This is not an article about Netrunner.
This is an article about Netrunner people. Feel free to not read it if that’s not your thing.
The gist of it was this: I was promised $20 of Taco bell at Worlds this year, so long as I ate all of it. This happened and I ate it all.
With regards to consuming $20 of Taco Bell, the world is divided into two types of people. The first group are the “Dear god why” people. I think I said this line multiple times at Worlds this year: “It isn’t about having a good experience per se, but rather it is about having a very american experience.” The context here being that I live in the generally taco-related-fast-food-dry-zone that is New Zealand. To top that off, the only two times I’ve been to America are both my trips to Worlds. The first time around I had a great time hanging out with all the Netrunner people, but there was definitely something lacking by not doing anything quintessentially American. And really, what is more American than going to a Midwestern fast food chain in the middle of the night with nobody around. Most notable “Dear God Why” people were my super awesome host Raja “Ajar” Doake and the incredibly friendly Patrick “bluehg” Burk.
Of course the other group of people were the “fuck yeah” group. No commentary necessary there I think.
I believe Eirik on Stimslack was the person who brought up the Taco Bell, which started me having a conversation about regretting not having it. Cat “Kysra” Shen was the person who offered the tacos, and being the NPE that she is, found a way to turn a free meal into a horrific experience. $20 of tacos, and I have to eat them all. Alexis “theladywhowasmeantome” was also very much on board, and had even offered a whopping similar deal except its $40 worth of tacos. I declined that deal, somehow knowing despite my innocence that this was a bad idea. There was a bit of a risk of Cat not being able to make it to Worlds, what with her being in-between jobs. Luckily, as we all know from seeing her alt-arts (Pictured a few below) she is incredibly talented and was able to find a new job that allowed her to come.
Worlds is an intense experience and there are a lot of people, and you typically have trouble hanging out with everyone that you want to. I had tried on three separate occasions to get Cat to come do the Taco Bell trip, but combined with seeing her partner for the first time in months it just didn’t keep happening. The end result was that on day 1B of Netrunner, I had just missed Day 2 with an unlucky lifeboat against a lovely guy I’d never heard of before, and similarly Alexis and Cat had both missed the next day too. We decided that Taco Bell is best as a commiseration meal. The plan was to quickly eat the tacos so that Cat could go hang out with the Brits at Joe Senser’s, which I was also keen to do. Oh how naive we were.
On the walk to the Taco Bell, we met up with a few of the NYC crew, many of whom were of the “fuck yeah” category which was maximum hype. I got several food recommendations on the way, but none of them felt like actually joining in on the tacos.
The interior of the Taco Bell was not something I could imagine but was everything I could have expected. The whole process felt like I was in a David Foster Wallace script. The staff member was actually very nice to us, but he had a low energy way of moving that hinted at having had his soul entirely crushed by the job (This might be unnecessarily mean, as I said he was very nice to us). There was almost nobody in sight, so he had to stand at the register while we discussed all the various food options. The whole thing was honestly super depressing in exactly the way I wanted it to be. $20 is a lot of tacos, so I was asking for all the expensive stuff. Unfortunately all the expensive stuff at a Taco Bell is still damn cheap. We end up telling the guy on the register about the plan, and without showing any enthusiasm about it at all he does a bunch of stuff to show that he kinda is intrigued. Senior Discount, Free Drinks, suggested food items. Bam we have an order. The kind but depressing looking register guy gave us a bunch of surveys and asked us all to fill them out with good reviews.
The seating area was again something else. The tables and chairs were a sort of tacky plastic reminiscent of the 90s and almost certainly a relic from that time. I felt a certain kind of nostalgia, thinking of the local McDonald’s back home from my childhood, having completely forgot that they also used to look like that there. The two booth tables were covered in stray food and just generally very dirty, so we end up on one of the regular tables. While waiting for the food we loaded up our phones and filled out the survey questionnaire. Taco Bell HQ seemed really interested in how “Visually Full” our tacos were. Needless to say, our responses were that they were very visually full, regardless of whether we’d actually received them yet or not.
Next the food arrived
My approach to eating the food was to try a bit of everything at first, but not finish anything in particular. Here is my review of each item.
Mountain Dew Baja Blast: This wasn’t anything amazing but I still liked it. Definitely better than regular Mountain Dew.
Mexican Pizza: This was the very first thing I tried. As soon as I grabbed it Alexis says “No don’t eat that first” but I did anyway. It wasn’t very good, and it was also the last thing I finished. There was nothing super obnoxious about this, but the level of beans between the base was probably a little higher than I would’ve thought necessary. I was very close to gagging on the last piece, as Cat says “You’re done” and I go “well I still have to swallow it first” and there’s bursts of laughter but also mishearing what I’ve said. Good times.
Dorito Tacos: There were 3 of these. The very first one I ate was like a red coloured shell and was by far my most favourite food item eaten from this adventure. In general I think hard shelled tacos are just better than soft shelled, and the Dorito flavouring adds a lot. The other two flavours I ate near the end when I was feeling a lot more regret, and they were still enjoyable, although I think the Dorito flavour was a bit more boring. My only complaint about these is that they had these small flakes of “Cheese Product” instead of real cheese, and the cheese probably should have been melted in.
Quesarito: This was Alexis’ recommendation and just shows that you can have great taste in games, people, art, emojis and just generally be an all round good person and yet completely miss the mark somewhere. The Quesarito was definitely the worst thing I ordered. After my first bite I looked down at the cheese squirming out and Alexis burst out laughing because of this involuntary look of disgust on my face. The exact thought going through my mind was “this looks almost sexual but not in a good way”. The actual taste of the Quesarito threw me off for a bit. It was somewhat nostalgic but I was reasonably sure it wasn’t a positive nostalgia. It took me about 10 minutes to piece it together in my head. We have these “Chezdale” cheese slices back home, which are the garbage plastic cheese product type things that just don’t taste that good, and somehow the Quesarito was the worst elements of this while also being all gooey, which made it all even worse. My way of finishing this food item involved ripping off pieces of tortilla and throwing them back into the bag. Absolutely disgusting and therefore perfect for my Taco Bell trip.
Cheesy Gordita Supreme: This was like a hard-shelled taco put inside a soft shelled taco, except the soft-shelled taco on the outside is also like a good centimetre thick. It reminded me of a pita bread. Overall this was decent, but I wasn’t a big fan in general of the pita bread style exterior. In the end my way of finishing this food item involved ripping off the pita bread bit and just eating the hard taco shell underneath, but I did get approximately 50% of the way before I did this.
Crunchwrap Supreme: I think I was recommended this by Matt “Skry” Yeaton of the NYC crew who walked to Taco Bell with us. This was okay. It was quite a large item which made finishing it difficult, and there was a lot of spare tortilla bread on the outside which I eventually ended up just ripping off and going for the hearty inside. Although this is a soft-shelled item it has hard-shelled corn chip type stuff put inside so it makes up for that weakness.
Not on the receipt, but bought by Alexis after, were some cinnamon named things that were literally like eating deep fried air (or more likely, cotton candy but you get the idea). These also felt very american, although I did not eat many.
Post taco bell follow up.
I have debated even adding this section, but enough people have asked me about it that I have added it regardless, but with spoiler tags so you won’t have to see it if you don’t want to. Don’t read if you don’t want to hear about bowel movements.
Although this isn’t specifically a Netrunner article, I still want to give a shout out to all the amazing people at world’s this year that made it such a memorable experience. There are too many to fully list let alone in any particular order, but my top three are Raja for letting me crash on his couch, and Alexis and Cat for being such great friends and doing this Taco Bell experience with me. Also huge props to my amazing fiance Kiara who said “You basically have to go” at finding out that Netrunner was dying and this is the last Worlds. I’m going to now take a risk of offending someone by forgetting them from the list, but I also just want to give shout outs (in no strong order) to the following people for making this trip unforgettable and awesome: Michael “neuropantser” Lawson, Eric “creditz” George, Abram “thebigboy” Jopp, Dan D’argenio, Kenny “simonmoon” Deakins, Dien Tran, Ben “dodgepong” Torrell, Scott “spags” Pagliaroni, Joe “paranoid” Schupp, Patrick “bluehg” Burk, Gustavo “inniscor” Garcia, Kris “tzeentchling” McLennan, Eric “whiteblade111” Keilback, Alex “Vine Gary Mink” White, Jakob “terrificy” Helms, Michael Boggs, Stephen Ball, Jonathan “Jonny” Lockhart, Alex “FF0X” Kohlmann, Melvin “Ghost_bird” Lee, Joshua “orbital tangent” Swaner, Luke “Inactivist” Rule, Sean “blindidiotgod” Robinson, Asher Stuhlman, Eric “johnnymilton” Dittloff, Rob “Frankbsad” Curry, and Dave Laird. Honestly there were so many people I hung out with and had great times with, it is almost impossible to keep track and I’m just so thankful the Netrunner community is so amazing.