The Eternal Sadness of Murin and Reynard
After the FBLZ corporation succeeded in conquering the international instant communications market, they moved into casual gaming. Their social apps already encouraged you to spend money to live out your personality as a variety of anthropomorphic creatures, to give these beastly second-selves a better life in their mobile habitats. The most popular avatar was a genderless animated mouse named Murin—who is a he or she—depending on your inclinations. Naturally, this heroic mouse appeared in many of FBLZ’s mobile games with a berry nose so cute like that.
The Eternal Sadness of Murin and Reynard was not a traditional game—it was more of a rat race, if you’ll excuse the gene pool pun. Every day there was a single level that everyone in the world could play, and every day the level changed at midnight (UTC+09:00). You always started with Murin, that loveable mouse. Murin always wakes up on a pile of broken teacups somewhere in the level—Murin and his giant Frisbee ears. Sometimes he would wake up in an empty antique mall, or else a post-apocalypse kindergarten. Murin, navigator of desks stamped with children’s bloody handprints.
In each level, you—Murin—move through the phantasmagoric, searching for your love, Reynard. Reynard is a fox whose presence is defined by absence. He is not there. He is not in any level. He is not in another castle. Reynard is gone. Still, you search, through the endless corridors of mansions decorated with Cupid statues, and still you search through the abandoned carnival where empty popcorn bags roll slightly on the sparse grass. It is amazing how much detail can be illustrated, captured in a tiny maze seen on a little phone screen from above. When you get to the exit, which is a bouncy checkered sign, you shout, “Reynard?” in charming pixelated letters, and a single blue tear falls down Murin’s face. This process will repeat daily as long as there are servers to accommodate our mousy hero’s devotion.
There is a timer at the top of each level, and each day you may play it again and again and again. The goal is to get the highest score, which is a combination of speed, accuracy, and collecting relics along the way. Relics are assorted objects that provide points. Murin could be picking up a crystal skull or a bottle of mescal or watermelon or a prayer candle or a parka or shrimp chips or an ancient tome, and all of these relics are worth different values. There is no logic to how these points are awarded.
The final element of The Eternal Sadness of Murin and Reynard gameplay is Nirum. Where Murin is a fluffy, grey, beady-eyed mouse, Nirum is a shade, a miasma of Murin. Dangerous dark clouds and red laser eyes jutting out of the haze. Nirum’s movement pattern is intended to half-follow-Murin and half-wander-aimlessly, making Nirum’s walking slightly unpredictable. If Nirum touches Murin, Murin’s skin and fur turns blue and he collapses in a puddle of tears. No more Murin. Nirum is the only enemy in the game. Otherwise, it is an empty world.
Your position on the daily scoreboard matters. Being in a top position gifts you specie. Specie is a digital currency that allows you to buy bling in all of FBLZ’s social apps for your pet twin, your pet you. You can, of course, buy specie with cash, credit, cryptocurrency—but there is a coinlust to getting it for free. FBLZ has sustained their company this way, creating a virtual economy based on necessity. They have made billions off of the yearning of humans.
Every day people sit on their subway commutes, in their cars stuck in traffic, beside their children in sick areas waiting to be seen by the pediatrician…. Every day people survive bureaucratic delays and play this game, hoping to find the shortest route that allows them to collect every relic while avoiding the heart-thumping cartoon doom of Nirum. They do what they do to pursue the highest score—score more digital currency—bedeck their avatars in that perfect ensemble, the one they always dreamed of.
At some point, does The Eternal Sadness of Murin and Reynard become any other game? Do these people forget the title? Do they even wonder where Reynard went, if Murin will ever see him again? Does Reynard even know he’s being sought after? Can’t Murin find a fucking bed? Why does he sleep on broken teacups? Do these people not find it strange that Murin is walking through morgues collecting cigars and giant strawberries, or is this all just the necessary path to get free coinage? No one ever asked why there was a pretzel in Ms. Pacman, situated in that other dark maze amongst so much colorful fruit. Is the purpose of anomaly to resist questioning?
There has to be someone out there who finds a loneliness in this solitary wandering through vacant pathways. There has to be some scholar creating connections to Greek mythology, or else theorizing Murin’s pathways a type of Sheol. Or perhaps this is what people do: they play the game because it is just a game, after all. They forget Reynard, as a toothy fox has little to do with the cyber adornment that a surplus of specie can buy. These people fade into their phones, run through their Cinderella balls avoiding that wraith, collecting licorice and matchbooks and gilded bells, never wondering for a second what eternal sadness could mean.