Games have come a long way from the days when they were just a collision of pixels. Not only are they more detailed and visually astounding than ever before, they are also able to simulate increasingly more complex physics, with AIs that are ever more cunning, and games that are covering everything from combat scenarios to resource management. Often the lines between game and simulation become blurry, which is why a widespread outbreak of Corrupted Blood Plague in World of Warcraft is now being studied by real world epidemiologists.
Of course, the thing about simulations is that if you run them for a really long time, or change some of the basic assumptions of the simulation, you can get some extremely weird results. Such as:
Someone Plays Civilisation II for 10 Years: Gets a Nuclear Wasteland
Civilisation II is a game that is supposed to take you from the very first stone aged settlers, through the entire course of human history until you build a colony ship to take your civilisation to Alpha Centauri (or until you nuke all the other players into submission).
However, while most games end when you win or lose, after you reach the end of the time limit on Civilisation II the game just keeps going, and going, and going. A redditor named Lycerius kept playing his game on and off for 10 whole years, and the end result is, well, a little terrifying.
By the the year 3991 A.D there are three remaining super nations, the Celts, Americans and Vikings, competing for the world’s last available resources after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wasteland. The ice caps have melted – 20 times. Big cities are a consigned to the history books, with the few remaining survivors constantly working to build roads to allow for troop movements, only for them to be destroyed the very next turn. Of the last three surviving cultures, two are theocracies, while the remaining Celt culture is a communist state (the play wanted to be a democracy, but a democracy won’t allow him to declare war against enemy states, so he’s settled with communism).
And he’s still playing the game, and sharing his save game so that others can attempt to play it. In fact,a whole subreddit has arisen to try and break the military stalemate and clear up the swamps and nuclear fallout. If they figure that one out, we might just be able to save this world.
Someone Limits the Resources on Minecraft: Creates Lord of the Flies
Minecraft features a play area bigger than the planet Earth, and the resources and ability to build almost anything you desire. One player saw this and decided to build hell. How? Simply invite some players onto a group server, with a limited amount of space and the rule that they are not allowed to leave the bedrock walls that have been created for them.
The players quickly banded up into four factions, The Axe, The Brotherhood, The Dwarves, and The Merchant's Guild, and soon all out war began for the scarce resources of the 350 x 350 block map. As resources ran yet lower, people began hoarding resources for themselves and destroying other resources to prevent others from having them.
Two months on and the survivors were hiding in mud huts through the dark nights. Some people might think this is a metaphor for something.
Quake III Bots Left to Their Own Devices Find Peace: Or Do They?
Towards the end of the nineties gaming was changed forever by the game Half-Life. Half-Life introduced plot, characters and nuance to a genre that had previously only been about blowing things up.
Quake III saw this progression and thought “Nah.” Quake III was entirely dedicated to death matches, with a series of AI bots, capable of learning as they play, for even those of us with the lousiest of Internet connections to size off against.
Around this time one guy set up a server full of bots, and left them to it for four years. He came back to find the bots standing completely still. If you changed the map, they still stood still. If you attacked them, the bots killed you, then returned to standing still.
Of all the scenarios here, this is perhaps the one that most fills us with hope. While the other two examples here confront us with a terrifying apocalyptic future, here is one that shows the potential for peace. Because, as Sarah Connor says, “if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”
Oh wait, that story was a hoax? Never mind everyone, we’re screwed.
Jason Falls is a freelance writer and avid gamer who works with Butlers Bingo.He’s left a game of The Sims running for 13 years. They’ve rearranged all the furniture to spell out “PLEASE LET US DIE.”