“I’ve been playing this game for a while,” murmurs local gamer Tyler Providence, mere hours before coming to the conclusion that death’s cold embrace is the only true solace this lonely world can give him. “I think I’m getting pretty good at it. Maybe I’ll dip my toe into the ranked system, see how it works out. I’m sure it can’t be that bad.”
With the press of a button, Tyler has to wait less than a minute before the game locks him into a murky, claustrophobic pre-game lobby with nine other now-damned souls. There can be no turning back: if he walks away now, the game will strike him with an automatic loss. Naively, he attempts to alleviate the pressure to succeed by selecting his favorite character, only to be helpfully informed by a teammate that this character sucks shit and so does he.
Tyler tries to play for the objective, only to find that his teammates abandon it to pursue 1v5s, then flame him for not assisting with their inane ventures. Providence is baffled: he foolishly thought he had queued up to fight the opposing team. His teammates sling insults that cut to the core of Tyler’s very being, sadistic fury matched only by their boundless creativity. One player is crossfaded. One linked their Twitch stream at the beginning of the match. Another’s name is a carefully crafted string of icons and characters that spell out the N-word, which he then proceeds to relentlessly spam in chat.
The game, which had been perfectly winnable from the get-go, ends. Breathless and confused, uncertain of his place in the world, Providence sits at his desk, staring at his keyboard. Finally, listlessly, he walks to the kitchen, gets a drink. And another one. He finds himself standing in the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror, bottle of pills in hand.
“Oh, wait, Valorant is out,” he says, a smile of relief blooming across his face. “That’ll make me feel better.”