Please remember those without Avitars this Holiday Season
A Gamer Carol
An ignominious parody – by Mark Hansen
Stave 1 - FLGS’s Ghost
FLGS was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
Dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? They were partners.
However, Scrooge never repaired the store, never fixed the broken windows, or changed the old displays.
Oh! But he was as stingy and frustrated as a bitter gamer wife, was Scrooge! an analysis paralysis, rule mongering, sore-losing old cheater! No game ever excited him, no win ever pleased him
But what did Scrooge care! Gamer or non-gamer alike, he said “humbug” to them all.
Yet one Christmas eve Scrooge sat counting his quarterly profits. It was cold, bleak biting, foggy weather; and the mall clocks had only just gone five, but it was quite dark already.
The door of Scrooge's office was open, that he might keep his eye upon his salesman, who, in a dismal little store beyond, was arranging boxes.
At closing an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool.
"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?"
"If quite convenient, sir."
"It is not convenient, and it's not fair.”
"It's only once a year, sir."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December! But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning."
The salesman promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl.
At home, dressed in his slippers and nightcap, he sat before a low fire taking his gruel. From deep down below came a clacking noise, as if some person were dragging heavy boxes full of wooden bits and cardboard chits.
Then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.
It came on through the heavy door, and a spectre passed into the room before his eyes – FLGS’s ghost!
"How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"
"Much!" -- FLGS's voice, no doubt about it.
"Mercy! Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me? Why do brick and mortar stores walk the earth?"
Fettered with MSRPs and poor selection, shaking monopoly spin-offs by the dozen, FLGS was terrible to behold.
“Games were my business. The common player was my business; cards, boards, dice, meeples, were all my business. These were the dealings of my trade but were squandered, a life wasted – spent in greed for money instead of the joy of gaming. I forged this chain sale by sale, discount cap by discount cap. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Your own chain was this long seven Christmases ago, you have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain!”
Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.
"Hear me! My time is nearly gone."
"I am here to-night to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping."
"You were always a good friend to me. Thank'ee!"
"You will be haunted by Three Spirits."
"Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, FLGS? I -- I think I'd rather not."
"Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.”
“Couldn’t I have ‘em all at once and have done with it,” hinted Scrooge.
“Expect the first at the stroke of One.”
Then FLGS walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that, when the apparition reached it, it was wide open.
Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, as he had locked it with his own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed. Scrooge tried to say, "Humbug!" but stopped at the first syllable.
He then went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep on the instant.
Stave 2 – The First of Three Spirits
WHEN Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that, looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber, until suddenly the church clock tolled a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE.
"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?"
"Who and what are you?"
"I am the Ghost of Childhood Gaming."
Scrooge then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
"Your welfare. Rise, and walk with me!"
They passed through the house wall and into the city, which disappeared behind them. Appearing upon an open country road, the site was immediately familiar.
“Good Heavens!” said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, “I was a boy here. Played my first games here – Candy Land and Mouse Trap. As a lad I adored those games, had such fond times and good memories.”
“Your lip is quivering,” said the Ghost, “And what is that upon thy cheek?”
Scrooge muttered, “A melted snowflake nothing more. Lead on.”
The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.
"Know it! Was I apprenticed here!"
They went in. At sight of a guru gamer, slightly pale from too much time indoors, Scrooge cried in great excitement: "Why, it's old Fezziwig! Bless his heart, it's Fezziwig, he taught me so many new games. Would allow anyone to try out a game before they bought it. Oh, Fezziwig. He had the most wonderful giveaway contests and bargains."
“Such a small thing, to make people happy,” said the Ghost.
“I shouldn’t say small, it cost him a good fortune.”
“A silly thing then, to make such gratitude.”
“Not silly, just not good business.”
"My time grows short," observed the Spirit. "Look!"
A large box laid open, with colorful artwork and amazing bits – HeroScape, Scrooge’s first true gaming love, so bright and full of life, left for other ambitions, never to be played again
"Spirit! remove me from this place."
"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost.
"That they are what they are, do not blame me!"
"Torture me no longer!" Scrooge exclaimed. "I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no further!"
As he struggled with the Spirit he was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness.
Stave 3 – The Second of Three Spirits
SCROOGE awoke in his bedroom. There was no doubt about that. The walls and ceiling were stacked with boxes. Card and dexterity games lined the mantel. Heaped upon the floor, to form a kind of throne were wooden blocks, houses, and figures, tiles and rule booklets. Sitting on top was the next Spirit.
"Come in, -- come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Gateway Gaming. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!"
"Never. I mean I don't think I have.. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?"
"More than eighteen hundred."
"A tremendous family! Spirit, conduct me where you will. You seem to offer such promise and bounty."
"Touch my robe!"
Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.
The room and its contents all vanished instantly, and they stood in the city streets upon a snowy evening.
Scrooge and the Ghost passed on, invisible, straight Bob Cratchit’s house. A small abode indeed; the family was gathered around a few faded and torn second hand games. A smallish boy clutched a broken pawn in hand – a likeable child, Tinny Tim was.
“A bounty indeed. Are we all playing? Yes?”
Which all the family re-echoed.
"Game on and good luck!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
He sat very close to his father's side, upon his little stool. Holding tightly his prized meeple as if afraid to losing it.
"Mr. Scrooge," said Bob; "the benefactor of this gaming feasts!"
"The benefactor of this feast indeed!" cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. "I wish I had him here I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."
"My dear," said Bob, "the children! Its Game Night."
"It should be Game Night, I am sure," said she, "on which one plays to the health of such a odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling gamer as Mr. Scrooge.
“Tis a meager game night,” intoned the Spirit.
“I give him a five percent discount,” stammered Scrooge.
“They will never know the true joy of Euros at those rates.”
The children picked their colors and selected the first player. The gaming was somber, and difficult without all the pieces. But the family was hearty and made up house rules, the image faded with the gong of the clock.
Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it no more. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old FLGS, and, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him.
Stave 4 – The Last of the Spirits
THE Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Gamming Prototypes? Unpublished games to come! I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"
It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.
"Lead on! Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!"
They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them. The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of gamers.
“What will they do with all his games?” asked a fat gamer.
"Return them to the publishers I suppose,” said another.
“Who do they speak of?” inquired Scrooge.
But the Spirit did not answer.
Then the scene melted away, like smoke carried on the wind.
Before them was a small retirement home. A lone figure hunkered over a table, a blanket draped over his shoulders, full of holes.
“Will no one play with him?” whispered a nurse.
An older caretaker shook his head. The two walked away.
The old man, alone and forgotten, plays endless games of solitaire. Cards bend and completely faded, flip out over and over.
"Spectre," said Scrooge, " Tell me who this man is, so wretched a figure.”
The Ghost points for Scrooge to look.
"Before I draw near, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?"
Still the Ghost pointed onwards.
"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and, following the finger, the leathery face before him was no other than his own – Ebenezer Scrooge.
"Am I that man? No, Spirit! O no, no! Spirit! hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope? Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life."
For the first time the kind hand faltered.
"I will honor gaming in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in Childhood gaming, Gateways, and Prototypes. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. O, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
Holding up his hands in one last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Stave 5 – The End of It
Yes, and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist, no night; clear, bright, stirring, golden day.
"What's to-day?" cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
"What's to-day, my fine fellow?"
"To-day! Why, CHRISTMAS DAY."
"It's Christmas day! I haven't missed it. Hallo, my fine fellow!"
"Do you know the Game Den, in the next street but one, at the corner?"
"I should hope I did."
"An intelligent boy! A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize board game that was hanging up there? Not the little prize one, - the big Fantasy Flight one?"
"What, the one as big as me?"
"What a delightful boy! It's a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!"
"It's sitting there now."
"Is it? Go and buy it."
"Walk-ER!" exclaimed the boy.
"No, no, I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell 'em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I'll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes, and I'll give you half a crown!"
The boy was off like a shot.
"I'll send it to Bob Cratchit's! He sha'n't know who sends it. It's twice the size of Tiny Tim.”
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT lose his games, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as gamer as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him; but his own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.
May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, "Game on to us all and good luck!"
- Last edited Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:13 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Dec 9, 2007 11:40 pm