Witness Mr. Henry Sim, a sour little man in a self-imposed exile from the world. He shirks the warmth of others, living a lonely existence of reality television, microwave dinners, and bitter resentment of the people who smile and laugh around him. But in just a moment, Mr. Sim will enter a world without happiness or laughter. He’ll have a world all to himself, without anyone, in the Cube of Despair.
This is Henry. He’s a loner, a slob, and a glutton. He loves nothing more than sitting on the couch, shoveling junk food into his mouth, and staring at the TV. The traits I set when I created him mean that the more time he spends on his own, and on the sofa, the happier he is.
The Cube of Despair is his new home: a small, windowless room with no means of escape. Inside are the bare necessities for living: a toilet, a couch to sleep on, a microwave, a fridge, and a television. For a slacker like Henry, it’s heaven. No nosy neighbours knocking on the door and inviting him to parties, no job to go to, and an endless supply of snacks to hurl into his gob. He can even go for a dump without taking his eyes off the TV. But soon, this heaven will become his own personal hell.
Predictably, Henry is having the time of his life. He sinks into the couch and watches TV for hours on end, occasionally getting up to use the toilet or nuke some slop in the microwave. Without a shower or bath, his hygiene is plummeting rapidly, but he doesn’t care. He continues to stare at the glowing box in the corner of the room, laughing and farting, as a putrid green stink wafts from his armpits.
There’s no sink in the Cube of Despair either, and discarded plates, bowls, and glasses begin to litter the room, kicking up a foul stench of their own. It’s only been a couple of days, and already the place is a mess. But, naturally, Henry is still glued to the couch, hooting at the TV. Sometimes he watches it for so long he forgets to sleep and passes out on the floor, surrounded by mouldy dishes.
As he sleeps off yet another TV marathon, I take away the toilet. It’s not long before he’s red-faced, squeezing his legs together, shouting for help. But no one is listening. He empties his bladder all over the floor, then suddenly passes out from exhaustion, lying comatose in the steaming puddle. This sends him into a spiral of embarrassment and discomfort. The Cube, it seems, is finally getting to him.
So I get rid of the fridge and microwave. Desperate for sustenance, Henry turns to a glass of orange juice he abandoned days earlier. It’s gone rotten, but he drinks it anyway. He gets visibly angry as his bladder fills and his stomach empties. But, despite all this, he continues watching TV on the couch. Hours pass and he becomes ravenous. He tries to sleep, but wakes up every hour or so, frustrated by the hunger. The television is the only thing keeping him sane. It’d be a shame if someone took that away too.
It’s been two days since I took the TV away. Henry spends his time sleeping, playing games on his phone, and cursing the uncaring deity hovering above him. Almost all of his needs bars are in the red, and he’s close to the end. But the Cube of Despair is not entirely without mercy, and it’s going to give Henry a chance to escape his cruel fate. This nightmare could have a happy ending.
While Henry sleeps, I build two doors on either side of the room. One leads to an apartment furnished with everything he could ever want: a comfy bed, a shower, a stocked kitchen, a big TV, and a massive sofa. The other leads to a tiny, dark, stone-walled cell containing nothing but a single, uncomfortable chair and the dim glow of an oil lamp. Whichever door Henry chooses will seal his fate.
The problem is the AI. If Henry’s tiny robot brain detects that, through the door to his right, there’s a shower and a kitchen, he’ll go straight for it. So I connect the Cube to the new rooms with corridors that don’t have exits. When he chooses one, I’ll delete the door behind him, then build another leading into the room ahead. This way, the choice he makes will be random. His decision must be pure.
Henry wakes up, ignoring the doors that have magically appeared in his dingy little grief-hole. He lies motionless on the couch and grumbles about his sorry situation. So I take the couch away. He stands there for hours, playing games on his phone, which, annoyingly, I can’t confiscate from him. I look at his mood and it says he’ll starve to death in 12 hours. He’d better make a choice soon. There’s a fridge overflowing with food through one of those doors, and it could all be his.
I set the game to the fastest speed and wait. Then, finally, Henry picks a door. He wanders over, opens it, and finds himself in a narrow corridor. The door behind him vanishes, and one appears in front of him. This is it. The moment that will determine how he ends his days. Will it be the Rectangle of Relative Luxury or the Cube of Even More Despair? He pushes the new door open.
Bad choice. Henry has chosen the wrong door. By this point I was actually feeling bad for him, and was secretly hoping he’d pick the door leading to the nice apartment. But the AI gods are not on his side, and he steps into his grim new home, the exit disappearing behind him. He walks over to the chair and sits. The clock ticks down, and the grim reaper swings his scythe. Henry is no more.
Henry Sim. A lazy, bitter man who chose a life of solitude, now consigned, forever, to the endless loneliness of the void. Another tragic victim of the Cube of Despair.
See more screenshots of Henry’s ordeal here