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Is this our next great dystopia?


For me, a humble denizen of the 21st century, I have developed a real interest in the dreariness permeating Earth in 2017. I think a lot more about nukes now for example, which is a fun addition to my usual suspect of bewildering fears. I think a lot about the movie Threads in which the Soviet Union attacks Sheffield and everybody dies from ultraviolet radiation. I imagine in my mind the world in isometric perspective and what a contender this timeline would be for a cosmic re-roll if this only were a session of Civilization.

But history has taught us this is an old sensation. That every so often, with a kind of ebb and flow regularity, it just looks like it’s probably the end of the world. The Renaissance world viewed the planet as decaying. Poet John Donne notes that the lifespan of people had shortened considerably since the Adams and Methuselahs of Biblical times, who were said to have lived to the ripe old age of 930 and 969 years, respectively. Sir Walter Raleigh following his expedition up the Orinoco River concluded that the world was run down like a clock, and that men had lost sight of truth and were in descent “lower and lower, and shrink and slide downward.”

How did we deal with impending doom then? Sir Thomas More imagined an alternative society on an island, laying down the framework for a community that could exist in response to the state of European society at the time. Francis Bacon believed in the possibility for progress in natural science to lead to better social conditions, imagining the scientifically advanced society of New Atlantis. At times when the present looks grim, utopian thought experiments can offer new perspectives.

God games like Black and White, resource games like Settlers of Catan and Civilization, or SimCity are another kind of prism through which to imagine a potential society. Can virtual worlds become a tool for visualizing alternative paths?

Seed is the kind of game that could feasibly answer a question like this. Currently in development by Berlin-based studio Klang, Seed is a complex MMO where players grow a civilization beginning with a team of two characters, then create a political and economic system, and decide to either collaborate with or go to war against their fellow players.