"A tie? I never tie! Count them again!" The group of twenty-somethings watched as Reginald pushed the small colored blocks of wood around the table with his finger while mouthing words to himself. "10 for wood… plus 7… do you have any green cards, Kate?" he asked the girl sitting across from him.
"No," she replied and continued to count up her points.
"Hey, you can't afford that Library; you don’t have the resources!" Reginald complained.
"Hey, chill out! I get one free wood at the beginning of each turn, remember?" Kate said. She pushed Reginald's hand away from her. "I've got… 127."
"127," Reginald repeated in exasperation. He pushed his thick-rimmed glasses up on his nose as he examined the game pieces, as if he could squeeze one more point out of them if he interrogated them long enough.
"Well, I guess that's that," Kate said with a grin as the four of them started packing the game into its box.
"Good game, Kate." It was her boyfriend, Sean. He had introduced her to his gaming friends a month before. Now he was finding that she was a fast learner. "I almost had you that time, but I kept drawing such crap cards."
"I demand a rematch!" Reginald stood up from the table and pointed a stubby finger at her.
Kate was taken by surprise for a moment, then stood up and smirked. "You're on, Reg! Any game, any time."
Reginald beamed with pride and pointed to the TV. "Right here, right now. Virtual Combat 6."
"Really, Reg? You own the game, it's not really fair…" Ismail had been with the group for years and had never seen Reginald lose a Virtual Combat match.
"Hey, she set the terms!"
Kate nodded. "Alright, you're on. Let's do this." Her face was set with determination. "Just promise me you won't cry when a girl beats you," she added and stuck out her tongue to tease him.
In moments, the game was set. The two players stood in front of the TV, controllers in hand, eyes fixed on the screen. It was a standard fighting game; first one to two victories wins the match. As they selected their characters, Reg nudged her.
"Oh, you're going to pick Samurai Toshikawa? I'm not surprised. Everyone picks him. He's easy." Kate didn't dignify him with a response.
The screen changed to a wooded scene with their two figures facing each other. The voice-over said, "Combat!" and it began. The two players were focused as Ismail and Sean cheered them on from the couch.
"May the best gamer win." Kate said.
"There is no word in Dothraki for defeat!" Reginald countered. The fight began to the sounds of kiyaps, swords, and heavy metal music. It wasn't long before Reginald started talking smack. "I bet you didn't know I could do this." His character, a tall, anime-style vampire, flew across the screen and attached itself to the samurai. Moments later, the fight was over. Reginald's vampire stood triumphantly over his fallen foe.
"I do now," Kate said with a sneer. "It's not over yet, four-eyes." The second round began. Reginald and Kate moved and swayed as they mashed buttons. Kate's samurai managed to evade the vampire's second lunge, then struck him in the back with a sword. The fight ended as quickly as the first. This time, though, Kate was doing the victory dance.
Reginald sneered and gripped his controller more tightly. "I'll show you…" he said. The third, and final, battle began. It was brutal. Every time one of them had the advantage, the other would counter. The fighter's health bars drained away at the same rate with no clear winner in sight. Reginald was nervously sweating. Suddenly he swayed to the left and hit the table their last game was still set up on. It skidded across the linoleum floor, causing a shower of tiny game pieces and custom cards to fall around the kitchen.
"Reg!" Sean said. "That game's expensive!" He got up to find all the pieces before they fell into a vent or under the couch. Ismail went to join him. In all the commotion, Kate was distracted.
"FATALITY!" the game announced. Reginald yelled in delight. "Yes! Suck it, you dumb whore! I win! I'm still the best! No girl could ever beat me!"
Kate was frozen with revulsion. "What did you say?"
Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at Reginald. He stopped bouncing in place. "What?" he asked. He got no answer. Sean and Ismail picked up the last of the pieces they could find and stuffed them in the box haphazardly. The game's lid didn't even fit on when they were done.
"Come on, let's go somewhere else," Sean said as Kate stormed out of the apartment. Ismail nodded. It finally dawned on Reginald what had happened.
"W-wait! I was kidding! It's all in good fun, right? Don't go! We've still got lots of time. I've got dessert…" No matter how he pleaded with them, he could do nothing to deter them. They walked out and left him behind. "Fine! I don't need you losers, anyway! I'm still the best!" Reginald shouted out the door. He slammed the door shut and walked back to the video game. "Don't need them, anyway. I'm better than they are."