The Games Journalist woke.
Dawn cast a dull light into their room, a nearly empty square coloured light beige. The Games Journalist lay on a thin mattress on the floor, covered by a thin grey rug. While waiting for full consciousness to return, they surveyed the room – bare walls, vacant floor, one chair in a corner where the only clothes the Game Journalist owned were efficiently stacked. A glass of water was placed close to the bed; in the far corner was a chamber pot.
In slow, deliberate movements the Game Journalist rose, heading towards the chamber pot. Fasting for the past three days to maintain spiritual purity meant that that only liquid waste needed to be considered. Dabbing after expelling that short, concentrated stream saw the Games Journalist absently brush against the scar where their key pleasure organs used to be. Only functional genitals now remained.
Gaming purity requires sacrifices be made.
After pushing the chamber pot slightly further into its corner, the Games Journalist turned and headed towards the clothes. Cotton underwear, tan. Long cloth pants, also tan. A long-sleeved turtleneck top coloured taupe. Each item of clothing was swiftly pulled on and straightened, with an end result that was genderless in appearance.
The Gaming Journalist was ready. Today was Review Day.
There was only one way into this room – a crème door, locked from the outside. The Gaming Journalist stood and waited patiently for it to open.
The familiar click from the other side told them it would not be long. As the crème door pulled back, the space it created was filled with the graven-faced Editor. One hand pulled open the door; the other held a glass of sheer white cow’s milk.
They did not speak. Neither individual would ever wish to breach so holy a moment with something as vulgar as words. To do so would have been a gross breach of protocol and seen as a potential attempt to bias what was to come.
The Editor handed the Games Journalist the milk. It would be the only sustenance that the Games Journalist would have to rely on through what was to come. The glass was lifted up, examined and cautiously sniffed. History told tales of terrible Publishers adding sugar to the milk in an attempt to buy favour, of Public Relators who dropped baubles and gewgaws into the milk to stand out. Nothing had slipped through this time. The Games Journalist drank the untainted milk in three short gulps.
Wordlessly the Games Journalist placed the empty glass on the chair, then stood. Following a moment’s hesitation, the Editor removed the blindfold from within their turtleneck and tied it around the Games Journalist’s eyes. The Games Journalist then felt the ear muffs cut off all external sound in the world.
There would be no possibility of advertising influencing the Games Journalist on the walk to the Review Room. No siren song of theme jingle or flash of banner ad could distract them, corrupt them from their purpose.
It was a familiar journey for the Games Journalist. Guided by the Editor’s hand on their shoulder, the Games Journalist already knew the way.
Their path did not take long to complete. The Games Journalist stood motionless as the ear muffs and blindfold was removed. This Review Room was the same size as a sleeping chamber, empty except for a large screen and a white box that covered the gaming platform being used. The Games Journalist was not allowed to see the platform being used today in case it influenced their Review. The white box had some holes cut in either side where the Games Journalist could put their hands in and use the controller without ever being influenced by the sight of it.
The Games Journalist would not need to look, such was the training they had received.
On top of the white box was a pencil and a single sheet of blank paper. This was where the Review would be recorded.
The Editor finished stuffing the blindfold and earmuffs back into their turtleneck. For a second the Games Journalist and Editor shared a moment of eye contact, then a brief nod passed between them. The Review could begin.
The Games Journalist sat on the bare floor, extending their arms into the white box, while the Editor pressed a button on the side of the screen to turn it on. As the screen warmed itself into activity, the Editor made their way out of the room, shutting the door behind them. There was the scratch and thud of the bolts being moved into place, locking the door from the outside.
The Games Journalist could only leave once the Review was finished. All other earthly requirements would be subsumed by the need, the discipline, to complete the Game in front of them.
Years of experience allowed the Game Journalist to keep emotions in check – there was no excitement, no anticipation, no sense of joy or criticism existed.
It was only the Game that was and the Review that would be.