I really enjoyed the challenge of devising a setting for The Ultimate Video Game as part of Later Levels’ Question of the Month in January. I thought the winning entry by Hundstrasse was amazing and I really want to visit that world.
So February’s game element is the protagonist. There are two options set by the dev team: create a protagonist to reside in the previously winning setting, or create one for the setting you came up with.
Since a) I’m not great at writing characters, b) I’m short on time, and c) I’m void of ideas for the winning setting (see a), I’m going with the second option. This option isn’t eligible to win, but I wanted to do it for fun!
The abandoned IT room
As a reminder, the setting is an excavated IT room that’s been lying dormant since 1989, dug up in 2019 by some archaeologists. Everything is perfectly in place, as if its occupants left in a hurry.
Earl, the IT guy
Earl is one half of our protagonist duo. That’s right, I’m breaking the rules and having two, ha!
Earl is head of the IT department in 1989, shortly before The Big Untimely Accident, which I’m not allowed to talk about because this is strictly about characters, not plot. (I also wasn’t going to mention that parts of the game are played in flashback, but I guess that’s obvious now.)
Earl is a rising genius in the expanding world of IT, with a mechanically astute mind and an uncanny knack for troubleshooting. Unfortunately, he is also afflicted with a debilitating sense of apathy (thanks to Thatcher) and an addiction to onion bhajis. As such he spends his days slumped in the basement fixing minor issues and drawing what little enthusiasm he has from his younger, fresh-faced team mates.
In his younger days he was a looker. Now age has puffed his features, peppered his hair and made him stout (though that may be the bhajis). He wears army regulation khaki pants because they have lots of pockets to hold tools and attachments. His T-shirt is clean but faded, and when he sits down Cheetara grimaces from the folds.
Earl has a hard time convincing upper management about the importance of good IT infrastructure and rigid processes, to the extent that he is on the brink of throwing in the towel and donning a McDonald’s hat.
Pete, the architect
Back in 2019, Pete is the architect sent to take photos of the buried IT room for restructuring purposes. His company plans to gut it and build on top of it.
Pete is ambitious, but not on a psychopath level. He’s kind, with a creative eye and a built-in bullshit detector. He carries a picture of his daughter everywhere, but his wedding finger sports nothing but a rough indent. He buries himself in his work, trying to steer his company to support and protect the city’s historic landscape, instead of replacing it with flashy eyesores.
He’s a man of admirable precision, reflected in both his work and appearance; he’s always clean shaven, dresses casually but cleanly, armed always with a notepad, measuring tools and a Brompton bike.
He rarely indulges in anything, and will persistently be off sugar or caffeine – sometimes even cutting out random foodstuffs like potato or cinnamon. If you asked his colleagues they would say he’s self-punishing for something, but what do they know.
Very little, in fact. They wouldn’t know that he goes home and plays old video games. That he devours old books and is transfixed by old films. That he’s more content in the warm hug of the past than the grim, uncertain future. If they understood that, then they might understand his obsession with protecting old buildings.
If he could find a path to the past, he would blindly take it.