Robotron Turns 40: Dream Diaries of an Aging Killing Machine

The cortisol rush is delicious, unbearable. Fight, Flight, Fight, Flight.

Robotron Turns 40:
Dream Diaries of an Aging Killing Machine
Mr. Robotron's Neighbourhood. Source: Author.

Robotron: 2084 is a multidirectional shooter developed by Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar of Vid Kidz and released in arcades by Williams Electronics in 1982. The game is set in the year 2084 in a fictional world where robots have turned against humans in a cybernetic revolt. The aim is to defeat endless waves of robots, rescue surviving humans, and earn as many points as possible.” Wikipedia

Dream. There’s a birthday cake covered with lit candles. It says “Happy 40th Multi-Directional Robot Assassin!” in pink frosting. Faceless voices sing and clap. I blow out the candles, then start running crazily in all directions and pump everyone full of bullets. I shoot the cake three hundred times. I am covered with pink frosting and the smoky smell of dead robot. Wake up sweating.

Dream. I am sitting in a chair in an empty black box. From somewhere overhead, I hear my “makers” Jarvis and DeMar.

Jarvis says to me, “ We designed the game to instil panic in players by presenting them with conflicting goals and having on-screen projectiles coming from multiple directions.” Then DeMar says, “You’re so screwed!! You’ve got two joysticks, but no joy!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” Jarvis and DeMar laughed in my face for a full minute.

I stand up, laugh, then shoot Jarvis and DeMar in the face three hundred times, running crazily in all directions. The cortisol rush is delicious, unbearable. Fight, Flight, Fight, Flight. I can’t stop laughing. Wake up sweating.

Dream. Dude One. “Hey let’s text Robotron. He’s a chill hang.”

Dude Two, “No way dude. Robotron is a sociopath. He’ll shoot us in the face three hundred times.”

Dude One, “He can’t help it. He’s built up 40 years of muscle memory.”

Dude Two, “And cortisol. That shit is toxic.”

Dude One, “People call him paranoid, but he is literally surrounded by enemies — Hulks, Enforcers, Brains, Tanks — who have each been programmed to kill him in increasingly sophisticated ways. Endless waves of robots are hunting him with serious firepower, dude, not mean Tweets.”

Dude Two, “I concur. The constant existential dread makes Robotron:2084 an astute metaphor for late-stage capitalism.”

Wake up sweating.

Birthday selfie. Source: Author.

Dream. I’m in the black box and just finished blasting the last few robots. The screen changes to the next level, and suddenly, everything just freezes.

I step up and say, “Can we just stop, catch our breath and introduce ourselves? Hi, I’m Robotron and when I’m not running crazily in all directions and shooting you three hundred times, I like to play Wordle. I crochet plant cozies that I sell on Etsy. I like Phish. What’s your name?”

The robots stare at me, silently.

After a full minute, a Brain robot comes up to me and says, “ Who made you judge, jury, and executioner, anyway? Hm? Who elected you, tough guy? What about due process? Ever heard of a little thing called the Fifth Amendment? P.S. Phish sucks ass.”

Then he shoots me in the face. Wake up sweating.

Dream. I’m in the wave where I rescue the blonde women from the bad robots. I’m blasting away and running crazily in all directions when one of them turns to me and says, “Hands off, asshole. No one asked you to save me. Maybe I prefer to stay with the other robots, huh? Maybe someone should have asked me? Maybe I should have some agency in my own story? You’re a douchebag, Robotron and a tool of the patriarchy. You’ll die alone.”

A Brain robot shoots me in the face. Wake up sweating.

Dream. I’m at a party and someone asks me, “So what’s your name? What do you do?”

I say, “I’m Robotron. I kill in all directions.”

They brighten and say, “Really? Can you come with me to Thanksgiving dinner?”

Wake up sweating.


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