As expected, our CEO started the meeting with a nice welcome. Praising us all for our hard work and dedication, developing the new Dragon Master game. ‘At least he has the courage to tell us in person, instead of sending a fucking email.’ I thought, while looking at the every growing fear among my colleagues. Sighting and leaning back in my chair I decided to pay attention to his speech. ‘As you might all know.’ He said. ‘Things aren’t going so well in the gaming industry. The latest game we released did not sell very well in Europe and the U.S.A. And on top of that we are hit by the economic recession.’ ‘Yeah, blame it on the recession.’ I Heard Lee say to me. I could only nod.
‘Now, I know there have been some rumors the last few days. One that Japan might pull the plug here. Another rumor there are some of you who’re affright they will get fired in order to cut our losses. But I can assure you, none of this will happen.’ Sounds of relieve where heard through the room. For a moment I let my guard down. Thinking everything was going to be ok. ‘So in order to make sure we can continue with the game without losses, we have decided to sell the Dragon Master rights..…’
‘Sell the Dragon Master rights!’
The words echoed through my mind. ‘He is going to sell it? I fucking knew it. The bastard is trying to save his own ass. No way I will let this happen.’ I looked at Matt and saw his eyes were burning with rage. I focused my attention at our CEO again. ‘So without further ado, I give the word to Jean Pairdes. Head of Electronic Games.’ Nodding, the man walked to the front. He opened his mouth and with a terrible French accent started speaking to us. Cursing, I listened to what he had to say.
Of course, he also began with the usual bullshit. How much ‘Ze Dragun Mastér’ games had inspired him. This time I prepared myself for the worse. After a few minutes giving us new hope, he showed us a nice statistics picture. He started telling us that we had to focus more on the new target groups. Apparently the days that only nerdy kids played video games, were over. More and more video games were played by girls and even housewives.
‘And so’ He continued. ‘In order to reach these groups, there need to be a few minor changes.’ A part of me died when I see the list of suggestions that are shown on the next sheet.
- No blood
- Funny side-kick
- Happy ending
- No child slaying
- No sex
- Handsome hero
- More quick events
- Simplified game play
The words blurred in front of me as my mind tried to grasp what is happening. I see visions of my Dragon Master hero. Dancing trough a field of flowers, cape all pink and a smiley faced sun in the distance. Visions that are burned into my mind. ‘Dutch you ok?’ Looking up I see Matt and Wong standing in front of me. I looked around to see the room is empty. The CEO and his French companions were nowhere to be seen. Seeing their worries faces I quickly reply. ‘I am fine. Just imagining what the new Dragon Master game is going to look like.’
In silence we made our way back to our working stations. I felled in my chair, as the rest gathered around me. After what seemed hours, Matt starts uttering his frustrations. I listened to his anger and frustration. As Matt continued his rant. I see David our project leader stride towards us. His face all red, looking furious.
‘They lied to me.’ he shouted. ‘ They said nothing would change. And now I hear the French are going to turn our game into some kiddy game. They want to start all over from scratch. For Christ’s sake! They even changed the story. Your story Dutch!’
There was silence as they all looked at me. I should have done what was easiest. Get up, and walk into our CEO’s office, demanding an explanation. Or at least try to reason with him. But that would be too easy. ‘And things are never easy.’ Eugene once told me that.
‘I need to think this over.’ I answered. ‘They say you get the best idea’s while drinking.’ Matt nodded and walked towards his chair, grabbing his jacket.
‘Where to, John?’
30 minutes later I exit one of the cabs I called for us. Probably the best decision I made this day. Wong had come up with the idea of going to his Uncle’s bar. We would have our own private space and could get all the drinks for free. I paid the cab driver and looked at the building that should be the karaoke bar. No windows. A big red Neon sign with a dragon and some Japanese symbols above the metal door indicated an entrance. ‘The irony.’ I think. Two suspiciously looking Japanese guys stood in front of the door. One of them recognized Wong. He smiles and opened the door for us.
The so called karaoke bar looked more like a strip club. There was a bar in the middle and around the bar where multiple striptease poles visible. Before anyone can make a comment to Wong, a young woman dress in some sort of maid costume, started speaking to us. Greeting Wong and welcoming us, she led us through an private table in the back. We sat down.
The next hours we just drank and talked about what had just happened. Matt had disappeared halfway with some of the maids. Emptying another glass I was looked at the gamble machines and card tables down the hall. David was still rambling on ‘I tell you guy’s’ No matter where you are. Money is what makes the world go round’
‘We could kidnap that French fuck face and ask a million ransom’ Lee responded. As the idea’s got more and more crazier and bloodier, looked at the card tables again.
So all we need is money? I said.
I stood up and walked towards one of the poker tables that had an empty seat. The five other players looked pleased as they saw that I had trouble finding an $50 bill and giving it to the dealer. An easy target must have thought. I could not help frowning as I got my first 2 cards. Pocket aces. Seeing only one reasonable option. I went all-in, pushing all my fresh bought chips to the middle of the table. Two players immediately folded their card. The third person stared angry at me.
He was an Japanese guy. Around my age, Wearing dark glasses. Sleeves rolled up, revealing tattoos. On his neck another tattoo was visible on his arms. He continued examining me for a few seconds and decided to call. The last two persons quickly folded.
Showing my cards, he cursed while throwing his cards on the table. It revealed two nines. The dealer deals the five remaining cards on the table. One of them another ace. Giving me a three of a kind and thus winning the pot. ‘Beginners luck’ the guy growled.’ I could only laugh.
The next round I got the ace of hearts and a ten of hearts. Nobody raised or folded. Next was the flop. It showed three hearts. A Ten, a three and seven. This time it was the tattooed guy who raised. An old looking guy sitting next to him calls. The rest folded their cards except for me. I decided to re-raise him. The tattooed guy cursed again. He looked at the old guy, me, my chips and with an angry voice shouts.
The old man quickly folded his cards. With a smile on my face I looked at the tattooed guy. ‘Call.’ I say, showing my cards.
He looked at the cards. ‘You lucky bastard’ He shouted. Followed by some Japanese words I didn’t understand. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the feared expression on the dealers face. Or I should have looked behind me to see Wong trying to tell me something. But I did not. Instead I just kindly replied to the tattooed guy. ‘Maybe playing Pokémon is more your league.’
I heard the dealer grasp for air. Wong seemed to shriek.
The tattooed guy slowly took off his glasses and looked at me. ‘So, you think you are a though guy. Are you man enough to play a real game of poker?’
End of part 2