New poem for Rose City ComicCon, Portland Nerd Slam, Sept 2014
They call it breaking the link.
As a video game nears its release date,
the code becomes so complex and intertwined
that it is no longer safe to just delete any part of it.
If they want to remove a chunk of bad dialog,
or get rid of a character
or eliminate an ending they no longer want to be possible,
they do not erase those elements.
They simply break the link so the player never encounters them.
Every game disk
with the ghosts of what might have been.
Hidden in the code
is the secret room where Duke gets the O.P. grenade launcher,
Hidden in the code is the scene
where Booker finally fights the Songbird,
all those the things the developers were embarrassed by
or just didn’t have time to finish,
hidden in the code is the novel
I lied to my girlfriend about writing
while I secretly sat in my office
Jack Torrenceing the phrase “this will be over soon”
in notebook after notebook after notebook.
buried deep behind a blessedly broken link
is the memory of my dad helping the nurses
hold me down
while they tried to unprogram
the handfuls of pills I had installed.
I am a member of the world’s most secret
modding community, the ones whose brains
were released to market
before they were finished,
who spend our days trying to recover the broken link
to the scene where we actually
leave the house in the morning,
pouring over line after line of code
to try and buff our “talking to another human” stat,
figuring out which value needs to be set to zero,
because the developers for some fucking reason,
didn’t include an option
to turn off vibrate on the controller.
No matter how many doctors I see
or how many drugs they give me,
I never refer to myself with the phrase “mental illness.”
I am not a neuro-dysfunctional manic depressive.
I am a hacker.
I can figure this out,
I own this game,
and the terms of service are bullshit.
I will change it as much as I want
until it does what I know it can do.
Cheat codes are for amateurs;
I am getting right into the config file.
I know there there is a skill tree
I was supposed to have access to,
I know there is a better ending
than the one I keep getting.
That part of me was not erased.
The link was just broken.
It’s still in there. I am going to find it.
I’m getting my goddamn grenade launcher,
I am going to be the one player
who finally fights the Songbird.