Are you familiar with the game 100 Doors of Revenge? If not, I'll explain the concept. Simple problem, such as getting into the elevator to continue on. Complicated solutions. Games like that kinda get under your skin until you can move on and finally beat the game. Then someone made a game called Saving Skyler. When asked about the older-style graphics, the developers replied they had a lot going on in the last level and wanted the game to run quickly without taking too much storage. They sort of teased the Game Informer readers by being all mysterious about the winning level. They gave a little info on the background, though. A boy's mother abandoned him, and he starts drawing pictures on a computer of her in deathtraps with a little hero trying to save her and failing. You play the hero in the picture, trying to make her live on until the next picture/level.
Sam, a big fan of iPad games of that genre, could hardly wait for it to come out. When it did, he played every time he got the chance. Level One was an apt demonstration of how the game worked. Skyler was shackled to the floor. There was a sandbag attached to a rope, and Sam unwittingly picked it up. The rope snapped and a blade descended on Skyler's head. Her arms flew up, blood sprayed, and the words I WIN flashed on the screen. Sam tried again. He tried to move her before the blade came down, he checked if the shackles were really locked, he tried using the sandbag to block the blade. He was legitimately pissed when he noticed the tiny bit of gold at the foot of the stairs. A key. Damn. He unlocked the shackles, and he and Skyler ran off, only for her to get lost and trapped again.
Knowing how the mechanics worked, Sam got pretty far. One level stumped him only because it was so simple, but he figured it out. Then he reached level sixty. It was Skyler in a glass tank. There was a shovel on the floor, as well as knobs and a stick. The graphics were different. Not exactly modern, closer to the early The Sims graphics. First, Sam picked up the stick and picklocked the tank. It opened, then he climbed inside to fetch her and the door slammed shut behind him. The time went on fast-forward to a month later. Starving, he and Skyler were eating each other. Skyler won.
I WIN flashed again. Sam was disturbed by the blood, but he wanted to win the game. Next plan. He took the shovel and started beating the cage with it. Sam noticed the hero looked irritated. And the more he beat the cage, the more the walls fell in. Skyler was crushed. Sam almost spat at the screen when I WIN flashed yet again. He hadn't beat 59 levels to stop now. He flicked the first switch when the level reloaded. Fire shot from the walls of the cage, leaving a seared, convulsing corpse. Sam almost dropped the iPad. He was used to gore on big screens, not in these games. I WIN. Yet again. Sam wasn't going to be freaked out, irritated and startled only to lose. He pressed Restart Level. The second switch this time. It would have to work eventually, right?
Yes. Completely right.
Acid. Piranhas. Blades. Cheese graters. Vomiting up insides. Everything. Sam couldn't count how many times he watched Skyler die, but the game kept track. It had just played the "gone wrong" sound when Sam hurled the iPad to the floor and started running. The horrifying, angry look on the hero's face. Skyler's dying screams, over and over, changing only in intensity. And those words. I WIN. Sam had never won. It was all for nothing if you couldn't beat the game. And he couldn't. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, running down the street with only the vague idea of killing Bording Studios. He could feel the nightmares coming as you can feel the snapping of a branch.
Two Months Later
Sam had died in his sleep in a ditch. No one had found his body yet, but people had found a different thing to talk about. A video was making its rounds in Youtube: the 60th level of Saving Skyler beaten. Well, not really beaten. A guy had hacked the system to make it run over what all had to go down before you'd won the game. According to the guy, you had to lose 500 times before a special item appeared. A pistol. By this point, the hero's face was contorted with rage. It was a clue. Take the pistol. Kill Skyler. When the hero did this, shooting her four times between the eyes, I WIN didn't flash. Instead, in a child's voice you heard:
"But... But... No! You can't do that! You're supposed to save her! All I wanted to do was scare her into loving me again!"
The child's voice sobbed during the credits.