Victor Schwartzman

I’m 76, have written all my life, and currently am a retired Human Rights Officer living in Vancouver.  I’ve been terrible at submitting, but in the past my stuff has been accepted by St. Vitus Prose and Poetry Review, Cherry Bleeds and The American Drivel Review.  More recently, using Duotrope and a new commitment, I’ve been accepted by The Academy of Hearts and Minds and The Potato Soup Review.

I try to write focused satire, starting with an issue very important to me.  

Violent Video Games

Phyllis was a video game designer who wanted to change violent video games. She worried the violence boosted players’ egos in all the wrong ways.

“What’s wrong?”

She looked up and saw her Supervisor leaning over her shoulder. She had a plan. “All our games are ‘shooters,’” she told him. “The point of view is like the killer’s in a slasher movie. The gamers play killers.”

He nodded. “The enemy is trying to kill the player,” he told her. “C’mon, violence in entertainment is an old story. I know what you believe but playing a video game has never affected anyone.”

“What if we developed a game where killing was not the focus? Where instead of killing things the player brought them back to life?” She stared at him.

He was thoughtful, then smiled, a bit wearily. “You’re our top designer. I want you happy. Give it a shot. Involve your team. Come up with something commercial.”

First thing the following morning, Phyllis introduced her concept to the team. The player would be a young God with divine powers. The setting was today, in a city. The player faced danger from ‘heretics’ who could be deadly. The goal was create believers and make life better for everyone.

Her team took the project to heart. After half a year a beta version was created. It was made available internally and everyone, including the many skeptics, played it.

Phyllis watched her colleagues play the game, satisfied in a way no game had achieved. A full version was ordered and the beta version put online for free testing.

 A month later, she walked into her Supervisor’s office. He was hunched over his desk, playing the game. “Shouldn’t you be home?” she asked.

“Left my wife last week.” He paused the game and looked at her. “Said I was rarely home so I left her. “Guess how many believers I’ve collected online?” he asked, smiling. “Over a two thousand!”

“Believers?” she asked. She went home troubled. The following morning, she listened to her colleagues about stuff other than work and realized about half the programmers had become divorced or separated; the other half, their partners played with them.

When the polished game was publicly available, within two months it was the best-selling game in the world. Phyllis sat in her office, not content. Yes, the game had achieved her goal. But around the world cults had formed based on her game. There were no more wars but there was more domestic violence and everyone worked overtime. Humanity became more focused and climate change worsened and fish had learned to eat plastic.

At least ego was no longer humanity’s driving force. Phyllis was proud of that. The concept was hers and she had seen it through to the final product. On the internet, Phyllis was referred to as the Creator.

She liked that.

She walked out of her office and looked at her colleagues. One by one, they turned and acknowledged their leader.

She liked that too.

“Our next game,” she told them, “will change everything.” 

Food For Thought

Once upon a time, a society made a religion of the Hamburger.

Fast food restaurants became places of worship. Many people had heart attacks, strokes, more had stomach cancer or could not climb stairs without gasping.

But they saw themselves as martyrs and would not give up their religion.

Political candidates ran on a pure beef platform, which the public ate up. Everyone prayed to The Hamburger to make their life better. Many found it profitable.

Hamburgers became an enormous business. After work people drove to the nearest drive- through for a prayer dinner with onion rings.

The demand for burgers was so great it became increasingly difficult to obtain fresh meat.

Vegetarians were considered heretics—one by one they began to disappear. Then, when they were gone, homeless people began to vanish. The burgers were chewier but those who kept eating did not mind. The new sources of meat were publicly- named Human Resources, and soon every city developed its own Human Resources Department.

Eating the homeless was supported by government, business and church leaders because, as any fool could see, poverty was finally being eaten away.

Fools began to disappear next.


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