With half the world in voluntary quarantine thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak, video games offer a welcome escape. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with Animal Crossing’s adorable villagers, instead of gawping at daytime TV or counting their cat’s nose hairs? Well, me for one. I chose a different path and found myself not on an island paradise, but at the doorstep of the worst couple in video game history.
Trip and Grace are the stars of Facade, an interactive drama that sees you invited to the pair’s apartment, ostensibly for dinner. Conversation flows, thanks to a text interpreter that still holds up fifteen years after the game’s release, but it’s apparent that all’s not well between the two. The game is a classic, and so, in honor of all those couples who are isolating together and are rapidly realizing how little they actually like each other, I chose to spend my self-imposed quarantine with Trip and Grace.
I arrive at Trip and Grace’s apartment in a positive frame of mind. Raised voices from behind the door inform me that a global pandemic isn’t the foremost thing on their minds. Still, I’ve cut holes in my coat lining so if it all goes to hell at least I should be able to shove a few toilet rolls in there.
I knock on the door and, moments later, Trip greets me warmly, then steps into the kitchen to argue with Grace about the time I was meant to arrive. I cast my eye around the apartment which is worryingly minimalist. I’d expected a wall full of Andrex, or at least some evidence of stockpiling, but there’s not even a sniff of hand sanitiser.
Grace and Trip return from the kitchen, trying so hard to fake a united front that I can hear their teeth grinding together. It doesn’t last long. Within five minutes, they’ve started another argument, this time over where I should sit.
In an effort to escape the brewing confrontation, I ask to use the toilet and I’m greeted with blank looks. It’s been scientifically proven that women don’t poo, but surely Trip must do his business somewhere? I tug at the single door by the kitchen, but it’s firmly locked. Either Trip’s leavings are so foul that the bathroom has to remain sealed, or there’s just one huge human-sized litter tray in the corner of the bedroom. It looks like The Great Hygiene Product Heist has hit a snag.
I’m snapped out of this train of thought by Trip’s continued insistence on showing me his holiday snaps of their recent trip. To Italy.
I’ve spent the better part of a day pressing myself against the walls of the apartment, struggling to keep the recommended six feet between myself and my hosts. Sheer politeness prevents me fleeing, but I twitch every time Trip clears his throat.
Grace, at least, has let me “admire” her horrific knick-knacks from a distance, though I can see in her eyes that she’s weighing up which would do the most damage to Trip’s fragile cranium. The one blessing is that, at least for now, the pair has stopped using me to score hatred points against the other.
“Am I going to die here?” I ask the Magic 8-Ball on the table.
“Sure thing,” it replies helpfully.
Trip sees me leaning against the bar and takes it as a cue to offer me yet another drink. The last time he gave me one, he called it a “Grace” because it was “bitter and full of ice.” But I’m 90% sure alcohol kills the virus and I’m 100% sure I need to be blind, stupid drunk if I’m going to stay in this pair’s company without murdering them. What’s the worst that could happen?
“I know… I’m going to open us a magnificent, I mean, astounding Bordeaux,” says Trip. All the while, Grace is insisting that maybe I’d like something simpler, like a mineral water.
“It doesn’t matter,” I reply, hoping diplomacy will win the day.
“Is that… is our special wine? The one we were saving for our anniversary?” Grace shrieks as Trip pours. It is. And, as the argument escalates to window-shaking proportions, it becomes crystal clear — one of them has to go.
I’m slumped in the kitchen, nursing a glass of anniversary wine and considering my next course of action. Unable to decide which of the pair is worse – if their legs were on fire they’d be arguing about who was doing more damage to the carpet – I decide to toss a coin.
Thus begins operation CoronaDivorce.
After half a day wilfully undermining Trip, sowing the seeds of dissent, I thought I’d be making more headway. “I heard Trip cough again. Maybe six feet isn’t enough,” I murmur as I sidle up to Grace, “and he really doesn’t appreciate your collection of porcelain sea urchins.”
“SO TRIP, HOW’S THAT AFFAIR GOING?” I bellow as I retreat to the kitchen with the Magic 8-Ball, whom I’ve christened Round Terrence. He’s not the best conversationalist, but at least he doesn’t make me play piggy-in-the-middle with his horrible, irredeemably broken marriage.
I’ve finally reached my breaking point. In my head, Trip and Grace have merged into one horrifying gestalt, a many-limbed nightmare beast that won’t stop screeching and flailing. In short, it’s not going well. It wouldn’t even matter if the streets were filled with reanimated corpses, I need to get out here. I pocket Round Terrence and make a break for the door. I can see Trip’s about to say something so, in a last ditch effort to shut him up, I kiss him full on the mouth.
Coronavirus or not, that sheer look of horror will keep me warm for many nights to come. I take advantage of Trip’s gawping, frozen stance to swipe the anniversary wine off the bar and dash out of the door.
It’s been an experience, but maybe I should concentrate on the ‘self’ part of ‘self-isolation’.
That said, I wonder if the Doom Slayer has a spare room on that gothic spaceship of his?