SLAY by Brittney Morris
Welcome to the universe of SLAY, a virtual-reality card game designed exclusively for black players. In SLAY, kids across the world log-in to duel as powerful heroes in a vast, online Wakanda designed just for them. SLAY is the anonymous creation of teen developer Kiera Johnson, a young genius who manages its servers in total secrecy from her family, friends and boyfriend. However, when SLAY is implicated in a real-life murder, Kiera’s beloved creation becomes the focus of media outrage, racist profiling and accusations of ‘anti-white discrimination’. As Kiera is dragged into the public sphere, she and her inner circle grapple with questions of online culture, safe spaces, and black identity.
SLAY is a bombastic and thrilling jaunt into the boundless possibilities of geekdom and virtual worlds, flexing a unique game-system and tense virtual battles which left me exhilarated and wishing I could log in to play. This fast-paced action is carefully balanced with a reader-conscious exploration of the complexities of race and cultural identity, while also highlighting very real issues in gaming and contemporary online culture.
It is no secret that the real-world gaming community has major issues with racism. Increasing diversity in games is routinely met with severe backlash, if not outright threats and harassment. Safe spaces, like SLAY, are a refuge away from this toxicity, but also targets for its continued hate. However, these spaces are also environments where a shared identity can be explored and deconstructed in interesting, often confronting ways. SLAY navigates these issues with impressive clarity, striking the rare balance between deliberate commentary and unadulterated, unapologetic fun.