Best Games - Star Control 2
We sit, perched forward, on wooden kitchen chairs. Moonlight slips between the vertical blinds behind us. Paired with the phosphor glow of my 15 inch monitor, it is just enough light to read by. Shawn has two maps of laid out in front of him. One is printed in bright, rich colour on glossy poster paper. The other is assembled from smaller black and white photocopies, scotch taped across the seams. Side by side, they span a good 3 or 4 feet of dining room table.
The computer usually sits on a desk out in the shop. On other nights, we would be out there. The shop sits about 100 meters across the yard. The faint smell of gasoline and diesel exhaust permeates everything out there, but that never stopped us from spending hours at a stretch playing games and laughing at our own dumb jokes.
Earlier, we disassembled the computer, carried all it’s components from the shop to the house and reassembled it. The case is constructed of thick sheet steel. We consider, for a while, that 286 computer cases were probably punched in single pieces from the hulls of decommissioned battleships. It makes moving the computer, even a few feet, enough of an inconvenience that we don’t do it often. It also means that it will likely grow roots in any new location. I’ll be told, in a day or two, to pack up the computer and carry it back to the shop. That’s fine. This weekend, we need to play.
The computer is set up on the large, heavy, dining room table. Ghosts of paint jobs past are still embedded in it’s deeper recesses. The table plays host to many items and activities, but only on holidays is it used for dining. We have cleared the sewing supplies, mail, and childrens hockey equipment, from one quarter of the table to set up. There is room enough for two stations. Over the span of 12 or so hours, we take turns manning each. The plan is to play for a few hours then crash on the floor for the night. We’ll pick up the game early in the morning, before we are ejected out into the daylight to “go ride bikes or something”.
Right now, Shawn is going over the maps. He checks the glossy poster against the blue, red, and yellow splotches on the screen, and marks any differences on the photocopies. The narrow slice of our galaxy represented on the map would be unrecognizable to an astronomer, but by now, a few hours in, we know it well. We have added notation for hyperspace and quasispace to the photocopy. Navigating these extra dimensions is old hat. He plots a course, from star to star, around Ur-Quan territory and I operate the keys to pilot us there. If we turned around to look out the picture window behind us, we would see actual stars in the actual sky.
The picture window faces east. Sunlight skates across flat prairie. It scatters through the trees at the far end of the yard past the shop, and paints the dining room a dull gold. We never did crash on the floor.
I’ve seen the sun set, and rise many times before and since. I’ve looked at the bare night sky, stretching out in a perfect dome of sharp contrast black and white. The stars on that map, the night sky on that screen, stands with equal strength in my memory to any sky I’ve ever seen. Because I shared it with my friend.