I’ve seen enough statuses in my Facebook feed to know that the human race is almost certainly doomed. Whether that be on the 21st of December, 2012 (and if you’re reading this past that date, congratulations, we made it!) or sometime in the not-so-distant-future, we will meet our demise as a species. Harrowing stuff, hey? Fortunately, we can practice our survival skills via video games and perhaps increase our chances a little. I’ve nailed down five gaming apocalypses that might actually happen to make this a little easier for you.
Examples: Fallout series, Metro 2033, Wasteland
This is a pretty obvious one. I mean have you seen what Kim Jong Un’s been doing in North Korea lately? Of course you haven’t, because there is no media coverage whatsoever, unless it’s the stories we are drip-fed that detail how Jong Un can decapitate a shark with just his knees or discuss how he found a unicorn cave. Regardless, US spies tell me that the guy seems to want to get nuclear weaponry up and running, so we aren’t that far away from all-out war, I am sure. There was also this major event in human history called the Cold War, where the US and the USSR got jealous over which country had a better acronym and threatened each other with nuclear war. This is where the Doomsday Clock originated from and now we have to put up with that in Lightning Returns.
Fallout and Metro 2033 are there to show you just how desperate people get when the world goes to shit and everywhere you step pounds you with enough radiation to burn the skin off of your bones. They are also there to show you that after nuclear war, people wear really strange clothes, have terrible aim and the world is full of glitches. I guess that’s what radiation does to people. If there’s one apocalyptic scenario that we can count on coming to fruition, it’s this one. Don’t think Kim Jong Un is launching those satellites for better 4G coverage.
4Death by Giant Space Rock
Examples: Final Fantasy VII, RAGE
Hidden amongst the scientific fallacies in Final Fantasy VII is the very real threat of a giant meteor slamming into the side of the planet and completely destroying all life on earth. Yes, that meteor only exists because it was summoned from the ether through the use of black magic, but the science behind that is sound. RAGE goes one step further, allowing you to play in the post-apocalyptic wasteland created by an asteroid colliding with the Earth. In RAGE’s case, the asteroid that slams into Earth is actually 99942 Apophis, an IRL near-earth asteroid that was once thought to have a 2.7% chance of colliding with us in 2029. The Mayan ghosts must have been rolling in their graves when that prediction came out, but it was later disproved.
Though, while Apophis is not likely to collide with us that doesn’t mean that an asteroid we haven’t even seen yet is headed straight for us. There are over 8000 ‘near-earth’ asteroids and almost 1000 of those are over a kilometre in diameter. You can bet that if they decide to head-butt the Earth that they are sending us back to the dark ages, and this apocalypse is scary enough just because of the amount of status updates you’ll be getting on Facebook for the weeks leading up to the impact.
Example: The Last of Us
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (Cordyceps) is a fungus which is parasitic to the humble ant, a staple of the tropical rainforest that the fungus calls home. Unfortunately for the fungus, it can only survive by reaching a certain altitude, level of humidity, temperature and location; yet being a fungus it doesn’t have the necessary capability to pursue such goals. Spores, responsible for spreading the fungal seed, infiltrate the exoskeleton of the ant and take root within it, gradually degrading the ant from inside out through specific enzymatic activity. In the meantime, the fungus also wants to promote reproduction and to do this it creates a zombie. Literally. It hijacks the ant’s brain, like a fungal Frank Fontaine and asks “Would you kindly?” and the ant, Jack, has no other option but to climb a plant stem and settle in and die.
Fungi undergo far quicker reproduction in far greater number than us humans. In Naughty Dog’s upcoming, The Last of Us, a fungus very similar to Cordyceps has somehow gotten into humans and it turns them into zombie-like monsters. What a frightening world to live in. Although this may not be as likely as the last two, it’s far scarier knowing that there are invisible spores in a rainforest that have the ability to manipulate the very way I think. Perhaps they are manipulating me right now. I feel like climbing a tree, to be honest.
2Virus, Bacteria or Parasite
Example: Pandemic 1 and 2, Pathologic
The thing that the Pandemic games do best is show you just how connected the world is and how quickly disease can spread from one place to another. In fact, the Pandemic games simplify the process slightly with their limited amount of airports and shipyards but the truth is, if a virus, bacteria or ‘parasite,’ were to evolve rapidly enough to a) reproduce quickly, b) be transmitted easily and c) kept its host alive for a long enough period of time to instigate transfer, we’d probably all be dead within a year and the bacteria would inherit the Earth. It’s genuinely scary because we can’t see this apocalypse coming. We may be able to predict it using mathematical models and epidemiology, but the fact of the matter is this: we ain’t got shit on bacteria.
Oh, you need historical evidence? Look no further than the Black Death (Yersinia pestis) that ravaged England in the 1300’s, the Vibrio cholerae epidemic that quite literally could have taken London off the map in the mid 1800’s and the Spanish Flu (Influenza H1N1) that crept up on everybody in 1918 and started kicking asses and taking names (like, 100,000 or so). Yeah, this is the apocalypse you hear about in Nightmare Fuel 101 – Invisible, quickly fatal and with the potential to turn people into zombies (but not really!)
Examples: I Am Alive, FUEL
I’ve written before about how the climate affected human migration out of Africa eons ago and indeed, the very idea of climate change threatens the way we move forward as a species. I know there’s a ton of climate change sceptics out there who simply think it’s the natural cycle of the Earth and that entire island nations sinking into the sea is ‘progress’, but stick with me for a moment, yeah? I know it’s difficult to believe, but the climate is changing and with that, so are weather patterns. I mean, you remember superstormfrankenhurricane Sandy that was responsible for that horrific meeting of Paul McCartney and Nirvana at the 12-12-12 concert right? This thing is happening, so get on board.
I Am Alive never truly discusses the origin of its apocalypse but it sure as hell isn’t a pretty one. Fuel uses the idea of climate change and global warming to its advantage, by tying it into the game mechanics, creating a myriad of strange weather conditions that affect the way you drive. Both of these post-apocalyptic worlds demonstrate the absolute power of nature at its worst and this is something that affects us all right now, as you sit on your comfortable chair and ingest this article. I’m not saying we are going down in a blaze of Roland-Emmerich-laced glory, with entire cities being swept away by the rising tides, but the potential for climate to really turn Earth on its head is there.
Have video games helped you understand how to react to nuclear war or just how badly the planet can be harmed by a meteor? Let us know in the comments section below!