The Games Master
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, more than a young blue Shoyru, like me, should have. Especially once the Games Master Challenge started once again.
I had never really liked Aristotle A. Avinroo, and it was no secret. In fact, it was also no secret that he never liked me either. It was probably for the same reason none of you like the conceited Blumaroo; he’s self-centered and arrogant. I should know. I went to school with him.
It was about three years ago. AAA wasn’t nearly the legendary gamer he is now. Hey, even though I don’t like him, he is still Neopia’s best gamer, am I right? But he was still pretty good back then, most likely the best in our fifth grade class. After me, that is.
You see, he and I were pretty much matched in our gaming abilities. So, naturally, there was a huge rivalry between him and me. And let me just say, his attitude hasn’t changed much in the past three years. We were always challenging each other. When we weren’t, we could usually be found glaring at each other.
We each had our strengths and our weaknesses. Action games were my strength. I was always either getting on the high score tables for Hannah and the Ice Caves, Petpet Rescue, or Pterattack, or I was talking to my friends about a secret level I’d unlocked on one of the games. I’d never realized it before, but I think my friends could honestly have cared less about the stuff I was talking about; they were probably tired of hearing my stories. Maybe if I’d been more subtle with my gaming expertise, none of this would have happened. I was a bit bigheaded then, I’ll admit that.
As for AAA, his strength was puzzle games. He could complete a level of Spell-Or-Starve faster than anyone could, even some of the teachers. He, like me, liked to talk about all the levels he had mastered, but he had almost no friends to tell that to. No one wanted to listen to him because he would make you feel like a hopeless dunce because of the way he talked. He would always say to the whole room, “I could be on difficult mode on Kou-Jong with you on easy mode AND have my eyes closed AND only make a move once a minute and I would STILL beat you!” I don’t know, I guess people just got tired of hearing it, or maybe they just wanted to knock AAA off his self-proclaimed throne, but a quarter of the way through the year, half the class came to me.
“Hey, Kyle,” said shadow Techo named Ryan who was one of the more popular guys in the class.
I looked up from my book, Game Guide: Pterattack.
“We’re tired of hearing AAA gloating all the time!” exclaimed Colby, a red Korbat. He was probably the smartest one in my class.
I didn’t know what they wanted from me, so I said nothing.
“Look,” Ryan said. He sounded sort of annoyed, “We all want to see the ‘Games Master’” he put air quotes around Games Master, “get beaten. It would teach him to keep his mouth shut. All you gotta do is officially challenge him to a game and settle this once and for all.”
“Why me?” I asked, bewildered.
“’Cause you’re the next best gamer. You’re the only one who has a shot at winning!” explained Jake, a cloud Moehog, also one of my best friends.
There were lots of mumbles of agreement to that statement.
“So, you in?” Ryan demanded.
I hesitated. Finally I said, “Sure.”
A small cheer rose from the crowd. Some of them high-fived me as they walked away. It was kind of cool really. Until I realized someone was watching me.
Sitting two tables away was AAA, and let’s just say he didn’t look thrilled that I was going to be challenging him to an official game challenge. He looked downright angry. He began to walk over.
No, I thought desperately. Please just go away. But before I knew it, he was standing at the head of the table with his hands on his hips, kind of like my mom does when she gets really angry. He had a mocking expression on his face, the same one Balthazar probably has when he’s just cornered a faerie.
“You honestly think you are going to beat me?! Ha!” AAA sneered. I said nothing. He continued, “I just can’t wait for when you LOSE and cry like a baby in front of everyone. I’ll be sure to bring my Neovision camera.”
While he was droning on, I noticed he was sort of short for a Blumaroo. Maybe hours on end just sitting and playing games nonstop had somehow stunted his growth. I guess I got lost in my own thoughts because then I heard, “Are you even listening?”
I looked up with a blank look on my face.
“You’re pathetic,” he said. “Just be ready for when I totally cream you two days from now.” With that, he walked away.
After school, Jake was at my neohome. We were always together back then, either helping each other with our homework, or goofing around.
“So, what’s the game plan?” Jake asked.
“Uh, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it,” I answered honestly.
“You mean you don’t have a plan?”
“Well, I had one... but it seems stupid,” I said slowly.
I hesitated. What if Jake thought I was dumb? A little part of my brain was telling me to just tell him, if he was a real friend, he wouldn’t laugh. I took a deep breath and finally said, “I was thinking I could go see Abigail.”
“Who’s Abigail?” asked Jake dumbly.
I sighed. Jake wasn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed if you know what I mean. “Abigail, you know, AAA’s little sister?” I explained impatiently.
Jake thought for a moment, then said, “AAA has a little sister?”
“You’re hopeless,” I joked. Jake grinned and in minutes there was a full-fledged pillow fight going on in my room.
The next day, after school, I looked all over my neoschool for Abigail. She couldn’t be that hard to find. At least I thought so. It took about ten minutes before I spotted her. She was alone, which was a good sign; I could talk to her without her brother hovering around.
“Hey,” I said as I walked up to her. She looked surprised at first. I guess she wasn’t used to having older kids come up to her.
“Hello. You’re Kyle, right?” she asked quietly.
“Hi— wait, how’d you know my name?” I said.
“Big brother talks about you all the time,” she said simply.
I was about to ask what he said about me, but then I remembered my purpose. “What do you do if you challenge your brother to a game? Like, how do you win?”
“Oh, you’re challenging him? You know you can’t win, right?” Abigail said. “Even if you do manage to beat him, it will only be, in his eyes, pure luck. He’ll demand a re-match and make sure to win that time. Mostly, you just learn to humor him and play along,” she finished matter-of-factly.
“Naw, I’ll beat him for sure. I’ll beat him by so much, he won’t even be able to argue,” I bragged. See what I mean by me being big-headed? She looked at me strangely, like I was insane, and then walked away. Humor him? Play along? How was I supposed to do that? How would that help me beat him? To me, it sounded like you would just be making AAA more proud and arrogant.
The challenge was set for today at 3:00 p.m. NST, just after school got out. The game would be chosen at random at the last minute. That way, the judge said, no one would be able to practice. There was no stakes, of course; we were too young to bet. Just our reputations were in the balance.
All day, surprisingly, AAA didn’t approach me. He kept his distance, which was fine by me; I needed to concentrate. I still had no plan. Even though this was supposed to be a fair challenge, I had a feeling Aristotle would try to pull something.
The day went pretty fast too. Before I knew it, it was 2:50 pm NST and I was at the challenge stadium. AAA was there too. The stadium was packed. It looked like at least half of the school had turned up to watch the games. I was suddenly reminded of my first Yooyuball game, with all the fans screaming and yelling.
“All right, challengers! Take your stations!” an announcer yelled. “This will be a clean challenge. No cheating and no fighting, understood?” AAA and I quickly nodded as we scrambled to set up at the last minute. “Gamers, the chosen game is...” he paused dramatically, “HANNAH AND THE PIRATE CAVES!!!!!”
Yes, I thought, an action game. AAA shot me an angry look. I smirked, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
“You may start... NOW!” the announcer shouted.
Immediately, both AAA and I clicked and pounded wildly at our controllers. We were both concentrating real hard. Five minutes in, I was at a break in between levels so I stole a glance at AAA. I could see he was really into the game; he was still pounding at the controller like mad. There was something in his eyes... concentration? No, determination. Just then did I realize what Abigail meant when she said I couldn’t win. I also realized that winning this meant a whole lot more to him than it did to me. I made a split-second decision. I purposely lost the game. The second I did, one loud groan came from the entire crowd. AAA looked up, and seeing that I had lost, threw down his controller in triumph. He sneered at me.
“How’s it feel to be a LOSER?” sneered the Games Master. I said nothing. To tell you the truth, I felt good. Not disappointed, not even remorseful about my decision. I didn’t even feel bad when the whole crowed booed me as I walked out of the stadium.
The next day was torture. AAA’s bragging was worse than ever. No one paid me any attention, and when they did, it was to complain to me. Somehow, I made it through the day, and as I was walking home, Abigail ran up to me.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” I mumbled.
“You lost on purpose, didn’t you?” Abigail said softly.
“Yeah,” I said. I hoped she didn’t ask why. To be honest, I didn’t really know why.
“You understood what I said, didn’t you.” She asked in the same tone as before.
She smiled when I nodded. “You could beat him if you really wanted to,” she said. It was more of a statement than a question.
“I guess,” I said.
“You know you could, I’ve seen your high score; it’s miles better than Aristotle’s.” I smiled. Pretty soon, we were talking like old buddies, and I knew not everyone hated me for losing.
Author’s note: This was originally intended to be published before the Games Master Challenge ended, but due to the holidays and a huge amount of procrastination on my part, it’s a bit late. Hope you don’t mind.