Return of the Future

How the Future taunts gamers. It is always there, mocking our pathetic video cards, our antiquated processors, and our outmoded internet connection. Like some bastardization of Moore’s Law, the more you spend on your computer, the faster it will give your friends the opportunity to ask, “You paid HOW much for that thing?”

I now have a mobile phone that can easily pass the Turing Test, refute Cartesian Philosophy, and show me a video of someone getting kicked in the groin – at the same time. I’m not sure if I can actually make phone calls on it yet, but it assures me it’s the only friend I’ll ever need to talk to, so there’s no real point in trying. But even this silicon powerhouse is vulnerable to its upstart offspring; no more than 24 hours after charging its batteries for the first time, I received an email on it offering me a discount on its successor. A unit that promised to truly astound me with the advances it has over its predecessor.

I can only imagine the pain my phone went through, delivering that message to me. It’s as if I were forced to tell my wife how absolutely wonderful her next husband is going to be, and what a superior lover he will make. True though that may be, I certainly wouldn’t want to come home advertising it.

My phone is merely the latest victim in the realm of advancement. As fiction becomes reality and we move into the era of that long-fabled Virtual Reality, we’ll see a retro movement in the gaming technology sector that will shame Disco.

Once computers and graphics processors are able to mimic reality, watchdog groups will learn that the Grand Theft Auto titles were mere warm ups. They’ll be called upon in record numbers to protest video games with more hysterics than ever. Contrary to what they expected, the more accurate and realistic violent video games become, the less entertaining they will be for children.

Instead, parents will be in an uproar over Grand Thought Identity, a virtual reality game that will instill teenagers with the ability to think for themselves and make sound, reasoned arguments using the dialectical method. Lawhunter, a game that teaches you the functions of the government (local municipal offices on Easy Level, state senate on Medium, and Congressional Filibustering on Legendary), will break all previously known records despite Madam President Clinton’s efforts to make it illegal to create a game documenting any of the legal process on the grounds that giving “anyone” that sort of knowledge poses a security threat – of the mauve level.

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Yes, once games are truly lifelike, gamers will discover that the only thing worse than 8-bit graphics are 8 trillion-bit graphics, complete with nauseating liquids, disgusting squishy sounds, and truly offensive smells.

Gamers by the thousands will seek therapy as they learn that although Night Elves may have truly delightful gyrations when they dance, in Virtual Reality, they tend to smell like dirty socks. Thousands more will find themselves treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration; although humping a backpack of rockets across the desert to lay waste to an enemy fortification sounds like fun, instead it will turn out to be lot of unpleasant work. And will make them sweat, which will make them smell like dirty socks, a bug that will mysteriously transfer with them from game to game …

In a growing fear of Too-Real-Reality (TRR), gamers will abandon their high-end gaming rigs. Entire Ringworlds will lay dormant, without a single cyborg to storm them. Enchanted dungeons will be ignored, their mindless inhabitants left to take up line dancing, the only hobby that requires less thought than eating heroes. Digital prostitutes will wander aimlessly, completely unassaulted, and will take up needlepoint.

Instead, gamers will find solace in a new generation of gaming: games that focus on complex physics and massive intellectual calculations. The most popular of these new games will force gamers to learn to abstract mathematics to predict operations within a dynamic system. Lightning-fast calculations of trajectory, inertia, and velocity will hone the nervous system of young gamers. Massive player organizations will form to hold contests of skill, where two cerebral warriors do battle with blinding calculations, dizzying predictive behavior, and staggering endurance.

In massive video arenas, the intellectual foes will face each other, each armed with their custom-built, faux-wood-grain encased paddles. They’ll spin these ultra-sensitive dials, sending their digital avatars (rendered in the finest 2-color graphics – black AND white!) racing back and forth across the screen, intent upon changing the vector of the “ball.” With practiced moves, they send their avatars crashing into the ball, cutting it sharply to increase its velocity and send it screaming at their opponent. At the last moment, there is a slip, and the ball sails into a goal, disappearing from the screen, only to return moments later in the center as the battle begins again.

It will be a gaming revolution.

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