Prince Harry was right. Online games are delusional as Te-Ping Chen’s short story shows


The appropriateness of Prince Harry’s warning about Fortnite some little time ago can hardly be overstated.

Fortnite, of course, is the online game and online games are B I G.

Just the other day I heard on the radio about a young man named Mats Steen, who died of a degenerative disease and spent most of his life playing the online game World of Warcraft.

And consider the following lines from ‘Lulu’, Te-Ping Chen’s new short story in the New Yorker:

“I died repeatedly that semester, but amassed several hundred gold coins and was made first a warlock, then a mage. The other boys in my dorm were addicts, too, and we played fiercely into the evening, cussing, headphones on, until midnight, when the power was cut. Classes were a negligible affair: what mattered was your grade on the final exams, and those could readily be crammed for by memorizing ten or fifteen pages of mimeographed notes sold by upperclassmen. Honestly, I had no idea who actually went to class: I pictured teachers sitting with their laptops in front of empty rooms, one eye on the clock, maybe playing video games of their own, maybe taking a nap.”

Ms Te-Peng’s story is about twins – a boy and a girl – in modern China. The girl is an excellent student and an internet warrior – for freedom. The boy becomes a restaurant worker and an online gamer. Eventually, the girl winds up in prison; the boy a respected chef and a gamer on the international circuit.

The symbolism of it all cannot be denied.

Gaming – faux reality – has its rewards. Reality its perils. We have been warned.