Nate Maxson

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. He is the author of several collections of poetry including The Whisper Gallery and The Torture Report’ He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

 

When It Rains

Videogame developers have a term they use

For giving the player the illusion of agency, of choice

They say “when it rains” to describe keeping the players engaged through use of relatively small details

Because someone playing a game, upon encountering a seemingly random event within the digital sandbox

Such as, for example: a rainstorm

Secretly feels like they can’t step in the same river twice

When actually,

They can

They feel like it has never rained on pixilated soil before

I’ve felt it, though I don’t play as many games as I did when I was younger

It’s a thrill

Believing the rain is yours and yours alone

It really is

Another example, in most games that have a purportedly open world

The path towards where one needs to go is brightly lit by lights of some kind

As if only one street in the whole made up city was afforded public utilities

The rest of the area is there of course, it’s formed and there are objects and things to look at

But they’re hmm, how to put it?

They’re just dim

Compared to the brightly lit primary quest

And most of the time players will simply follow along without needing to see the rest

Of course, most people don’t quite realize how these things work

They just keep playing

Rescuing the princess and the planet ad infinitum, unaware of the developer’s invisible hand

There’s an almost spiritual element to it, in my opinion

 

I was told these things by a friend of mine who is involved in that industry

Who, for reasons of security, must remain anonymous

He told me about what “when it rains” means

To those in the know

He whispered this over the table at Ihop where we had been drinking coffee and discussing

His career, my old hobby

But don’t think of him as some protagonist from a Lovecraft story

Discovering the truth and slipping away

Because we had a bit of a laugh

When the waiter, upon presenting us with the bill

Remarked as he pointed to the window adjacent to our booth

“It sure is raining hard out there”

Our silence like crickets

Punctuated in the springtime

By forced laughter, not as loud as the rain

Or the espresso machines

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