Fantasy Reviews Fantasy Short Stories Reviews: Lightspeed Magazine

Abandonware (Short Review)

Abandonware is the story of a young woman finding solace in an impossible video game. It’s equal parts an intriguing, albeit unbeatable, game and the struggles of dealing with the abandonment of a parent and the extremes of coping mechanisms. It’s written with heart and a hope that the main character might find what she’s looking for.


Genevieve Valentine
Lightspeed Magazine, September 2018 Issue


Abandonware has a lot of twists and turns, becoming muddled the further we get into it. That confusion makes sense with the character and the state of her life. She becomes obsessed with this game, or rather a strange aspect of the game that is simply a stream of a deer running around the digital world. It invades her days, her nights and her memories, rewriting parts of her experiences and confusing the narrative. Chrissy makes for an unpredictable and unreliable narrator, and you wonder which parts of her story are actually true.

By the end, it’s hard to separate Chrissy from the deer. It brings a death theme to the story that is a major part of her narrative. She’s lost her father (both to divorce and to his eventual death), her mother, her job, her house, her car. Everything is lost except for this deer walking around this virtual world. I believe she sees the deer as an extension of herself.


Chrissy is an extremely complex character. She recounts her story nonchalantly and without feeling, explaining the losses in her life and the empty space the game has filled. This fantasy world consumes her, spilling into her work and her memories. She loses everything and, while it seems to be because of the game, there’s a bigger picture to consider. It’s possible that the game speaks to her because she needs to manifest her grief and her struggles in some way. We see early on that she give life to her toys, playing out dramas and arguments. She assigns motivation to the deer early on, but loses that otherness along the way. It’s a fascinating character study of how some people cope with loss.


There are two settings: the real world and the video game world. The real world mirrors our own, with nothing out of the ordinary. The game world is an intensely developed RPG with preset mission parameters, though the map is open world. You’re allowed to explore, but every minute counts. Chrissy’s obsession is with a stream, or game within the game, following a single deer as it progresses through the setting.


Fantasy, Video Games, Roleplaying

Interested in more stories like Abandonware? Read our short reviews here.

Photo by Jahit Janberk on Unsplash

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