My Perfect Game


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My perfect game includes no villainous thugs nor evil overlords; it takes place in no dungeons or decaying urban landscapes. To defeat an evil overlord was the adolescent fantasy of a generation ago; to be a villainous thug appears to be the adolescent fantasy of today. I am not an adolescent and my needs for fantasy have changed.

My perfect game is a garden of earthly delights, not a den of brutality and pain. My perfect game contains no snarling semi-naked vixens dressed in skintight leather, wielding breasts and weapons of improbable dimensions. My perfect game contains instead fully naked dryads who peep at me shyly from behind the trees that are their homes, and, when I have successfully lured them out, come to sit with me upon the grass and read me verses from Shelley in voices that resound gently like silver bells.

My perfect game is a ramble through the woods in autumn, a wander over hilltops lit by shafts of sunlight piercing through the gathering storm. Ruinous stone circles rise from the earth and whisper ancient magic to me, and men in cloaks and sandals with eyes the color of the sea tell me tales of hunting the walrus on the shores of Ultima Thule. We play games of kubb and hnefatafl on the beach in the gathering dark as the fires of driftwood glow, and we drink the aqua vitae made by the monks of Lindisfarne.

Then the stars burn brighter and I unfold my wings and sweep aloft, sailing among the canyons of the skies and looking down upon the twinkling lights of the cities of men, whirling and diving and rejoicing in the chill night air. South I glide to descend and play senet with young Tutankhamun and mancala with Shaka Zulu. I visit Solomon and dispute philosophy with him for a laugh, but in my perfect game I prove to be wiser than he and he gives me gifts of spices and cloth-of-gold. I load them all upon my robo-camel, fire up the steam engine, and together we trek with a clank and a clatter across the Euphrates and into Persia. And in my perfect game I risk all the spices and cloth-of-gold on a single game of shatranj with a magician in the court of Darius the Great (he must be taught the rules, for shatranj will not be invented for another thousand years). But I win and to pay his bet the magician must bring my robo-camel to life and set her free.

And so laughing I steal one of Darius' horses from the royal stables, and ride like the wind to Samarkand, where we learn to play polo together and I trade Solomon's spices for a palace with a thousand fountains and a personal spacecraft that requires no fuel. And from time to time I invite Kubla Khan for coffee and petits-fours and a game of go. We have a good laugh at the expense of that junkie Coleridge, but later I realize how much I owe to him, because he has made it all possible -- all of it, the walruses and the spices and the spacecraft too, that romantic junkie poet: he invented the willing suspension of disbelief.

My perfect game is filled with mystery and wonder, not sweat and struggle. My perfect game is easy. My perfect game is beautiful. My perfect game is joyous.

—Originally published on the GameSetWatch website