“It’s like living a superstar lifestyle without the effort,” the man in the corporate polo repeated for the second time.

“How long was development?” I asked, looking over the arched chair, running my hand across the headset, your standard VR and helmet deal.

The booth worker shifted uncomfortably.

“Well, to deal with the time difference, and to ensure that technology remained up to date, beginning to end, the project took four years to get to the showcase stage,” the booth worker said meekly.

I scrunched my nose, “What do you mean by time difference?”

“Well, we can only promise you a 30 minute experience today, but in-VR, we obviously couldn’t provide a 1:1 timeframe, so we played around with how you’ll perceive time inside of the game, skipped unimportant sections; overall, your time spent in the game won’t feel like the time you SPENT in the machine, if you understand. One journalist said he felt like he had been in there for an entire week once he exited, another said a few days; experiences vary, I guess.”

I looked at the itinerary sheet I was handed by expo staff earlier in the day. I had nothing I needed to attend for two hours.

“Alright, fuck it, how much for a single trip in?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t too expensive.

The booth worker lit up at my willingness to hop in. “Absolutely no charge, sir. All I need you to do is sign a waiver, and you’ll be set. The waiver is nothing, just epilepsy warning stuff.”

Since I don’t have epilepsy, I quickly signed the sheets I needed to, then began to get strapped in. Clearly, the machine was built for comfort; sitting down in the large padded chair felt like getting hugged by a jolly fat man. The helmet was no hassle, either; I was worried that the thing would dig into my bald head, but it slid on easily and didn’t take much effort to get nice and snug. Once the helmet was on, I was greeted to a kitschy retro video game menu screen with three options, and, in large blocky red letters, “SUPERSTAR EXPERIENCE” at the top of the screen…


As I was instructed earlier, I had to use my eyes to make every choice, so I focused on “BUDDING ACTOR” for six seconds. Then, I was transported into a photorealistic office; I looked around the room, and was shocked at how authentic everything felt. Even my own body felt like, well, my own body. Sitting on the other side of the desk was a heavyset man wearing a checkered overcoat, and a combover was placed atop his head. He had a raspy but extremely confident voice.

“Well kid, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be providing my services to you. Watching you perform has really lit a fire under my ass to do my absolute best for you. I sent around your stage footage and the monologues we filmed in the green room in the back, and we received three offers, all leading roles, all from respectable studios. What would you like to do?”

Once the man stopped talking, three files popped up on the screen. Written on each file was a name and a genre.

  • “Lakeland Seven”: Mystery
  • “Your Dark Blue Eyes”: Drama
  • “Mimed Trauma”: Horror

Since I’m a big horror fan, I let my eyes choose “Mimed Trauma.” Now, let me tell you, one would think that the scripting and acting sessions sections of the game would be fun, but they were a bit of a chore; each one was a series of quick time events, so instead of explaining that long drawn out process, I’ll tell you the movie synopsis. I played a mime that worked closely with a circus, and one of my best friends was the headliner, a magician. Well, one night, his act goes wrong, and then he dies. Soon, the magician’s ghost begins haunting the circus, and you must help put him to rest by finding his bones and burning them. A solid affair.

Once the filming is done, it gets right into a screening stage that takes a few minutes, all it does is play out the film, and when the screening is done, you transition to “reaction mode,” where dozens of Tweets, articles, and other social media posts fly at your face, all praising the film, talking about how your character is a breakout star, saying that you have “big things ahead of you,” and more cliché reviews. Once that is over, you enter an after-party segment. The first after-party segment gives you two options: one, bring a fangirl back to your hotel room, which featured a gorgeous redhead acting all “cutesy” and two, celebrate with your agent and his friend, which featured your agent standing with a man in a red hoodie and slacks. With an embarrassed smile, I chose the redhead. Now, I don’t even like PDA, so I won’t describe in detail what that choice brings you, but I will say I was surprised at how graphic it was.

Once that’s over, you’re brought back into your agent’s office, and again, you’re given three files, two of which are respected indie leading roles, but a third is a supporting role, but for a much larger studio.

  • “In Jest”: Drama

Naturally, I picked that one. Then, I was treated to the same boring script reading and acting segments. This film was about two comedians, rivals, that try to one up the other for a shot at a big special. Once the screening was over, you’re treated to the same “reaction” segment. This time, the reviews aren’t really more glowing, but they highlight how good your acting is and praise such a mainstream movie for that type of quality. Yadda yadda, after-party time.

This after party gives you four choices: go back to the hotel with a blonde fangirl this time, hang out with your agent and his friend again, speak to a studio executive, which featured a very high class man leaning against the bar, or talk to your co-star, which features a snobbish-looking man encircled by multiple people.

This time, feeling like I needed a bit more loyalty, I chose to approach my agent and his friend. It begins normally: both the agent and friend give cliché compliments on your performance, but things take a turn when the man in the red hoodie discreetly pulls out a pill bottle and asks if you want to “enjoy the party a bit more than the last one.” You are then given two prompts: “take the pill” or “politely decline.” I tried to play it as close to reality as possible, so I decided on “politely decline.” This results in the man in the red hoodie rolling his eyes, jokingly insulting you, and talking about something other than your movie.

This doesn’t last very long; in fact, I felt like it switched scenes in the middle of the guy talking. In this next scene, you’re in what I assume is your home’s foyer, and someone is slamming on your door. You can either open or ignore it, but I chose the former. When you open the door, the man in the red hoodie is standing on your porch, looking absolutely frenzied.

“What, was my stuff too good for you, mister movie star?” he says before he brings his arm back and socks you right in the face; the padded chair vibrates when he makes contact. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, your character sees red and begins ripping into this guy! You pick him up, throw him against the concrete, and start beating on him for a solid minute until you go back into your house and he slinks away. The part where you fight back is actually pretty scary, as the chair vibrates more violently with every hit you land.

Another quick cut and you’re in bed in the morning; your cell is ringing. Your character picks it up and puts it to your ear; the voice of your agent is on the other side, he sounds annoyed.

“Yeah, hey man, you’ve been on a fantastic streak, and you have a lot of potential, but due to conflicts of interest, we are going to have to part ways, you will need to find new representation. I’m sorry, I’m sure you’ll understand.”

Then, the most shocking moment of the entire game occurs, your character SPEAKS! He never had before, and he doesn’t after this, but in this moment, he speaks.

“So, it wasn’t about either the money or the acclaim; you’re too attached to your shit. Fine, I don’t need you anyway, you fucking junkie,” your character grumbles angrily.

The game cuts to you now in a much rattier office; a small timid man wearing a suit much too big for him sits at the desk across from you.

“Yes, I am extremely glad we were able to come to an agreement! Now, I must tell you, these weren’t easy to come by, and the studios aren’t as big as you’re used to, but they’re established companies, and are all leading roles,” the man squeaks out before the files pop up.

  • “The Grey Man”: Horror
  • “Andromeda Crash”: Sci-Fi
  • “Delayed Impact”: Action

Wanting some variety, I chose “Delayed Impact.” Let me tell you, the script reading and acting segments for this film felt torturous! They dragged on even worse than normal, and you even had to repeat multiple events to progress. The film was some B-movie schlock where you’re an astronaut stuck on a space station with terrorists intent on dropping the station to earth.

I was cringing as I waited for the reaction section to pop up, and damn, rightfully so. The film was universally panned, social media posts containing the phrases “a complete failure!” “Total rehash!” And “a rising star sputters out” flashed across the screen.

I grit my teeth and pushed back against the seat in anger. I felt completely played. I waited for a shitty version of the after-party segment to begin, but instead, in blocky red letters, all I got was a big “GAME OVER” screen; then I felt the booth worker unstrapping me from the machine. I immediately jumped out of the chair and grabbed onto his collar.

“No, no, no, I made a mistake, I need to go back and fix it so I can get a better ending! Come on, I’ll pay you money!” I wasn’t bothering to check the tone of my voice at all. My heart was racing and a wave of anxiety was continuously passing over me.

The booth worker calmly put his hand on my shoulder and pointed me towards the booth opening; a line of people was standing there, waiting to enter.

“Sir, if you’d like another go, you can wait in line! If you have the time, that is,” the worker said, stifling a giggle. I was definitely getting fucking played.

Instead, I shook my head and left the expo. I called my editor and told him that I had gotten food poisoning from the shitty concession stand food there, and that I would do three panels the next day to make up for it, which he allowed.

I furiously wrote up long reviews of the panels the following day, but honestly? I couldn’t give less of a shit about anything I wrote about. The only thing at that expo I’m looking out for is that game. I need to right the wrong that I made. I have to.