I flicked on a console and tried to play something. I don't recall what it was - perhaps Ico or something else a bit emo. Then I tried to watch TV, but I'd seen all the films, and the crass jabber from other channels led me to punch it off again.

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Then I talked at the cats. They blinked. I needed human response, I realized, and I'd have to play my long-loved space-MMOG, Eve Online, in order to get it. As much as I wanted to avoid being the nerd who spent the holidays glued to the grind - and despite the fact that I knew there wouldn't be much going on, because half the globe would be asleep and the other half busy with their own family Christmases - at least I'd be talking to real people.

I logged in. At the time, my in-game corporation was based in the treacherous depths of 0.0 space, where anything goes and player-versus-player conflict is endless. We were just a handful of pilots, but we'd made friends with some of the other local players and formed a decent network of allies. A few of these people were online. There were two Australians for whom Christmas was almost over and an American chap who had been up all night playing Eve on Christmas eve. There was also a member of my own corporation, who was avoiding familial responsibilities in his parents' home. "I don't think they even know I have games installed on their PC," he said, reminding me of my own parents' tech-blindness. The two of us exchanged a few volleys with the snowball launchers CCP had dropped into the game a few years earlier, and I began to feel a little more festive.

I did some housekeeping in our home space station, then grabbed a small, fast scouting ship to head out into the nearby systems. If there was going to be anyone around, I thought, then I'd make jolly by making them miserable. Of course, there was no way for me to actually kill anyone in my tiny ship, but I might be able to pin them in place until the cavalry arrived - assuming the cavalry was still logged into the game by the time I found anything.

I toured the usual target systems where our enemies lived. A few of them were logged in, but docked. It was desolate. I could feel the loneliness creeping back, but I reasoned that if I roamed further abroad I might be able to get a kill and reap a shot of adrenaline as my reward.

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