October 25, 2008

Murder Charge

7:35 AM

If Benjamin Day woke up before nine on a weekday, then something was wrong. It was the ring of his iPhone that pulled him from his sleep, and, confused, he thrashed around in bed and accidentally sent the phone spinning to the floor. Scrambling over the carpet in his boxers, he followed the vague direction of his ringtone and answered the call on his knees.

7:45 AM

It was unusual for Benjamin to write a news post from home. He held his fingers to the keyboard for a long moment but did not begin typing, a commitment he delayed further by pausing to review his schedule for the day.

10:15 AM: Taping "On The Clock" episode w/ Fallout 3 sweatshirt giveaway
11:30 AM: Editorial meeting: Dan's office
12:45 PM: Interview w/ BioWare's Daniel Erickson re: SW: TOR
Compiling 10 reader questions for Mark Rein Q&A re: UT3 exp
Preview: Tomb Raider: Underworld
Feature: The New Old E3?
Feature: Analysis/theories of new First Flight 2 teaser trailer
Feature: Top 5 First Flight Moments [w/ Matt Hannah]
4:30 PM: Empire: Total War event in SF harbor [On pirate ships]
8:30 PM: Ubisoft party: W bar in SF

He wrote the first sentence -- Hard Landing Studios creative director and First Flight lead designer Mark Brandon was arrested last night following a fatal car crash in Marin County -- and took another break.

9:40 AM

The elevator doors parted to reveal Jessie, theatrically frozen in horror. Benjamin's trip to the office was so far containing more drama than he was really comfortable with. With her arms outstretched and her mouth hanging dumbly open; her body language said "Oh my God" in everything but words.
   "Oh my God," she said in words.
   Benjamin stepped out of the elevator, Jessie swiveled on her feet to maintain eye contact.
   "Is he okay?" she asked.
   "I don't know."
   "I mean, was he hurt? Did he get hurt in the crash?"
   "I don't know that."
   Jessie gave him a look, one raised eyebrow and a subtle curl of her lip, and its intent Benjamin couldn't quite decipher.
   "I found out about it, like, this morning, okay. I will, I will try my best to find out later but I don't know anything yet."
   "Was he drunk, what happened?"
   "I don't know anything."
   "What about the guy who died?"
   "I don't know who he was."
   "It was raining last night," Jessie said, and she clasped her hands together and pointed two fingers at Benjamin's face. "That means it could have been an accident."
   Benjamin struggled with her question and finally threw up his hands in defeat.
   "You should ask them that," Jessie persisted.
   "Who should I talk to, Jessie? I wrote the story, I'm going to try and get a quote from Phil, right now I'm doing all I can."
   There was another look; Benjamin knew what that one meant.
   "I have to, you know. I have to go be on this podcast."
   She shrugged with one shoulder. "Go then."

10:20 AM

"You can play the game from that perspective whenever you want, but you won't want to. It's no help in combat and Bethesda is making a 3D shooter, they're taking advantage of 3D space in a way that the older isometric games weren't, right?" Reclining in the leather studio chair, Matt Hannah crossed his legs. "It's one of those things that you can point to and say that there's really no reason for that feature to be in this game other than it was put in there as a, as really a kind of superficial capitulation to fans who don't like how Bethesda is moving away from the more traditional Fallout games that they remember. Having that option doesn't hurt the rest of the game, but why is it in there? I think you have to, and nobody's going to do this, but you have to get these fans to realize that they're not the ones making the game and they shouldn't be trying to participate in its development. But yeah, it's all looking good."
   "Well, let's get through the rest of the news real quick," said Tom, in another chair, shuffling show notes in his hands, "you'll probably know more than we do about this by the time we put this up, but, sadly, we just heard, Mark Brandon, from Hard Landing and lead designer on -- one of the great shooters of 2007, really, First Flight, it was a great game, I think everyone here really loved that game, Mark Brandon, was involved in a car crash -- and Benjamin, you know more about this."
   Benjamin wasn't expecting the transition, nor to deliver expert testimony, and stumbled a little before composing himself.
   "Uh, yeah, last night Mark was driving in, somewhere in Marin, I think, and all we know now is that he did hit someone and, really tragically, that person did, uh, lose their life. We don't know what the circumstances are right now or if he's going to be charged with anything, but we're uh, waiting to hear about all that right now." It was the first thing he had said the entire show after his name. "I think it was raining last night."
   "We're all hoping the best for Mark's family right now," said Tom. "Michael Pachter, yesterday, of the NPD group, is saying that the current economic recession might be good for gaming, and we're going to give our thoughts on that for the rest of this segment."

11:25 AM

"'Our game potentially lost a million copies in sales to piracy on the PC. The big secret in the industry right now that nobody wants to acknowledge is that it has become increasingly untenable to develop for the PC, and going into the future that is not something we are interested in. We have a great relationship with Sony and Microsoft and will continue to develop our games for their platforms. As far as we are concerned, PC gaming is dead.'"
   "What's that?" asked Matt, who was lying on Benjamin's couch checking his text messages.
   "Mark Brandon, from January," said Benjamin, pointing to his monitor even though Matt wasn't looking. "I wrote that story."
   "I'm looking at the forums right now," said Matt. "Have you read them yet?"
   "I don't need to, I know what they're going to say. Most of the posts will just be emoticons and 'wow' at first, and then someone will ask about what's going to happen to First Flight 2, and suggest that their favorite developers should finish it, and some of them will start saying that he had this coming to him basically because he's one of the most candid guys in the industry, which gets him into trouble, and some will say that he deserves it because of his attitude towards the PC. Then they all agree, by page four, that First Flight is suddenly not a good game even though they all had the avatars as little as a month ago."
   Matt caught up on the thread. "You're good at this."
   Benjamin spun around in the chair with no enthusiasm.
   "Guess what the title is. Of the thread. It's 'Brandon: PC Gaming, Guy I Hit With My Car Are Dead'."
   Benjamin reread the old news story, which included a photo of Mark Brandon caught mid-conversation at a press event. He closed the window.
   "You know what?" said Matt. "I don't think they would have deleted my Little Big Planet level if I hadn't put so many dicks in it."

11:50 AM

Dan had been fidgeting with a ballpoint pen for the entire meeting and Benjamin believed it was about to snap and hit someone in the face. "The problem with the game criticism column is nobody likes the game criticism column. All the reader mail we get and everyone on the boards is calling it pretentious and that's the stigma and it's not getting much clicks. I think it's a business decision at this point."
   Benjamin leaned forward onto the table and out of the likely trajectory of the ballpoint pen. "The reason why I wanted to work here, and why I still work here, is I like working with serious people. Why should we pretend we're dumber than we are in exchange for page views?"

12:20 PM

"I can't believe I finally got you on the phone," Benjamin said, sitting back in his office and poised to take down the quote.
   "Yeah, well, the only thing that happened today was our creative director getting arrested for killing somebody, so I definitely have a lot of time to talk to the enthusiast press."
   "What's the quote."
   "Alright, you can say this is from the president of Hard Landing. Steven Wells."
   "I know his name."
   "Are you ready? 'We were saddened to learn of this tragic accident. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and with Mark's family at this difficult time. We are not currently ready to comment on the development of our flagship title First Flight 2. Hard Landing is dedicated to making quality products and will remain so going forward.'"
   "That's it? The part about making quality products?"
   "That is the quote."
   Benjamin shook his head. "Whatever. Thanks."
   "E-mail me if you need anything else, okay?" said the representative. "What happened to Damian? He used to be the only one of you guys I ever heard from."
   "Oh, Damian went to EA. He's in production somewhere, I think."
   "Yeah? Why'd he leave?"
   "He didn't like doing this."

1:10 PM

The post on Star Wars: The Old Republic should have been finished ten minutes ago, but Benjamin had zoned out after trying to think of a third synonym for 'story' that didn't sound like it came from a thesaurus. The noise of an AIM window popping up startled him into focus. It was Jessie, asking him if he knew anything else. For a moment, he wondered what she was talking about. "Is he OK? do you know?" Benjamin responded that he didn't know anything yet. The AIM status bar told him that Jessie was typing a message, and he waited for it, and then she wasn't writing anything anymore.

1:25 PM

Benjamin appeared in Dan's office, bracing himself against the doorway. "Three hours ago Mark Brandon made bail."
   Dan looked up from his desk. "So what? Did you put that in the news post?"
   "Why would it be such a weird thing? I mean, is there something I'm not seeing? What is wrong with us picking up the phone and talking to Mark Brandon? We have no idea what happened, we don't even know if he's okay. I don't want to be in that position. Maybe it would be weird, maybe it would, but don't you think it's a good idea? Talking to him? Don't you think?" He paused, swallowed. "I feel very strongly about this."

2:25 PM

"Here's... here's the... here's the thing..." Benjamin murmured, tentatively using the silence on the phone as a mic check. The name of the firm was Foster & Samson, and they didn't have hold music. This was minute seven.
   "Here's the thing, started out friends," Gradually raising his voice above a squeak to a falsetto, "it was cool, it was all pretend, yeah yeah." Air drumming with his free hand.
   "Since you've been gone, I can breathe for the first time," Closed his eyes. "I'm so over you, YEAH..."
   "This is Nadine Campbell."
   "Good afternoon, my name is Benjamin Day, I'm the news editor for a website called GameTime dot com, we cover video games and the game industry. I spoke to a woman named Claire?"
   "Yes, she told me who you are." It was an older woman's voice, with kind of a husky quality to it. Benjamin guessed that Nadine Campbell was a smoker, and this made him feel like a detective.
   "Alright, what I was hoping, what we were hoping for is to do an interview, or a Q&A with Mark Brandon, who's..."
   "No, I don't think that's a good idea."
   "Wait, listen," said Benjamin, leaning closer into the receiver, and speaking faster, "he knows us, Mark knows us, we've done interviews with him before, we gave his last game a ten, okay, that means a lot, we have a great relationship. So please, just, before you say no, please ask him about this, please run it by him because I know Mark, he'll want to do it. Don't you have a responsibility to run this past your, your client?" He gripped the phone cord. "I would think, actually, I would think that it would be a good thing if he got a chance to talk to a press outlet that was, you know, sympathetic, and knew who he was and he'd be able to present his side of the story. It'd, you know, we could see him in a good light, because right now we don't know what's going on and there are a lot of questions out there, right? He will want a chance to talk. To us. He would think that would be a good idea, please ask him. He'll say yes."
   Nadine stifled a cough. Smoker.
   "I'll tell him that Gamer Time wants an interview."
   "No no no," Benjamin said hurriedly, "not GamerTime, it's GameTime, no 'r'. That's a totally different site and if you say Game-ER Time he won't know what you're talking about and won't do it. Also, there's a gametime dot blogspot, don't say that one either. It's Game... end of word... Time. GameTime."
   "Good, thank you." She hung up. "Good, good phone call."

3:00 PM

"Obviously, I could just make a new level," said Matt, who was sprawled out in Dan's office chair and gesturing at the ceiling fan, "or make a sanitized version of my old level, because I really did like that one, and aside from all the sexual elements, I thought it was a really tight design. But making a cleaned-up version seems like such a surrender. I don't know. What do you think?"
   Benjamin considered it carefully. "What?"
   Dan was pacing in and out of his own office as if he was a courier whose route was the corridor.
   Benjamin tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair. "I wonder what I should wear."
   "Just show up like you are now, man, it's good."
   Dan walked in. "What are you guys talking about?"
   "Ben wants to know what he should wear," said Matt, raising his voice as Dan walked out again.
   "Wear a suit," Dan said, heading back around his desk.
   Benjamin turned up his nose. "I haven't had to wear a suit since my bar mitzvah."
   "I'm serious," said Matt, "wear what you've got on now." The three men took in Benjamin's outfit: jeans and a brown flannel shirt hanging unbuttoned over a New Pornographers t-shirt.
   "That," Matt continued, "will say to Mark, 'hey, man, it's all good. Nothing to worry about. It's casual.' You show up wearing a suit, that'll freak him out."
   "You'll wear a suit," Dan decided.
   "I don't have one."
   "You can rent them from the place across the street," Matt offered.
   "They rent tuxedos, Matt. Ben is not going to his interview in a tuxedo. Get a suit off one of the guys in advertising, then. Those guys are dorks."

3:15 PM

The call came when he was at the urinal. In three messy seconds, he zipped up, backed away to the sink and answered the iPhone, forgetting to wash his hands in between.
   "Hello," he said, staring into the bathroom mirror.
   On the phone was Nadine Campbell, who explained the situation to him in a clipped cadence that Benjamin found difficult to follow over his pounding heart and clammy, unsanitary palms. They had talked to Mark Brandon, she said, and Benjamin should be at the Foster & Samson offices at five o'clock. She gave him an address in Redmond City and told him to come to the seventh floor reception. Benjamin asked if he needed a lanyard; Nadine's response indicated that he would not.
   "I told you," said Benjamin with sudden confidence, gloating at his own reflection. "I knew it, I said if you talk to him, he'd say that he wants to do it. Right? Tell me what he said."
   "He said he didn't care."

3:30 PM

"Do you think he was high?"
   Benjamin and Matt were convened in Dan's office, with Bryan Tse, who'd asked the question, slouched up against the wall.
   "Absolutely he was high," said Dan, who was reading a magazine. "It's Mark Brandon, he was high or drunk or on something. First thing you learn in this business, Mark Brandon is a party animal."
   Matt screwed up his face like a cat and made his hands into claws. "RAWR!"
   "This is why I don't drink," Dan continued. "Because of something dangerous like this happening."
   "Dan, we drink all the time," Benjamin said, "and we don't do anything dangerous. When I get drunk I volunteer for public service."
   Bryan sat down. "Make sure you ask Mark if he was drinking."
   Benjamin shook his head. "We shouldn't ask him about that. Because what if he was? The guy is under siege, and not to mention he attracts enough controversy on his own, right? I don't want to be the one to get him in even more trouble. We should be on his side with this. I mean, in the entire, uh, legal system, is there anyone in there who understands him more than we do? We know him, we get him, I think we have a responsibility here not to throw him under the bus."

3:55 PM

"You can't go to the Ubisoft party in that."
   "No, it's cool, I'll head straight there after the interview." Benjamin was sporting a charcoal suit with a pressed blue shirt. He spun around, craning his head to check out the back of the jacket. "I wish we had a mirror in here."
   "You look like an FBI agent," said Matt. "They'll think you're there to bust someone."
   "This is great, it even almost fits me. It's a little big."
   "'Hi guys, it's me, Ben.' 'Fuck, it's the Feds. Shoot him.'"
   "I didn't know these came with shoulder pads! I want to wear this every day."
   Benjamin twirled again with his arms spread wide, and when he'd turned all the way around, Jessie was in his office standing next to Matt. His arms dropped to his side instantly.
   "This is so cool that you're doing this," she said. She'd come into his office with Angela, the new girl, but it had taken Benjamin an extra second to register her. She was shorter. "Ask him if he's okay, alright?"
   "Hey," said Benjamin, taking a step towards Jessie, "do you know how to tie this? I haven't had to wear a suit in fifteen years." He had a red and black striped tie in his hand.
   "Sorry, no," she shook her head, smiling, "I don't."
   "I can do it," Angela said, and she took the tie from his hand and tucked it under his collar. Benjamin bent his knees to accommodate her diminutive stature.
   "I used to work at an EB," she said as she draped one end over the other, "and all the guys there had to wear those game ties and they didn't know how to tie them either."
   Benjamin glanced at Jessie. She laughed. Angela tightened the knot around Benjamin's neck and smoothed down the collar.

4:25 PM

Benjamin checked his Twitter account on the bus to Redmond City. Balancing his shoulder bag on his knees, he signed in under the screenname ben_day and fired off a quick message: 'Ubisoft party TONIGHT. Great way to end the week.'

5:10 PM

Surrounded by mood-lit suede furniture, potted plants, a water cooler and panoramas of skylines and lakes, Benjamin Day sat on the couch reading his Twitter feed. He remembered the receptionist's name was Claire; she was about his age, with short blond hair and glasses, and that was really all he knew about Claire from what little he could see of her over the desk. She was answering phones: "Foster and Samson. Yes. Yes, let me put you on hold. Thank you."
   "No hold music," Benjamin whispered.
   Claire glanced up, which caught Benjamin's eye, and they watched an immaculately-dressed woman walk out of the hallway. The lawyer was probably in her late forties, with her hair pinned up. Slight lines were etched around her mouth and the corners of brown eyes. Her black suit and starched-white shirt were offset by the delicate chain of gold hanging around her neck. Her suit, Benjamin noted, fit her.
   "Mr. Day," she extended her hand, "Nadine Campbell, we spoke on the phone."
   Benjamin stood up, picking his bag up from the carpet and shook her hand. "Hi." He assumed she was about to lead him to her office, and took a step forward, almost crashing into Nadine who had remained standing.
   "So here's what you should know," she said. "You will have fifteen minutes with Mr. Brandon and myself. Mr. Brandon will answer only the questions I advise him to. Any story you plan on publishing which contains quotes from this interview you must first submit to me for approval. You may not use any kind of digital or tape recorder; you may take notes. Is that clear?"
   "Can you write shorthand? Claire knows shorthand, don't you, Claire?"
   "Yes, ma'am."
   "I'll, uh," Benjamin shifted his weight. "That all sounds fine with me."
   "Good. Follow me, then."
   Nadine led Benjamin down the corridor, as Claire turned her attention to a ringing phone.
   "Foster and Samson, this is Claire."
   They stopped at an unmarked office door, where Nadine rested her hand on the doorknob and looked back at Benjamin.
   "One of my colleagues will be sitting in, I hope that's fine with you too."
   "It's okay," Benjamin said, "PR handlers sit in on my interviews all the time, it's no big deal."
   "Alright, then," she said, and she opened the door.

5:16 PM

The other lawyer, a heavy and unhealthy-seeming person, eyed Benjamin as he came in. They were wearing the same tie. He stood in the corner of the room, which was empty except for a small mahogany table and not enough chairs for four people. Benjamin took a seat, opening his bag on his lap and digging out a notepad and pen. Nadine sat opposite him, and laid her hands on the table, fingers interlocked. Benjamin clicked on his pen and looked at the last person in the room.
   "How are you doing?"
   Everything about Mark Brandon looked new except for his face. He had showered recently and stepped into a nice blue shirt which probably still had the price tag attached. His eyes, and the pallor of his skin, said that he had not slept in two days. There were, Benjamin saw, bruises on his hands.
   "How are you doing?" he repeated.
   Mark shook his head lightly. "I don't know."
   Benjamin glanced over at Nadine, staring coldly back at him.
   "Um," he said, waving his pen back and forth over the paper but not actually writing anything, "do you know what the charges are going to be?"
   Nadine interjected: "That's something you should ask the Marin County police department." Mark's eyes drifted off towards the floor.
   "Do you know," asked Benjamin, "how this will affect the development of your game in the short-term?"
   "No," Mark said. "I can't say. I don't know what will happen to that. That isn't my decision."
   "You should refer that question to Mr. Brandon's employer," Nadine added.
   At Benjamin's look, she tilted her head unsympathetically, as if to ask what did you expect?
   "Okay," said Benjamin, checking his notes, "is there anything you want to say to the fans of your games? To the people who know you?"
   "You don't have any, like, message?"
   Mark struggled with the question for a minute, then said quietly, "I made a mistake and I want to, uh..."
   Benjamin waited as Mark trailed off.
   "I'm sorry for letting everyone down," he said flatly.
   "Do you, uh," Benjamin began, watching Nadine, "do you want to say anything also to the family of the person who, uh, lost their life."
   Mark frowned. "We're not going to be addressing that today," said Nadine.
   "Okay, well, then," Benjamin detected irritation in his own voice. "Can you tell me how it happened?"
   "The accident," pressed Benjamin, "can you tell me about the accident."
   Mark appeared to think it over, he scratched at his neck and chewed on a thumbnail while not looking at Benjamin, then he folded his hands over the table and kept his head down. "I was, it was after work," he said, "and I was with some friends until about ten thirty. I think it was between ten thirty and eleven, I was with them and I didn't leave until it was late. I didn't, or I wasn't going to call my wife, I was just, uh. I was driving back home and it was on some street, where it was dark maybe because a streetlamp was out or because it was eleven o'clock and it was dark, and what I didn't... what I didn't..." Mark exhaled and his previously unsteady voice solidified into monotone. "The car hit something, and it threw me up against the steering wheel and knocked my head against the door, and so the car swerved a little bit and then there was another noise that I heard. I stopped the car and I took my hands off the steering wheel and undid my seatbelt. I opened the door and stepped out and I walked in front of the car and I couldn't see very well because it was dark and the headlights were very bright and glaring in my face, but I saw some kind of a dent, or a mark on the hood of the car. I looked around the street and by the right of the car there was a man lying on the ground and I think that perhaps the car had hit his legs because they were bent back. It looked like he had fallen and hit his head on the sidewalk. I don't know when, exactly, that he died, but there was already blood there. I wasn't sure what time it was but I called for an ambulance and I don't remember what I said to them. It seemed like it took them a while to show up but I don't remember waiting for them. I was sitting in my car with the door open and I think I kept the lights on and the engine running, which I shouldn't have done. Then the ambulance was there and they picked him up off the ground."
   Benjamin had his eyes locked on his notepad, where more than anything he wanted not to look at the face of Nadine Campbell.
   "Do, uh," he started, the pen almost slipping out of his hands, "do you have any message that you maybe want to give to the gamers who are your fans."
   "You asked that question already," he heard Nadine say.
   "Alright, well, let me find one of my additional questions," he said, flicking through the pages.
   "I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday/Parking by the lake there was not another car in sight..."
   Nadine looked at Benjamin evenly. "What is that."
   "And I never had a girl looking any better than you did..."
   "That's me, I'm sorry," said Benjamin, reaching into his coat pocket. "And all the kids at school they were wishing they were me that night." He checked his caller ID; it was Matt. "And our bodies were oh so close and tight..."
   "Excuse me, I have to take this." He answered it. "Hello?"
   "Hey, it's me. Guess what, they're saying they might put my Little Big Planet level back in and all I have to do is take out the swinging platforms that look like swinging dicks."
   "Okay, thank you," said Benjamin, and hung up. "Now let's get back to the questions."
   He started writing in the notebook and pointed a finger at Mark. "Mark, let me ask you, have you softened your stance regarding PC piracy at all?"
   Mark shifted in his seat. "Not, uh, not really I guess. If you talk to a lot of developers, that's still something everybody is struggling with."
   "Can you comment on whether First Flight 2 will be a prequel? That's the theory judging by a lot of the shots in the teaser."
   "I don't think Hard Landing is ready to talk about that yet."
   "Okay, and," Benjamin said quickly, "can I ask you about the ending of First Flight because I'm sure you know to a lot of people that was a disappointment, especially the difficulty spike, and if you didn't do the mission for Cryer and get the sniper mod, you were screwed..."
   "Alright," said Nadine, standing up. "This is over, I think? Yes, Mr. Day, please go and wait outside for me, do that right now."
   Mark turned his head to the floor, avoiding Benjamin's gaze. He put the notepad back in his bag and got up to leave.

5:32 PM

There was a photograph of San Francisco on the wall, with the evening sun suspended high over the skyline. Somehow it held Benjamin's attention until Nadine threw open the door behind him.
   "This was a stupid thing," she snapped, "I thought that..."
   "I'm sorry if I said something silly," he said, facing her, "I apologize. I'm sorry if I did something to make it a joke, I'm really sorry, I am, but I have to get back in there, please let me talk to him. It's really important. I need to do that. I can help him, there's so much I know about him, and things you should know, there are stories about him and drugs, and please if I could just get to talk to him. I want to be in there and talking to him, I think, please let me finish, I think that I really could help, it's so important. Please. I want to help. Please. I'm sorry. I have to go back in there."
   Nadine waited for him to run out of breath. "What are you doing?" she said.
   He shook his head like he didn't understand the question. "What?"
   "I let you do this because I thought you would take it seriously."
   "I do take it seriously, that's..."
   "Then what are you doing here?"
   "I do take it seriously," he said quietly. His eyes stung.
   Nadine watched him with crossed arms. "Last Monday," she said, as she slipped a hand into her inside jacket pocket, "there was a client who, driving home in the afternoon, spun out on a wet road and crashed." She produced a business card, which she held up between two fingers.
   "His wife was in the passenger seat. She was killed instantly. Their two sons were in the back seat, and they died within hours. The man was considered lucky to escape with multiple fractured ribs. Then he wakes up in the hospital to find out that his deceased wife's parents are talking about pressing charges. Against him. That happened on Monday. Can you imagine how much happens here in one day? I have been doing this for twenty years." She turned the business card between her fingers. "If Mark Brandon goes to court, he will be represented by an exceedingly competent and qualified legal team. What I need to happen now is for you not to try and do my job for me. You have your role and I have mine."
   Nadine offered her card to Benjamin. "Is that clear."
   Benjamin hesitantly pried it from her fingers and ran his thumb over the embossed title. "Can I just ask you one question."
   "Off the record?"
   "Is he okay?"
   "No, he isn't."
   When he looked back from the door to Nadine's face, she nodded: yes, it's time to leave.

5:40 PM

Five people came down in the elevator, all immediately recognizable by their dress as professionals. As they exited into the lobby, two of the men accidentally bumped shoulders. "Oh, I'm sorry, excuse me," said the one man to Benjamin Day, and individually, they all filtered outside into the thoroughfare.

7:25 PM

"So now I'm praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive/cause if I gotta spend another minute with you/I don't think that I can really survive/I'll never break my promise or forget my vow/but God only knows what I can do right now/I'm praying for the end of..."
   "Hey, Ben, it's Dan, you finally picked up."
   "Yeah, sorry." Benjamin unlocked the door to apartment 8E. "What's up."
   "We're about to leave for the party, are you coming back here or going straight there?"
   "Oh, I don't know."
   "Matt and Jessie left already, they scouted ahead to see if the W has a karaoke machine."
   "Yeah. No, that sounds like fun." He flicked the light switch and closed the door behind him. "You know what, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it. Something came up at the last minute."
   "What happened?"
   "Oh, it's... you know, I'll tell you on Monday." Shaking the bag off his shoulder, it slid onto the glass coffee table and pushed his PS3 controller to the floor.
   "Hey, so how did the interview go?"
   "It went okay. There's some stuff we can use."
   "That's great, that's really great. I don't mean to pressure you about this, but when do you think it can go up?" Benjamin held the phone away from his ear for a second as he struggled to loosen his tie. "I wouldn't usually ask except it's such an important story and an exclusive, too. Do you think you can get it up soon?"
   Benjamin flopped into the armchair by the window, where, if he angled his head just right, he could see the sky. "Well, I'm not sure. Maybe there's something we can do."


Steve gaynor said...

I'm blown away. What a strange and well-imagined scenario. The writing is great.

Side notes: the abrupt first Little Big Planet line got a big laugh out of me, and the twitter tie-in is a nice touch.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty Goddamn great. Well done.

Ben Abraham said...

Just adding my voice to the chorus of "this is awesome".

Anonymous said...

I've gotta say this is an absolutely amazing piece of writing. It isn't the only piece of writing in your blog I think is amazing, to be honest ive been reading your blog on a daily basis for some months now and I still think it is one of the/if not the best gaming blog out there.
Keep it up with the great work.

Anonymous said...

Tangentially, Duncan, November is National Novel Writing Month.

Matthew Gallant said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. It really feels like you captured a moment in time.

Duncan said...

Matthew: Well shit, if I'd known that, I would have posted this in six days.

Alex P said...


Alex P said...

No, just kidding. That was fucking amazing, as always, Duncan.

For those of us working in the industry, it was surreal, yet all-too-familiar, unsettling, yet oddly endearing.

And yes, the LBP line was epic.

Alex P said...

@ matthew

Yeah, but the word limit is 50,000.

Duncan said...

It's not THAT long. Well, yes, it is, completely.

You guys are too kind. Thank you!

qrter said...

It is very good. I'd like to hear/read more from Benjamin Day's life, or perhaps the people around him.

Duncan said...

qrter: This is perhaps not what you meant, but... http://twitter.com/ben_day

qrter said...

Ha! Not exactly, but it's a nice addition. :)