Here we stand in the dark neo-year of 2020. The spam bots have risen to prominence, the governments of the world are bickering over follower counts, and history class has been renamed “meme studies”. Somewhere, in a dusty room in the RPS treehouse, a rogue human is compiling a list article for a crumbling PC games website. It is a warning to all those who read it. A prophecy of the terrible things to come. Wars, invasions, disease, heat death. Videogames, it turns out, have predicted all this and more. Here we replicate this cautionary pre-chronicle, your guide to the harrowing times ahead. Here are the 11 worst years in our future history, according to games.
The great goblinization, 2021 – Shadowrun Dragonfall
The Shadowrun games are set in the 2050s, on an earth rife with both fantasy magic and sci-fi megacorps. But it’s the backstory events of 2021 that really turn the planet into a giant sphere of fighty weirdos. One day in April, 10 percent of the human race suddenly mutate into elves, trolls, and other Tolkienoids. This dice roll of demonization isn’t bad in itself. What insecure teen doesn’t want to wake up one day to find their tusks finally growing in? Humanity’s reaction, however, is characteristically scumtacular. Some countries round up the mutants, some offer refuge. The king of England is one of the goblinized, according to Shadowrun lore. But British people confirm that, no, that’s just how the royal family look.
Cyber plague, 2052 – Deus Ex
The Gray Death is a sickness that passes through the United States like a bad madras. It’s caused by micro-robotic nanites getting all up in your blood and becoming cranky when they discover there are no USB ports inside the human body. You die within 100 days of infection, and only 7% of those infected survive, leading to mass graves in the United States. And 2052 has more up its snotty sleeve. Global flooding is wrecking all the good beaches. Martial law is declared in the entire US. A big spaceship carrying moon ore crashes into the earth, killing 2000 people. And to round it all off the internet gets blown to bits. And not the digital kind of bits. Real bits. Bits of stuff. All this leads to “the worst economic disaster in history, and a new Dark Age,” says this important future historical document. “Countries disintegrate overnight, plunging the world into chaos.” I don’t see how things could get any worse.
The comet of 2103 – Soma
Ah. Oh well, imagine the sweet relief a big, spicy rock would bring to our shit-orb. First-person creepabout Soma is set in such a world. On January 12th, 2103, crowds of humanity gather to count down to impact, as if the apocalypse was just another drunken New Year’s Eve. The player is not so lucky, and is inexplicably brought to a deep-sea habitat, where the last remaining humans are being picked off by slimy robots. But down here, what is human and what is robot has become all tangled up, like a pair of headphones fresh out of the pocket. Even the concepts of “death” and “life” are doing a cybernetic switcheroo. It’s very alarming. Unless you were fortunate enough to be blowing a paper party kazoo at the moment of sweet meteoric release, dying in 2103 has become a bleak fever dream in an eternally dark sensory deprivation chamber. Sorry.
Earth invaded, 2186 – Mass Effect 3
Have you heard the good news of our lord and saviour, The Reapers? They are the gargantuan metal cuttlefish of the Mass Effect trilogy and they are here to microwave your planet like a big bowl of baked beans. Mass Effect 3 begins with the summary zapping of every major Earth city and presumably the deaths of billions of idiot humans. Only one famous commander has the guts to spend 30 hours knocking on planets and calling in favours to save us. Don’t fret. I’m sure this existential threat will have a happy and emotionally satisfying ending.
The robot regime, 2347 – Stellaris
Not the worst leader we’ve elected, to be honest.
The war treaty of 2512 – Battletech
For those who did not pay attention in future-history class, this is the year the Ares Convention is signed in the Battletech universe. It bans the use of nukes and bioweapons, and sets the ground rules for all wars to come. Which sounds very noble. Except, uh, now war is basically the galaxy’s favourite sport, a constant fact of interplanetary life, and the go-to method for settling even trivial disputes. Permawar, banalwar, shrugwar, something mildly disagreeable that you manage to brush off, like seeing a rat changing trains in the subway. Alongside new fangled robo-giants called Mechs, tanks are a-blasting and little men are a-shooting all over the universe, while they are not being harmoniously squashed. And it is all perfectly normal, like the background hum of traffic. At least this permanent state of megaconflict will keep our military ready and our combat senses sharp.
Earth invaded again, 2552 – Halo 2
We deserved this.
Regime change, 2554 – Stellaris
Oh no, not Karen.
A new frontier, 5500 – Rimworld
Despite setbacks, humanity has spread throughout the stars with the plodding determination of an eczema outbreak. In distant jungles and harsh deserts, in frozen wastes and flush fields of spacepoppy, the frontiersfolk of the future scratch a living and argue over who should haul the uneaten ready meals back to the fridge. Noble craftsmen erect solar panels, harvests ripen, romance blossoms. Psychotic breakdowns are commonplace. Whole colonies are destroyed by radioactive alien interlopers, while others flourish thanks to an opportune bout of cheeky cannibalism. The galaxy in 5500 is an interesting place, never a dull moment. Human life is plentiful and diverse. Despite the dangers of the frontier, it is a wonderful time to be alive, and humanity’s future looks brighter than ever.
All humans are dead, 11945 – Nier: Automata
Even though we are all dead and gone, our lust for war remains, trapping our unwitting robo-descendants in a cycle of endless and pointless violence. We are the worst creature to have ever existed. A meaty pong that just wont come out of the planet, no matter how hard our robot progeny scrub. I wish we had never evolved.
The end, 63189 – Universe Sandbox
The science documentaries were wrong. Far from being slowly enveloped by the sun’s growing hunger for stellar Lebensraum, the Earth has been ejected from the solar system altogether. Alongside all the inner planets, we have been cast into the void beyond the heliosphere like a sad tiddliwink lost from the tabletop. Only Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune remain, coasting around our furious despot star on greatly mutated orbits. An examination of the expelled Earth in this distant future reveals it has been reduced to a ball of dark, frozen rock, a surface temperature of -273 celsius, spinning with the sad, drunken awkwardness of a divorced uncle still dancing at a wedding reception that ended hours ago. The moon is nowhere to be found. But perhaps in this sad, cold spin, we may find peace. Finally, we can rest. One long, cold sleep until the simulation comes crashing to a close.
One Off The List from… the coldest monsters
Last week, we trampled through the snow to discover the 8 coldest monsters in PC games. But one of them was too hot to trot. It’s… the frost troll.
There were a lot of votes to disqualify Sander Cohen from BioShock, on the grounds that he uses plaster, not ice, to freeze people into grotesque statues. But, crucially, this does not detract from the coldness of his heart. So it is the Skyrim troll who gets the boot. As troll hunter Lacero points out: “It’s a great choice but Skyrim also has the Ice Wraith, a ghost of cold that sounds like the water in the air is freezing around it, spits ice at you, and leaves behind ice teeth in a pile of ice when it dies. If Skyrim has an entry, it’s got to be that.” There you have it. Off you pop, wannabe yeti. You were only ever a tepid troll.
See you next week!