Risk GO - Dispatches From The Front
by Nick Bush

November 1st, 2081

Dear Emily,

It's been many years now since I joined the Risk GO beta; even longer since I hit level ten and joined the Fortitude corps. Fortitude, if you don’t recall, being one of three in-game factions. In the last few years, however, I have been fighting two wars: one against the opposing forces of Perseverance and Vigor, and one against my very self. It's times like these, tapping on my phone and trying to ignore incessant heavy artillery notifications, when I wonder if either war can be won. Times I question the foundational tenets of Fortitude: that there is strength in stability, that strategy is not cowardice, and that defending troops receive a significant bonus in battle.

But even if all wars last forever, I cannot ignore the weight of change. I must share the pivotal event that necessitated this letter.

It was after the Layering, at the height of the augmented revolutions. Do you remember the Layering? When GO generals from each corps, recently liberated from the plutocratic Hasbroites, negotiated with geopolitical leaders to grant Riskers formal independence from their old-world nation-states. It was my emancipation. After independence, it was only a few short months before Risk GO was finally recognized by the UN/ESRB as a Global Political Layer.

For a moment after the Layering it seemed as though the fighting would cease. Players were in a confused pause. Bipartisan Risker think tanks scrambled: user retention was slipping, signups were down, impressions were down, engagement was down, all KPIs were down. The previously stable Army Point™, Risk Token™ and Operational Medallion™ economies were in a tailspin. Many thought that it was the end, and I recall wondering if this new life of mine would turn out to be a fad after all. It was then I first doubted the Fortitude tenets. I started asking myself if the three corps had any meaningful distinction. I even doubted—to my eternal regret—the End User License Agreement, which I had signed fully aware of my irrevocably waived rights. I didn't know it at the time, but every popular app has a period of stasis after Layering. Things were back to normal soon.

That was a while ago; now you have teens who have grown up Riskers. Like Nate12331, a private I mentored after reaching level ten, who thought that South America had only four distinct regions (Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and Argentina) and that the Middle East was one giant, unified region called “Middle East”. I can’t blame him—how could he know that it’s actually called the “Baltic Avenue Democratic Middle Continent,” and that it was formed only fifteen years ago? He wasn’t even alive when powerful Monopolian factions bought wide swaths of cheap equatorial territory in their Layer thanks to a lucky dice roll, forced state leaders to pay exorbitant rent on their own land, and then bankrupted their economies. I always thought Monopoly GO was such a poorly balanced game, one I’m glad I never downloaded. But enough distractions!

I am writing from Indonesia, and it was here my life was changed. Indonesia is a Fortitude stronghold, the gateway to Oceania and the lynchpin of the whole pan-Asian theatre. I had just reached level twenty and was finally able to use Troop Movement™ tokens to launch my own campaigns. I DMed my Commanding Officer the specifics of a manoeuvre that would put me well on my way to level twenty-one and cashed in the requisite currency. I spent a nervous afternoon in the mess hall rolling dice and tabulating the outcomes tabletop-style, as was my habit while waiting out UN/ESRB-mandated IAP cooldowns.

I can't bring myself to relate the complete events that followed the campaign's launch except for one crucial moment. I had chained my bike to a bent signpost outside a Vigor base and leaned against a chain-link fence. As I pulled out my phone and prepared to launch my offensive at the tap of a button, an old woman approached. Her hands were empty and trembled significantly, and I decided to strike up conversation to preserve my cover as an UberEATS courier. I asked her good-naturedly if her withered hands were the result of a lifetime of console gaming. I had heard of console gamers, but never seen any in the flesh. She replied that no, her arthritis came from a lifetime of hard, menial work in a factory and from raising many children and grandchildren. She had no phone and had never owned a console. I was stunned into silence by this response. She looked at me disapprovingly across the vast distance between our lived experiences and spoke a single sentence before shuffling away: "You are not my child."

My offensive was a miserable failure, and this combined with the old woman’s haunting words led me to a realization. I am no master strategist! I am no military leader—I can admit that now. The corps doesn’t need my tactics…they need the numbers to go up. And this is why I write to you: I need a child. I need to procreate. Emily, do you still remember the Tinder date we went on years ago? We talked about Pokemon GO and caught a Porygon. I miss you, and I need you.

I will be waiting for you in Indonesia. Come soon.

Sincerely,

John  ◒

 

Nick Bush is a writer and Ink proponent from Toronto. You can find him on Twitter @njdbush.