Level 1. Catch Fire
It begins with a virus.
Then, after the apocalypse, you wake up in Boston.
Leafless tree branches, pockmarked either with the white of residual radiation or mere silhouetted skeletons against a sky that is always the wrong color. Fog running along war-created riverbeds to hide mutated dogs and two-headed bear-wolves and zombies that run too fast. In the towns you happen across, people trying to kill you fill the alleyways between the brick apartment buildings. Military convoys rumble down concrete streets. Armed guards, dressed in the all-black of a steroid SWAT team or the rags of a band of marauders, swarm around concrete barricades. Storefronts are hollowed out, but occasional supplies will glow when you near them: scissors, gauze, ammunition for your .45; tin cans, the irradiated hide of an unnatural animal, ammo for your customized nine millimeter.
Shortly after returning home from a post-law school year spent starving in New York, I’d played The Last of Us Remastered for the PS4. As preamble to the exercise, I played through the original Gears of War. I wanted post-apocalypse in all its varieties.
My father had passed away over 18 years ago, and I was still angry. Genociding zombies with slapdash weapons across an irradiated America would help, I thought. I hoped. It was supposed to be fun.
My console hums to life.