Somewhere far off, there were sporadic sounds of muted gunfire and the bass rumble of explosives. The fighting had not yet ended.
They had made it inside though. They were near.
They raced down the corridor to the whine of alarms, limbs burning with effort, guns snapping on their backs like leashed animals. Up ahead was Secure Vault 191106.
She punched in the stolen clearance code.
And ghosted into the vault.
It was in a glass cylinder. She approached it with almost reverence and peered closer. This thing was the beginning of all the misery and despair; the source of society’s collapse. How many souls had it claimed - families, friends and neighbours driven to the brink? It all came down to this one object, in this present, this time far removed from her own. Maybe, just maybe, with its destruction they could bring about a new future. One of possibilities and unknowns. A reclamation of life from the machines.
The object in front of her seemed so innocent, so innocuous. A toy, a child’s object.
Her face was pressed against the glass now, as if she questioned that this was indeed the thing she had sought for so long. She ran her finger along the glass tube, tracing the rectangular outline of the item inside. This was it. There was no mistake. There, the cross at the top, the strap at the bottom. And at the base, etched into the smooth plastic, the name that was at the root of everything frightening and terrible that had transpired since, the word that had scarred the world and sent cold shivers along her spine as she reflected on what it had done to her people.
[CENTER]The Wii has a lot to answer for. Mind you, this weather doesn’t look all that different from London on a good day.[/CENTER]
It’s true. Our beloved video game landscape has a bleak future, and the prime culprit is a fuzzy pink rabbit of a company called ‘Nintendo.’ Oh, to be fair we’ve been heading down this path for years now, ever since the rise of the first machines - from the Atari 2600 and home computers to the 3D gaming revolution of the 90s, but the Wii has served up gaming to a far greater audience than we ever thought possible. Soon, everyone’s going to be playing.
Thing is, no one’s going to be leaving.
One day we are going to have a major problem with video games in society.
‘Why blame the Wii?’ I hear you cry. ‘We don’t even play it!’ - cue snorts and harrumphs - ‘We’re serious gamers.’
And that’s my point. The dedicated gamers of today are already committed. We’ve signed up to HD slavery, salivating over every new generation of hardware, every advancement of our chosen pastime. But with the Wii, every Joe-muggins is getting on board. Even your Nan likes it (between snoozes).
To be fair, the original PlayStation started it, hooking in a whole new gen of people with smart graphics and music from bands they were already listening to. Suddenly, games became something worth looking at… and picking up a controller for. Titles like Guitar Hero and SingStar brought in more people - even the ladies - and in doing so helped make gaming cool; helped dilute the prejudices against that box in the corner that takes up the boyfriend’s time. And now… the Wii.
Oh sure - it seems innocent enough…
It’s that final, plasticky nail.
So everyone is jumping on, but so what? There is an off-button, y’know.
Getting tougher though, isn’t it? Checked your ‘time played’ stats lately? We’re all so happy now with the most amazing games ever created and the most powerful gaming machines spewing out the most realistic graphics, the most intense experiences, that I really can’t prise the grin off my face.
Who’d have thought this after just thirty-odd years of video gaming? It’s really incredible just how far they’ve come. The written word, art, photography, film… now games. If you don’t believe that games will be - are - the next great creative force, then you’re a fool. They will change everything.
And perhaps not for the better.
There are glimmers of it already. We’re seeing people having major issues with the role of video games in their lives. No longer entertainment, they become everything. And I’m not talking about the halcyon days of my youth, when I’d occasionally stay in for the best part of the day to play Arkanoid, while my mum moaned that ‘the sun was out and I should make the most of it’ (seriously, it was the UK. C’mon.) Now we’re seeing people holed up in their room - or net cafe - to the abandonment of everything else. Sometimes even their kids.
Who can blame them? Combine the creative juices of talented designers, artists and coders with the raw power of today’s machines and you get a pretty engrossing cocktail. Story, excitement, fun, challenge, the possibilities of meeting a million other like-minded people… it’s all up for grabs. Stack that up against the often mundane nature of real life - job, anyone? - and reality can sometimes look a bit lean. Why not escape this grim rock we’re marooned on? Why not cloister ourselves in worlds beyond that of TV, books or films?
One day, at least.
[CENTER]…Until the eventual uprising.[/CENTER]
Now look - it’s not like I’m Nostradamus or anything. I don’t have a beard. But here’s the vision - more and more people are coming around to games. The graphics are becoming increasingly lifelike. Fancy doo-hickeys like motion controls and 3DTV will enrich the experience further. Storytelling techniques and AI within the gaming medium are improving rapidly. Eventually the gaming world will become an alluring alternative to reality. And if you’re telling me that real-life will always beat a virtual one, tell that to the bloke who has to sell shoes for eight hours a day just to pay his rent. I know which one I’d take.
Think of it - Gears of War 8 is a fully virtual experience. Your eyes are bathed in graphics so fine you can’t pick polygons from people. The sound erupts in your ears; you duck from zinging bullets. The 3D surrounds you, envelops you. Your actions are controls. You arethere, with all your mates, ploughing through the Locust horde in one grand, anarchic crusade, that leaves you knackered, exhilarated, proud, pumped and cheering for more.
What’s it gonna be? Working for scraps at that tedious job that leaves you a shattered, unfulfilled husk? Or roaming the galaxy in your pimped out Normandy, as Commander-in-Chief of the Spectres in a Mass Effect MMO that’s barely distinguishable from reality?
So… hang on a minute.
What the hell am I worried about? This sounds brilliant.
So what if we all end up like zombies, all hooked into the NextBox? All of us living in the same beautifully crafted gaming world, full of excitement, achievement, emotion, glory… if I’m saving the world on a regular basis and thinking it’s for real, who cares? I’m happy, and so’s the world (in my head it is, I’ve just saved it). Give me the blue pill - I want that other life, not plodding reality.
Because the imaginary, if convincing enough, has the potential to trump reality every time.
So abort the mission, bring on the machines. I’ll take my chances. In a zombie-like state, putrefying in my pants, I’ll travel time and the universe, meeting, talking, jumping, running, gunning, flying, driving, experiencing… and I’ll see you there.
Tell the shoe shop I won’t be in today.