The Kinect monitored the motionless form of the man strapped to the chair. Gaunt. Bruised. Broken. He had endured countless beatings and the starvation imposed on him, but he had not been here in this room before. His stillness was an attempt to conserve energy, and a weak attempt to fool his captors. But the Kinect could sense his heartbeat, it could see the faint shaking of his hands, and it could tell he was not asleep.
The door to room XB-1 opened slowly, and a man stepped in.
His footsteps echoed across the concrete walls painted black.
"Open your eyes."
The seated man did nothing.
"You are not asleep. Now please, open your eyes."
He did so with a groan and looked at his interrogator.
He was dressed in a drab suit. His eyes were the same dull brown as his clothes, and his face was like a blank slate, emotionless.
"I need to test you to see if you are mentally capable of further interrogation."
He cleared his throat.
"Former North America, South America, and the British Isles, which markets are these?"
The seated man attempted to answer, but his throat was too dry. The drably dressed man produced a cup of water and held it to his lips for him to drink. It was the first clean water he'd had in two days. It felt good in his throat.
"Market 1, Market 2, and Market 3."
"Who controls Former Europe and Russia? Former East Asia?"
"This has always been, hasn't it?"
He paused for a long moment before answering, "Yes."
The drab man nodded slowly, before focusing his attention on his hands.
"Why are your hands shaking?"
"Some people believe that comes from playing too many videogames."
The drab man snorted. "Ridiculous. There is no downside to videogames. None at all. Improved hand-eye coordination, lowering of the crime rate.... No downside whatsoever."
"Is that right?"
"Yes." He walked behind the restrained man and dragged another chair in front of him. Then he loosened his tie and took off his suit jacket, placing it neatly over the back of the chair.
"Do you know why you are here?"
"Do you honestly believe that?"
"That's what I thought."
He adjusted his tie again. "You have been found guilty of ratingcrime and improper belief concerning our product, rating it a 7.5 out of 10 on your website. As you know, as all publications concerning the product in question know, anything less than an 8 out of 10 is illegal."
"It was not very good..."
"It was a AAA product created by the company-state of Microsoft. It cannot be anything other than 'great' or 'fantastic'. How can you fail to see this?"
"It was a rehash of the previous game, nothing new was added to the formula but improved graphics and it was riddled with game-breaking bugs..."
The drab man sighed and put his elbows up on the arms of the chair. He steepled his hands and rested his chin on them.
"100,000 people worked on this single game. 10 billion dollars and countless resources were expended in production. To say it is anything less than perfect or near perfect... It is a traitorous action. You knew this, and yet you did so anyway. Why?"
"Compared to the previous installment, it was lacking."
"That is simply impossible."
"It's the truth..."
"No. It isn't. The latest installment has surpassed the previous one in every way imaginable."
The drab man brought his face close to the gaunt one of the ratingcriminal.
"You've seen too much, haven't you? You've probably heard of the Nintendo products, right? Mario, Zelda, Miis. You know those are shallow copies of our Larry O., Hilda, and Avatars, yes? You've probably heard about the company-state Sega?"
The ratingcriminal said nothing.
"You do realize that such a thing has never existed. It was just a rumor. It has always been Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo." He paused. "Do you love Gates, sir? Everyone loves Gates. He founded our great nation! He provides for us!"
The drab man's face lit up at the mere mention of Gates, a smile even crossing his lips, but he quickly regained his neutral composure.
"We saw you, you know. At the weekly Hate. You did not seem to vent on Ken Levine, a noteworthy and hateable figure. You had done so before. Why not recently?"
"We didn't hate Levine a month ago."
"Yes, we did."
"It was another-"
"It was Ken Levine. It was always so. He has always deserved your hate, and no other."
The drab man sighed and did not speak for awhile. He simply stared at his prisoner.
"You do not love Gates."
He was quiet.
"You do not love and respect Microsoft."
He remained quiet.
"I bet you believe that on-disc DLC hasn't existed since the beginning as well? That there was such a thing as 'single player'?"
"You are right of course. About those things. Not that it matters to Microsoft."
He stood up and began to pace.
"We control the markets. We decide what is released, at what level of quality they are made. We are the norm. Would you rather live under Nintendo's thumb? Or that of Sony? Nintendo would grant you a number to be shared with all who pass you by, monitoring your every step. Sony would keep you under the watch of jet-black monoliths."
He kicked the chair away and stared into the criminal's eyes.
"There is no hope for this industry. Indie developers? Bah!" He spat to the side. "They cannot dislodge us. New companies? They are absorbed by us. We harbor the obsessive need to collect with our achievements before raking the consumer over the coals with downloadable content required to attain them. Fuck the consumer. They are masses of shrimp gathered in a net to be devoured as slowly as possible."
He backed away from the gaunt figure in the chair and composed himself.
"But you don't need to know this. You don't need to let them know either, not that they would listen in the first place. Do you want a vision of the future of videogames?" he said, bringing their faces close to touching once again. "Imagine that fat Mario fellow jumping on a human head and crushing it before stealing their wallet... Forever."
The drab man walked behind the ratingcriminal, and for a moment, the criminal could hear the sound of a drawer being opened. Then he felt a cold wet spot on
his neck, followed by the sharp prick of a needle.
"Soon enough we'll piece out our games into fully priced but separate components. You and others like you will accept this as having always been. You will not remember the days of physical cartridges and discs. It will be entirely digital... Just like it has always been, correct?"
The criminal could not answer, could not move.
"You will love Gates, as all men and women of Microsoft do. And you know what? After all this is over, we may even let you have your old job reviewing games in Market 3 back. Sometimes, taking a break to gain a little perspective is important."
The clinking of metal could be heard.
"Oh, you know what? I don't believe I even know your name. Let's see..."
Papers rustled as the drab man leafed through them.
"Mr... Mr... Hmm... Well, it's not really important. Regardless of our names," he said, ripping some paper in half, "we're all the same to Gates."
The criminal could not answer, could not move... But he could feel.
And he felt everything...