Fredi examined the replica of her bedroom that the company had made for her. It was perfect in every way: same bedspread, same window, same dresser with the same white Hoth costume Princess Leia figurine, same Sega Saturn, same Hamilton poster on the wall, same MALE TEARS mug at the edge of the desk, same games and old VHS tapes on the shelves—even an authentic copy of the Tom Hanks’s regrettable 1982 film Mazes and Monsters. The only visible difference was the analog clock on the wall above her computer desk, placed out of view of her webcam. The clock read five after six.
Instinctively, Fredi turned on her laptop and opened a web browser. But her home page, Google, did not load. Instead, she was directed to a page with the IG logo at the top and a video with the title ORIENTATION. She hit play.
“Hi. I’m Major Hawks,” said a man in a military uniform. His black hair was flecked with white and his dark skin wore wrinkles and scars, but he still had an air of strength. “You probably remember me as a Private in the original Hive. Yes, that was me. Sort of.”
Fredi did remember him. He was the protagonist of the first few Hive games. In the original prototype manufactured in Crunchy’s garage, the hero was simply named The Exterminator. But after IG bought the game, they decided to change his name to something less sinister. They ran a contest in a magazine asking for applicants to be the hero of a “thrilling” upcoming sci-fi action-adventure game. Pvt. Hawks won.
Fredi smiled when she saw him.
“Welcome to the Big Box,” he continued. “Right now, you’re in the heart of the Palace, where IG carries out development and experimentation for the most advanced gaming technology on the planet. A lot of people would kill to get in here.”
He continued, “Right now, some of you are probably wondering, ‘Why can’t I access the internet?’ Take a look at that contract you signed, page 76, line 8.”
Fredi dug up the dictionary-sized pile of papers Ms. Yue had given her and turned to the appropriate page.
Major Hawks read the words aloud: “ ‘While inside the Big Box, the subject will not be able to use the internet or cellular service. Instead, the subject will have access to a local intranet with a library of entertainment media, software, and a messenger program you can use to contact appropriate personnel within the IG network.’
“Don’t worry. IG’s intranet has plenty of entertainment for you to enjoy, and tons of cloud computing software you can use to keep making great videos. But you’re going to have limited access to the outside world for a little while. But hey, the real world doesn’t have the new Hive game in it yet, so who cares?”
Major Hawks went on to explain how to use the intranet to access information and upload videos for IG’s approval. Fredi took notes.
The video also discussed the layout of their limited section of the Big Box, which employees dubbed the Enrichment Center. “You’re in one of eight pods. This pod will be your home for the next month. You’ll spend most of your time in here. You’ll sleep here, you’ll game here, and you’ll probably eat in here, though if you like there’s a café down the hall.” A map appeared on the screen showing each location as Major Hawks mentioned it. “There’s also a medical center if you need it. In the event of an emergency, a line of red arrows will light up on the floor to guide you to the nearest exit. Just follow the arrows.
“Now it’s time for you to upload your first video. If you open your door, you’ll find a little present waiting for you. We’d like you to make an unboxing video with this. That’s all for today. Tomorrow morning at 0800 hours, the games begin. We’ll see you in the Hive.”
Fredi opened the door of her pod. There was a package waiting for her on the floor.
It was about two feet long and 18 inches wide and looked exactly like a treasure chest from one of the Zelda games.
Fredi searched IG’s media library and found a ten-second clip of the chest-opening theme from The Ocarina of Time. Then fired up her camera and her microphone and hit record. It was time for an unboxing.
“So, check out this awesome gift IG sent me,” she said, holding up the box. She shook it gently. “Lots of stuff in here. It sounds like a lot of little things. Mini-figurines, maybe?”
She set the box down again and opened it up slowly, silently counting to ten as she did. She would later insert the sound clip there.
“Oh, it’s a goodie box!” she cried. “It’s got all my favorite snacks!”
She pulled out each item and held each one’s label to the camera as she yammered about how much she loved them. There were organic cacao nips, nut clusters, Terra Chips, Pirate’s Booty Puffs, Jelly Bellys, crispy seaweed sticks, saltwater taffy, and a bag of Newman’s Own Organic Newman-O’s sandwich cookies. She squealed with delight. She kissed the jumbo-sized Jelly Belly box. She tore open the bag of nibs and dumped them into her mouth, letting them spill down her face, down the front of her tank top, onto the floor. Audiences and advertisers liked enthusiasm, and she would deliver.
When the box was empty, Fredi switched off her camera and went to work editing. She knew IG wanted content and lots of it, so she would not waste any time.