Armada Chapter 3: We Watch Zack Watch Someone Else Play a Video Game

squidward angry gif spongebob

Zack heads to work, and it seems like he works with someone else who loves nerdy references! What are the chances?

The sign mounted over the entrance of Starbase Ace was a bit fancier. Ray had designed it to look like a real Starbase was bursting out of the building’s brick façade. It had cost him a fortune, but it did look cool as hell.

As I pushed through the front door, the electronic chime Ray had rigged up to it activated, playing a sliding-door sound effect from the original Star Trek TV series, making it sound like I was walking onto the bridge of the Enterprise. It still made me smile every time I arrived at work— even today.

I feel like this is in the equivalent of how in Crossfire and Fifty Shades, they’re always describing their fancy clothes/houses/parties. Except this will be, “Here’s this cool thing that we did that is also a reference. LOOK AT IT.” I think House of Night did this a bit as well with like Aphrodite’s shower or every description of a ritual ever.

Like there is even more that I’m not quoting, like toy lasers with motion sensors. Sorry I have deprived you of such crucially quoted details.

Zack tells us Ray is very loveable because he loves junk food and video games, which I guess makes me equally as loveable. It’s a relief that the criteria for likability is so simple.

Ray once told me that he operated Starbase Ace “for kicks.” After making a boatload of dough on tech stocks during the dot-com boom, he now wanted to enjoy his early retirement at the helm of his own private nerd lair, where he got to spend all day playing and talking about videogames with his like-minded clientele.

Does Starbase Ace sell video games? I still can’t figure out what the fuck it actually does, but this seems like the focus of the book, so maybe it’s safe to assume this. Or if Ray really doesn’t care about money, maybe it really is just a super sketchy hangout place where he lures people in to talk to him about games?

He was always saying he didn’t give a damn if the store ever turned a profit— which was good, because it rarely did. Ray paid way too much for the used games we bought, and then immediately priced them for less than he’d just paid for them. He put everything on sale, all the time. He sold consoles, controllers, and hardware at no markup— to, as he put it, “foster customer loyalty and promote the gaming industry.”

So both my assumptions were correct.

Ray was also terrible at customer service. He made people wait at the register if he was in the middle of playing a game. He also loved to talk shit about people’s game selections while he was ringing them up, if he thought they were buying a lame or easy title, and I’d seen him drive both children and adults out of the store with his opinions on everything from cheat codes to crop circles.

Damn I want this guy’s “job”.

Zack’s name tag apparently has his nickname “Zack Attack” on it. This brings up some dark memories for Zack:

He didn’t know that “Zack Attack” was also the name my peers had saddled me with after “the Incident” back in junior high.

You guys, I’m starting to think Zack…Attacked someone. IT IS ALL RIGHT THERE IN THE NICKNAME.

Zack gets to work and starts looking online for any mentions of a flying saucer sighting in the area. He comes up short, and wonders if he should talk to Ray about this since Ray is conveniently obsessed with all things alien. I hope Ray never finds out about the aliens and is just forgotten about completely, and he spends the rest of his life never knowing he was onto something. What a hilarious tragedy that would be.

How was I supposed to walk over to Ray and tell him with a straight face that I’d seen a Sobrukai fighter buzzing our town— when he was, at that very moment, doing battle with that very same fictional alien race?

He’s playing a different game by the same creator’s of Armada where you are still fighting the same aliens. The aliens are “squid-like,” so I guess this is a green light for Matt and I to post images of Spongebob’s Squidward as an accurate depiction of these aliens.

squidward angry gif spongebob

They are called “Sobrukai”, which I am already sick of typing and it happened once.

Even the book couldn’t come up with a good reason for these aliens to be attacking. They just want our planet for some reason and don’t know how to share. What fascinating motives. Although I guess if this is military propaganda it would make sense for the aliens to seem as evil/one-dimensional as possible to brainwash people into thoughtlessly slaughtering them. I hope that’s the case!

Luckily for us, like so many made-up evil alien invaders before them, the Sobrukai also seemed intent on exterminating us as slowly and inefficiently as possible. Instead of just wiping out humanity with a meteor or a killer virus or a few old-fashioned long-range nuclear weapons, the squids had opted to wage a prolonged World War II– style air and ground war against us— while somehow allowing all of their advanced weapons, propulsion, and communications technology to fall into their primitive enemy’s hands.

This is a pretty funny observation, but again I’m interested to see if there’s actually more at play or if this is actually it.

These games are apparently wildly popular, so it’s not even like our hero just happens to be into some fringe game, which is what I was expecting. BUT the better you are in the game, the better the drones you can operate to fight aliens. Gee, I wonder if Zack is going to be able to pilot “The Titan Warmech” at some point.

Zack claims these aliens are actually “subvert[ing] a lot of tropes” because they’re using drones to fight humans. We then have to hear the logic behind using drones instead of humans to fight, which is a very topical issue in today’s day and age. Thanks, book.

Zack is like, “LOL Star Wars should have actually done this.” He annoys me.

Ray plays the game, and Zack narrates it to us. He mentions that Ray listens to music that helps him play because it seems timed to the drone attack patterns. This seems like a thing that might be important to note. Also that the drones all have massive weak spots you can exploit.

Ray is an elite player with no life (basically Zack’s words.) Again, how funny would it be if he remains oblivious to aliens this whole book?

Then Ray reveals he’s gotten an incredible new controller/VR headset for the game. Things could be any more exciting, could they? Please, let me read pages of your description of this controller, Zack “The Fucking Mysterious Incident Where He Probably Just Punched Someone” Attack”.

Ray has given Zack lots of gifts in the past, but Zack is momentarily reluctant to accept this super expensive controller as an early graduation gift from Ray. Is this guy grooming Zack? You really shouldn’t be showering underage boys with gifts like this.

Morgan Freeman narrates the start of the game. Just thought you should know that. (Also I feel like Zoey would just LOVE this book with all it’s Star Wars and celebrity references.)

Zack repeatedly reminds us how cliche these aliens and their intentions are. It was kind of funny at first, but it’s rapidly losing its charm.

It was pretty silly to nitpick over plot holes and scientific inaccuracies. Especially if they justified evil alien overlords and dogfighting in space.

Please don’t let this be the moral of this story.

We get more infodump on who created the game and how. I think the key takeaway is that THIS CONSPIRACY IS VAST AND EVEN JAMES CAMERON IS INVOLVED. I think Michael Bay being involved would have made things a lot more…explosive. 

We even have to learn why the game is successful, about its pricing model, about what other games are like it, the style of gameplay etc. I honestly am trying to put myself in the mind of someone who gives a fuck about this, but it is so boringly written that I can’t.

Suddenly Zack makes the connection between these games and his father’s mysterious conspiracy notebook. Come on! I know the book just told me not to nitpick when there will be alien fights in space, but come on. 

Besides, the game had only been out for a few years, so how could it possibly be connected to the stuff my father had written in his notebook decades ago?

On the other hand, if the government really did want to train average citizens to operate drones in combat, then multiplayer combat games like Armada and Terra Firma would be exactly the sort of games you’d create to do it….

Luckily, someone comes into the store, thus distracting Zack and ending the chapter.





  1. Jennifer Layton Reply

    The aliens are here to study Ray. They want to know how a human specimen with such bad money habits and business sense made so much money in the first place, and how long it will take him to go broke.

  2. Utsutsu Reply

    “It was pretty silly to nitpick over plot holes and scientific inaccuracies. Especially if they justified evil alien overlords and dogfighting in space.”

    I think Zack is personally antagonizing BBGT now.


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