Due Diligence: Six Lads in the Woods

Due Diligence: Six Lads in the Woods

Press release: Superstar blogger/cultural maven Leigh Harrison to release long-awaited fourth videogame criticism anthology.

As the world teeters on the precipice of catastrophe, creativity remains our only viable act of defiance. Here, award-winning writer Leigh Harrison shares a work in progress poem from his upcoming anthology, My Mom Lives in the Cloud and Other Tales of Existential Torment. Using videogame narratives as canvas, the book examines radical new theories of compulsion and digital entertainment, delivered in verse for 5–11 year-olds.

In this extract, Leigh explores the moral implications of player control over both digital avatars and their adversaries. Taking a commonplace scenario from Assassin’s Creed Origins, he dismantles the internal logic used by the game to normalize virtual butchery, before allowing the scene to implode under the weight of its now inescapable preposterousness. As protagonist Bayek and other characters flail in the void, new meanings slowly emerge. They reframe our understanding not only of what it is to inhabit digital personas, but also how visceral the intersection between humanity and play can be.


Six lads in the woods

In a nook by a brook

Which runs silent and clear

(Through a forest of ladybugs, bats and deer

Lions and hippos and the odd beaver)

Sits a heartbroken man from a town known as Siwa.

Patient and strong and biding his time

His mind drifts to remember their terrible crime

As a shudder sets in he is filled up with dread:

His son

His son

His son is dead.


“My life, my love, my joy

Why did they take you, Khemu,

My sweet little boy?”

A storm, a temple, a glistening knife

All conspired together

To take the boy’s life.

Who these men are, Bayek cannot say

But one thing’s for sure

They will all someday pay.

Obscured behind masks and known as The Order

These shadows rule Egypt

From east to west border.

Manipulating the young Pharaoh with cunning and skill

They lie, steal and cheat

And when cornered they kill.

But as they’ll soon see, their power is waning

For Bayek of Siwa’s

An Assassin in training.  


And so in a nook

By a brook

In a cathedral of trees

Stalks a hunter of men

At peace with his means

A sword and a shield

His wits and hidden blade

Six lads down to one

When the rest are all slayed.

While it’s true that these five

Are henchmen, no more

Bayek’s hatred is is deep,

Dark, bloody and raw

So while they are naught

But trash mob-type lads

He’s convinced that their deaths

Somehow lead to Big Bads.


Bayek stalks through the trees

And readies his bow

There’s a guard on a tower

And what he doesn’t know

Is there’s arrows flying

Straight for his head

By the time they’re seen coming

He’ll already be dead.

With the lookout gone

It’s easy pickings

The other four guards

Are sleeping like chickens

Passed out in a tent

(It was a long day)

They’re oblivious that death

Is coming their way.


Ascending the tower

That used to be manned

His mission unfolding

Exactly as planned

The flex of a bicep

Raises up a red jar

Conveniently filled

With flammable tar

Placing it gently beside

The still-sleeping chaps

He repeats the process

A couple more laps.






He’s throwing the hottest party

They’ve ever had.

With the woosh of an arrow

Of righteous flame

Our hero is dealing out

Maximum pain.


 As the tent fire rages

The lads scream “What the fluff?

We’re on fire and dying

And it’s horrible stuff.

You’re the best, Bayek

We’re all so shook

We sided with bad guys

Oh how we mistook

The Roman conquest of Egypt

For something that’s good

But all it’s brought to your country

Is a whole lot of blood

And now we’re on fire

So we’ll just wish you good luck

Liberating the land

From Italian muck.”


One and all they expire

As Bayek inspects

Their funeral pyre

He makes one for himself

From oil jars in station

Shooting them like before

But for self immolation

He burns in agony

Until he dies

But instead of the end,

The videogame replies:

“I’ll begin you again

Just minutes before

So you can have fun

And play me some more.”


So in a nook by a brook

Sits a man out of time

He sits in his nook

And ponders their crime

Five lads in a clearing

Minding their stuff

Until Bayek of Siwa

Has again had enough.

A lad with an arrow

And four with the embers

He’s done it before

But never remembers

It’s their fifteenth time here

Another rendezvous

Though for our hero Bayek

It always feels new.


But all of a sudden

There comes a great smack

A smack swiftly followed

By a crickety-crack

As they shoot up through Bayek

He feels curious sensations

New perspectives, new knowledge

And new realizations

A furor

In his core

Has he been here before?

As he burns once again

He starts questioning why

Why the player always chooses

That he should die

He’s the hero after all

Alongside Aya his wife

So why’s this always end

With him losing his life?


The problem is Bayek

Doesn’t know of the trophy

A way of showing

Other players we’re worthy

If you do things just right

You’re given a digital pin

And score both a macro

And micro win.

You see, the actual game

Is one of the meta

While they try to “git gud”

And always play better

It’s not so they enjoy

The minute-to-minute

But make a game of the game

And eventually win it

Trophies and gamerscore

Humblebrags in the forum

The gamers need to always

Be proving they’re awesome.


So Bayek goes back

Into the camp

By the nook by the brook

Where it’s warm and damp

And he follows up

On his regular plan

Arrow, fire, and death

By his own hand

As he fades and his health bar

Chips away

He wonders if there’s something

He can do to stay

His recurrent nightmare

That’s oh so sorry

“If only I could pursue

The game’s main story!”


But then a *ping* pops out

Across the whole room

A trophy’s been unlocked

And its name is BOOM!:

[Thirty lads killed with fire jars]

It’s finally done

And with BOOM! comes the fabled


The game is complete

And so is the the player

The bestest of best people:

A videogame slayer!

All locations, missions

And those fluffing elephants

Vantage points, quests

And colosseum entrants

A game that is now 100%

Content empty

They vanquished its challenges

And soaked up its plenty

Bayek, our hero

Is finally is free,



Except for the DLC.



Notes from the editors

Leigh Harrison is a critically acclaimed author and blogger, contemporaneously focused on the intersection of behavioral psychology and videogames. His latest book, My Mom Lives in the Cloud and Other Tales…, explores the pressing issues of societal decline, digital emancipation and the dangers of over-reliance on technology.

His earlier anthologies, Notes from the Tin Can: Good Beer and Good Videogames Never Age Badly and Six for a Fiver: Tales of Discount Living, saw the author explore the medium of videogames through the unique lens of poverty-stricken, alcohol-fueled desperation. His most recent published work, Flower: An EnvirOntological Dissection, was called a “triumph of fanaticism” by The Observer and an “emotionally draining 467 pages of critical commentary” by the Financial Times.

A member of the videogame criterati for almost a decade, Leigh’s playful yet incisive writing has been featured on industry sites such as Kotaku, Gamasutra, VentureBeat and Haywire. He was featured that one time on the New Statesman dot com, and was named one of 2017’s #BestBloggers by Critical Distance. He has been described as a “London-based writer”, someone who “talks a lot about ‘bags of sick and poo’”, and “a good case study”. He lives, as reported, in London, with his wife and their folding bicycles. He is on Twitter.