Author : Phillip English
It began with the PC release of Armageddon.
No, it’s not what you’re thinking, the kids didn’t rise up and swallow us with anarchist notions imbued through Satanic images found in a video game. The violence presented in that game was simply a marketing decision to best accomplish the dual objectives of getting kids interested and setting the bar high enough for the inevitable clones to work under. These initial foundations placed the emphasis on pitting the player versus the standard computer opponent, the omniscient overlord mixed of equal parts masochist and voyeur. We didn’t yet have the technology to start collecting the data, but like I said, we needed to get kids interested. Blood, gore, and demons with rocket-launchers was the best way to ensure they would bug their parents to buy computers, and with them the games that they would spend hour upon hour playing, bashing away at the keyboard like the most obedient of Shakespeare’s monkeys. We wanted it to become the norm to be able to look into any family household on a weeknight and see a pimply face glued to the screen, blasting away at aliens, demons, zombies, or humans. It was a gamble, conservatives are never quite as predictable as people say, and we weren’t sure if they would allow such a thing into their households without a fight.
But it worked. Whether it was because we’d provided the parents with another convenient method of distracting the kids, or because the kids were too damn good at getting what they wanted, it didn’t matter. Riding on the backs of casual games filled with rainbows and fluffy animals, the shooters infiltrated the market and began amassing admirers. We poked and prodded the market–an advertisement here, an embarrassed admission of addiction by a celebrity there–and their popularity grew exponentially. Our investments in networking eventually produced the infrastructure necessary to set the ball rolling on our grand experiment. Businesses, homes, and countries were gradually wired, and with that came the thirst for human competitors that didn’t get stuck on the corners of virtual buildings, or shot circles into the clouds. From that point, ladies and gentlemen, it was on for young and old. Even before the internet became convenient and commonplace, players went to great lengths to blow the crap out of each other; kids dragged their PCs for miles to each other’s houses for a few hours of violent heaven. When the ‘net did arrive, there was always someone willing to have a shot at ripping you a new asshole in the back of your head, next door or next continent.
And the data started trickling in.
It was shoddy data–approximations everywhere and no way that we could possibly start to make the kind of predictions we needed to–but it was data nonetheless. And all we needed to do was record it, take into account inaccuracies, and wait for the tech to evolve as we knew it would, and did. Three-dee space was followed by realistic body physics, was followed by interactive environments, was followed by dynamic scenarios, was followed by virtual reality, was followed by well-immersion and psychokinetics. Every hour of every day there was someone playing, feeding us their decisions, offering us their probabilities. Where would they turn? Would they run if a shot was fired near them? How low on health did they have to be before they decided to go kamikaze? Would they help their friends if they were under fire? Would commander players retreat when faced with overwhelming odds? Through it all we collected. We built a data set filled with astronomical hours of playtime, devised more all-encompassing models by the minute, made sure every variable was refined to perfection. Then, we extrapolated forward.
Our finger is paused over the button that will begin the war to end all wars.