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The Sweet Arcade Life

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Visiting Sugar Rush was always an eye-opening experience for Wreck-It Ralph.

The game he lived in, Fix-It Felix Jr., was thirty years old. Not much had changed in the game in thirty years. True, the Nicelanders had finally changed their attitude and started being nice to him, but every day was still pretty much the same.

The apartment building got built.

Wreck-It Ralph started to wreck it. He had to admit, he was pretty good with his hands.

Fix-It Felix Jr. started to fix it, hopping around with his magic hammer. The Nicelanders gave him pies.

If the game player was good, Ralph got thrown off the roof by the Nicelanders at the end of the game.
If the game player wasn’t good, Ralph just wandered off-screen, waiting for the next quarter to drop. He had noticed that sometimes it seemed like there was an awfully long time between quarter drops.

They had added the homeless Q-bert characters into their game’s bonus level so that they had a machine to live in again. However, it took some pretty dedicated playing to hit the bonus level, and Ralph had noticed that it seemed like most of the kids were drawn to the newer games. Fix-It Felix Jr. still got plenty of play, but sometimes Ralph noticed he was looking out at someone who could have been playing the game for the whole thirty years. They were right next to the dual feature Pac-Man/Galaga game, though, and that meant they always had company.

Retro, he told himself. Old, but cool. Look at Pac-Man, still chowing down on the dots and either chasing the ghosts or being chased.

Ralph cringed every time he saw some ten-year old playing Hero’s Duty, though. He liked Calhoun, but he really had no desire to ever step through that gate again. Too many moving pieces that were all trying to kill you, he thought – it made him thankful for his nice quiet building full of Nicelanders.

It seemed like every time he visited Sugar Rush, though, something was different. There were new obstacles, new racers, or both. Vanellope von Schweetz was the one thing that always stayed the same.

“Do you have to keep changing everything?” He had finally asked the question one time, after Vanellope had “forgot” to tell him that they’d replaced part of one area’s walls with wafer cookies, and he’d gone head-first into a pond of butterscotch syrup.
Vanellope rolled her eyes. “I don’t change everything, silly. There’s a weekly update push. We have keep things random, or people won’t enjoy playing as much.”
“But you’re always in the game,” he pointed out.
“That’s because I’m the princess,” she said in a lofty voice. “The most popular characters don’t get changed.”

*** *** ***

One thing that had changed with the game reset was Diet Cola Mountain. Not only had it been restored, but it had been transformed into a complete part of the game. It had apparently been cut off from the rest of the game when Turbo made the alterations to take it over. Ironically, it had been intended as a training mini-game for beginning players, where they could earn points while learning how to best control their vehicle. Ralph was amused to see that while there were a few Mentos stalactites, there was also a pile of Mentos for racers not in play to throw into the pool, “randomly” causing burning hot cola to splash onto the racing karts, eating away parts of them. Every now and then, Vanellope let him redesign the track a little. It was nice to cause some destruction that actually helped someone, he thought.

“What’s with all the mini-games?” Ralph asked. He had to admit, this one was a lot better than the one where they had built the cart for Vanellope.
“They keep people entertained, and spending money on the machine,” she replied with a shrug.
He guessed it was kind of like the scenes that played during breaks in the game. Ms. Pac-Man had the Pac-Man love story, and there were a few of them built into Fix-It Felix Jr., like a scene that showed Felix receiving his magic hammer from his father.

*** *** ***

The random race that happened every night in Sugar Rush had started to attract players from other games. No one had realized that Turbo had subtly discouraged people from visiting, even when the arcade was closed. Felix and Calhoun had made it a date one night, and after that it seemed like everyone dropped in, now and then. There had been the one crazy night where Mario and Luigi had commandeered cars and ended crashing into each other while trying to drive down a pipe. Ralph guessed it was hard to blame them. After that, Vanellope had insisted that Sour Bill maintain a list of outside characters who wanted to race. Winchell and Duncan were instructed to keep a better eye on the karts.

Vanellope had enjoyed the chance to leave her own game as well, something that had been denied to her by Turbo’s sabotage of her game. Surprisingly, she couldn’t use her signature glitch move outside her own game, and Ralph had to admit he might have deliberately dropped a few bricks on her head when she was pretending to be Felix. He figured it made up for the whole wafer-cookie wall incident. Still, what she enjoyed most was checking out everything in her own game, especially if it was a level that wasn’t currently in play. As a glitch, she had mostly stayed in the area near the race, always hoping for her chance to enter. Now she could race whenever she wanted.

In recognition of his role as one of the saviors of Sugar Rush, Vanellope had appointed him the Duke of Destruction. Ralph was thankful that no one pointed out that he had almost caused the game to be destroyed by the cy-bugs, but it had all worked out for the best. If he hadn’t game-crashed, Vanellope would still be condemned to glitch forever and sleep rolled up in her candy wrappers under Diet Cola Mountain, and they would never have discovered that Turbo had taken over their innocent little game.

Vanellope had given him a duty – she had even managed to get through that speech with a straight face – to assist her in checking out all the mini-games that were loaded on Friday nights. She had said that if he could figure the mini-game out, then anyone could. He decided not to remind her of how horribly she had done in the Minute to Win It mini-game. That one was a staple, since all racers needed a kart, but whoever pushed the updates kept adding new options to it. Vanellope still hadn’t managed to make a decent kart on her own, but she was getting a little better at it.

One of the updates had installed a mini-game that was a maze, complete with patches of sticky fruit syrup that were activated when a kart rolled over them, but didn’t actually hurt that kart. Instead, they grew and oozed all over the track, until racers who were too far behind got trapped. Then there was the mini-game that involved racers having to get through a field full of animal crackers without hitting any of them. The mini-game they installed especially for Easter, with chocolate bunnies and eggs everywhere. There were also the new areas that popped up, like the Breakfast Forest, where all the trees were covered in Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes that fell off the tree if a racer got too close. Some of the things the designers came up with made Ralph shake his head, and be thankful that none of those crazy people could update his game.

There were rumors in the arcade of an “anniversary edition” of Fix-It Felix Jr. being produced, but rumors like that were always flying around. It made Ralph wonder, just a little, what it might be like to be part of one of those games where things did change, and what an update might look like.

Then he usually got tangled up in Laffy Taffy or found himself trapped in a cherry-bomb minefield, with Vanellope close behind, and he realized he didn’t need to be part of an updated game where he would still be the Bad Guy. He didn’t even need to be the Good Guy anymore. It was enough to be here, where he could just be a Guy, hanging out with his friend.

He was just taking it one game at a time.