Not so far in the future, computer games are worlds of hurt. Literally. Paingames have become the ultimate test of machisimo...without the broken noses and cauliflower ears. Painless adventures are for wimps, small children and the comatose.
In this hard-charging tale, a professional paingame testpilot named Axel Varden gets way more than the usual thugs, treasures and torments when he's hired to test out the exotic alien setting of a new paingame called Naked in the Blue Jungle. For Axel it becomes the test of his life...and his death.
Some years back my software engineer brother Scott and I had the good fortune to work on several computer game projects for clients. They were action games with real stories and realistic video footage; a lot of money got spent on them before weird "externalities" pulled their plugs just prior to hitting the marketplace. Don't you hate it when that happens? We sure did.
So intense were these projects (Simutron, in particular) that the evolving possibilities of computers, artificial intelligence (or "CI" for Created Intelligence) and gaming have never been far from my mind since then.
The idea of artificially stimulating pain sensors in the brain for various unkind purposes is hardly a new one and I've shamelessly used it in my novels. But the genesis of this short story was wondering if anybody (other than self-flagellating zealots and S & M types) would voluntarily subject themselves to the prospect of intense agonies just for the fun of it. One answer came to me immediately: gamers. Any maniacal gamers reading this beware: this kind of stuff could be in your future.
Because this story takes place in the Nevergate Era, some readers may recognize a certain seven-letter word for a type of "divinator" that appears in my two series.
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