Geek Culture

Ctrl-Alt-Destroy Season 1 Episode 1 review

In Ctrl-Alt-Destroy, a video game designer discovers that someone has stolen her game -- and used it to build a virtual world that might prevent the real one from being destroyed. Image credit: Realm
Image credit: Realm

In Ctrl-Alt-Destroy, a video game designer discovers that someone has stolen her game — and used it to build a virtual world that might prevent the real one from being destroyed.

Ctrl-Alt-Destroy is an original audio series from Realm, the awesomeness formerly known as Serial Box. I was never a fan of audiobooks until I discovered Serial Box and was blown away by their exclusive series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire. Realm has seamlessly combined the pleasure of reading the written word with the enjoyment of hearing a dramatization of the work, giving you the option to consume the content as an ebook or an audiobook slash podcast. Add to the excellent production values the talented Summer Glau of “Firefly” fame as narrator, and Ctrl-Alt-Destroy had me hooked from the start. It makes me glad I subscribed to Realm Unlimited. Spoilers ahead.

The world of Alternis

As someone who loves role-playing games, whether video game or table top ones, I really enjoyed this first episode, which was written by Andrea Phillips. We are immediately introduced to Glau’s character, Tandy, and the video game she has created: Alternis.

“The water dragon was a sinuous creature: thirty feet of smooth yellow skin speckled with brilliant red. Tandy found her in a wide green lagoon in one of the many sea caves off the Coast of Fire. The dragon was sleeping half-submerged, curled around a clutch of eggs mottled gray and black like river stones.

“’Aloha, pretty thing,’ Tandy murmured. ‘Sorry I can’t just let you nap today.’ It was a shame to kill her, as gorgeous as she was. But sometimes you had to do what you had to do.

Tandy is debugging the game, which she has been building for almost 10 years. Alternis is the MMO (massively multiplayer online) game that she has always wished she could play. And she hopes that it will also be her ticket to a better life, so that she could quit her job and do what she really loves.

The game is still unfinished, and no one knows about Alternis. At least, that’s what Tandy thought.

Journey into mystery

We find out more about the real world that Tandy inhabits. One which has been on the brink of all-out war, to the point where everyone has been preparing for the end of everything. We learn about a shocking development: the easing of tensions between Russia and China, which are preparing to sign a formal border de-escalation treaty. To a world bracing itself for an imminent global war, this seems to be a miracle.

We also learn about another news item: a famous pro gamer who hasn’t been updating his stream for the past few weeks. This will turn out to be very significant as this episode progresses.

Meanwhile, Tandy is puzzled when she discovers an exponential increase in activity in her unfinished game. One which has caused all her data allocation to be used up.

And then her life changes overnight.

Zin and the art of MMO maintenance

How does it feel to be inside a world you created? Only to discover that it’s a different world than what you built.

“’Destiny awaits,’ Zin continued speaking, ‘but first thou must make some choices. Choose wisely, hero, for what thou shalt decide here on this day can never be undone.’

“The character selection screen popped up, obscuring Tandy’s view of the scenery. It was her interface design, glowing letters against a black background, with stylized figures around the border as an accent. It looked sharp, if she did say so herself.

“But it wasn’t entirely hers. To begin with, the settings to change your appearance were missing, and there was no species selection at all. She felt a sting of annoyance that her game thief didn’t see the value in playing as any kind of troll or water spirit.

“So whatever this was, it wasn’t a straight duplicate of her Alternis. Someone had taken her game and used it as a foundation for … something else.”

Episode 1 runs for 1 hour and 14 minutes, but I was so engrossed in the story and mesmerized by Glau’s narration that I hardly noticed.

This tale of the stolen video game that could potentially save the world is an intriguing one, and I’m really looking forward to Episode 2 of Ctrl-Alt-Destroy.

Just promise me Dante will have to eat humble pie.

Season 1 Episode 1: “National Security Incident”
Written by Andrea Phillips, Maurice Broaddus, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and E.C. Myers
Art by Chris Koehler
Narrated by Summer Glau