenario desired by detecting how each body reacts. My goal was to make the scariest online role-playing game ever, customized to suit the user’s own fears.

I stood up out of my chair and walked to the fridge to grab some water. Ready and eager to interpret my team’s responses, I took a long pull from my glass and brushed my fingers back through my curls. I grabbed a ponytail scrunchie from around the lid of Beano’s biscuit jar and pulled my hair up off my neck.
Briggs, the most colorful gamer in the group, mic’d over my second monitor. “Holy Shit, Caz. I so didn’t see that coming. That bitch was so dead! How did you…?”
A coy, satisfied smile perked into my eyebrow. Okay, so I just sucker-punched my crack software team and they were a little irked. They weren’t anticipating me killing them after they defeated the battle kroc.

Through the excitement and profanity, Roxas mic’d in.“Babe, did you program the beast to explode if we didn’t use a specific death sequence?”

In my third monitor, I watched Roxas as he picked up the exploded bits of his dead avatar and threw them into his virtual garbage can.

I unmuted my mic on my own headset. “Umm . . . well guys. . . you see. . . it’s like this… I needed to test this certain configuration on you to determine what course of action you thought would work to kill the beast. Then, when you didn’t kill it in the right order, the beast still wins.” I heard groans avalanche from all the speakers.

“Dammit woman – that shit is hard. What the hell possessed you to do that?!” Briggs shouted with enough excitement to cause Beano to growl.

Harris chimed right back at him, “Hell yeah it is. But that is what makes our games great. If it’s too easy then our users don’t think they’re getting their monthly subscription value.”

Our company was extremely fortunate to have these guys. Not only were they programming aficionados, but they also had savvy marketing skills and knew how to use both to play well in the sandbox.

Briggs’ excitement continued to carry on now through his marketing mindset, “Do you have any idea how much money that is going to make the bottom line?”

“Yeah Briggs, I actually do. It’s something I’ve been playing around with for some link bait to create this version of the game to become sticky in the search engines. When we publish, or trickle out rather, some helpful hints on the blog – our rankings will peak in the search engine algorithms.”

“Hell ya! Nicely Done m’Lady Caz. Nicely Done.” Briggs said.

I watched in my fourth monitor, where I was running Lady Cazenove’s avatar. Roxas looked at my avatar, the shaman princess, still standing there with poisonous bloody teeth sticking out of her chest.

I typed into the public chat screen [blowkiss/Roxas] This code ran the script for my avatar, Lady Caz, to give his avatar, a sexy smile and gestured blowing him a kiss. That was all the answer he needed to my question of sabotaging the final kill-strike.

Oh how I wish I had the nerve to meet this man in real life. Sighing into my headset, I wondered if I could ever bring myself to meet my online boyfriend.