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Have You Played... Ptarmigeddon?

The "P" is silent

You have probably not played Ptarmigeddon. I mean, I can promise you upfront it does exist. It was a VR game from 2017, where you played as Wayne Discipline, a CIA agent embedded with Afghan Guerillas during the proxy war against the Soviets in the 80s. As a Russian force advances on the pass he's stationed in, Wayne curses the poor equipment available to his unit, proclaiming "Dammit, I wish we had more army guns" out loud. Unfortunately, his plea is heard by a well-meaning but hearing-impaired haunted rug, which grants what it thought was Wayne's request for "more ptarmigans". Immediately, a vast swarm of the arctic birds descend on the pass, obliterating the Russian troops, before wheeling round towards Wayne's position.

This is the start of the game: the rest entirely comprises shooting ptarmigans from a machine gun turret, in VR, before they overwhelm you. The birds poo constantly, obscuring Wayne's vision unless he stops to wipe his visor, but he has to choose his moments carefully: if he stops the hurricane of lead for more than a few seconds, the line will be overrun by thousands of shrieking, shitting wildfowl.

It does sound, admittedly, like a game that shouldn't exist. And despite having assured you it's real, I must now complicate things and admit that it technically isn't. Just think of it like a sort of Schrodinger's Game, perhaps.

Ptarmigeddon, you see, was originally one of the thousand fictional video games I tweeted in 2016/2017, and then one of the hundred that I selected for "The 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed), the book based on said tweets. So far, so not real. But then, Rebellion Developments, whose publishing arm produced the book, and whose concept artists illustrated it, decided to base their annual staff game jam on my list of fictional games, thus making several of them into paradoxes.

Around 20 games crossed the rubicon into reality, including space station catsitting game Look Are You Coming In Or Not and chilling arcade classic Kabage, but Ptarmigeddon was technically the most accomplished. Headed by one of the producers behind Zombie Army 4: Dead War, the team behind Ptarmigeddon put together this fully working VR game in three days, repurposing parrots from (I think) Strange Brigade to make the Ptarmigans. I seem to recall providing the voice acting for the haunted rug. It was great fun.

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