During my web travels I came across a charming, sentimental short story written by Tim Pratt called Impossible Dreams. Without giving too much away, the premise involves a man who discovers a video rental shop (called Impossible Dreams Video) from an alternate universe that is somehow crossing over to his own for a brief window each evening, and inside that store are movies that were scrapped or unmade in his world but filmed and released in the other. For instance, the little shop carries Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Tom Selleck and the original uncut version of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons. Here's a taste (but you really should read the entire story):
Pete didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Last night he’d developed a theory, and everything he saw now supported it. He thought this store belonged to some parallel universe, a world much like his own, but with subtle changes, like different names for the major credit cards. But even small differences could lead to huge divergences when it came to movies. Every film depended on so many variables—a director’s capricious enthusiasm, a studio’s faith in a script, a big star’s availability, which starlet a producer happened to be sleeping with—any of those factors could irrevocably alter the course of a film, and Hollywood history was littered with the corpses of films that almost got made. Here, in this world, some of them were made, and Pete would go without sleeping for a week, if necessary, to see as many as possible.
The shelves yielded miracle after miracle. Here was The Death of Superman, directed by Tim Burton, starring Nicolas Cage; in Pete’s universe, Burton and Cage had both dropped the project early on. Here was Total Recall, but directed and written by David Cronenberg, not Paul Verhoeven. Here was The Terminator, but starring O.J. Simpson rather than Arnold Schwarzenegger—though Schwarzenegger was still in the film, as Kyle Reese. Here was Raiders of the Lost Ark, but starring Tom Selleck instead of Harrison Ford—and there was no sign of any later Indiana Jones films, which was sad. Pete’s hands were already full of DVDs, and he juggled them awkwardly while pulling more movies from the shelves. Here was Casablanca starring George Raft instead of Bogart, and maybe it had one of the alternate endings, too! Here a John Wayne World War II movie he’d never heard of, but the box copy said it was about the ground invasion of the Japanese islands, and called it a “riveting historical drama.” A quick scan of the shelves revealed no sign of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and those two things together suggested that in this world, the atomic bomb was never dropped on Japan. The implications of that were potentially vast . . . but Pete dismissed broader speculations from his mind as another film caught his eye. In this world, Kubrick had lived long enough to complete Artificial Intelligence on his own, and Pete had to see that, without Steven Spielberg’s sentimental touch turning the movie into Pinocchio.
After reading this I found myself imagining how the tale would be told if Impossible Dreams Video dealt in games over movies as a sort of GameStop from an alternate universe. Aside from parallel shovelware (some things never change), what would be in that store? Would it have the version of Mega Man X where the protagonist was an armored police officer? Would Star Fox 2 be in the "Player's Choice" bin of bestselling discount titles? How many used copies of EarthBound 2 (in English!) would be lining the shelves? Would the top-selling Nintendo PlayStation 2 title be Insomniac's Girl With A Stick? The what-ifs and never-wases are both fascinating and endless. If you found yourself in such a store, what would you want to try?