Future perfect

The year is 2026. You strap on your VR headset, fitting the connector electrodes along the studs grafted into your skull. Slotting jacks into the ports embedded in your skin, you flick through the display with deft hand gestures. Maybe something classic today? The Dark Souls VR Remaster is always a treat. No, something more relaxing. The Sims 6, for example? Better not – your partner’s been complaining about the, ahem, vulgar mods you’ve been using with your virtual spouse.

The latest Call of Duty? Well, you tend to think yourself better than that, but if it’s only for a quick play…

You make a tapping motion, the distinctive logo flaring up to fill your vision. As the menu loads in, the sounds of distant gunfire seem to fill your house and the streets outside – all simulated, of course. You briefly wonder if you’d even know if a real war broke out while you were wearing this thing. You hover your hand – now gloved and clad in digital camo – over the ‘quick match’ button, and after a few seconds close and open your eyes to find yourself stood in a dropship, bulky rifle strapped to your chest and engine throbbing somewhere around you. The usual imminent fear drops into your gut like a rock, and as usual you remind yourself that it’s just a game. The dropship touches down, the hatch swinging open, and-

‘Your daughter wants to play,’ says a voice as something lifts the headset and the electrodes away from you. Your hands still plugged in, you can feel the rifle heavy in your hands, but nothing is there. You unplug them, and sulk as you hand the gear over to your beaming child.

 Where are those old consoles you had years ago? Where’s that old gaming rig you spent so long building that seemed so advanced at the time? It’s funny; one terabyte could barely store a single game these days, but you used to go crazy for storage like that.

‘What do you want to play, sweetheart?’

‘Minecraft!’ Some things never change; since its release seventeen years ago, Minecraft has been one of them. The new immersive textures are nice, though, even if the force-feedback they added to the mining made it feel more like a chore than ever. You reluctantly slip on the spectator headset and watch in first-person as your daughter destroys a sheep with her bare hands. It’s not long before you get sick of this.

Where are those old consoles you had years ago? Where’s that old gaming rig you spent so long building that seemed so advanced at the time? It’s funny; one terabyte could barely store a single game these days, but you used to go crazy for storage like that. Overcome with nostalgia, you head to the garage to a box endearingly labelled ‘OLD GAMING STUFF’. The smell of obsolete tech fills your nostrils: it’s the smell of dust and heat-warped plastic, an Xbox that you vaguely recall red-ringing some time in the past, a Playstation that seems both hilariously massive and weirdly light. You consider plugging them in and indulging yourself, but you know nothing’s ever as good as you remember it.

Still, it won’t hurt anyone if you take them all upstairs and speedrun Half Life 2 for the fiftieth time when your daughter’s gone to bed.

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