February 29, 2012
by Roge Slater
There is little light. The sun’s rays diminish daily, too impotent to penetrate the fug and haze that envelopes what remains of this once thriving world. Now, the darkness only yields grudgingly at the poles. There, the unfiltered light and heat burn through the polar fragments of the Earth’s protective ozone layer preventing any form of life.
It is half a century since the meteor storm rained down. Expected to be a wondrous celestial shower, ranking alongside the Northern Lights or a Solar Eclipse in its beauty, no-one foresaw the trajectory, intensity, or level of destruction that would be wrought; no-one, that is, but the Mayans: December 2012 rightly pinpointed by that ancient race as the end of life as we knew it.
Yet their prediction was not entirely accurate. This was not quite the catastrophe that ended man’s existence: this was simply a new age; a new beginning; a new time. Like all of life’s cycles, our rebirth began with destruction. Experiences and technologies developed over hundreds of years lived on, adapting, like our bodies, to life underground.
The planet is once again stable, though not as it once was. No more do ice-caps melt and flood the remaining surfaces of our planet; the heat at the poles such that steam clouds billow from the exposed Phanerozoic lithosphere, the remaining surface water now super-heated and diminishing rapidly into the atmosphere.
The planet continues to rotate, but each circuit is out of balance with its predecessor as these geysers act like retro rockets, pulsing and pushing the tumbling mass to the extremes of axial control. The increased rotational speed jettisons both animate and inanimate objects from the surface, expelling them into space, though in the underworld we only see this in image form as we have no access to the surface. Gravity has all but given up its hopeless task as the world spins dizzily on in its orbit. The planet’s outer structure is unrecognisable, the landscape ever more desolate, an increasingly dark desert, replacing what once were green and fruitful plains.
We number but thousands — not even tens of thousands — where once there were millions, even billions. We are all young, second and third generation ‘lifers‘, our parents and grandparents those who, by whatever stroke of good fortune, survived the storm. Underground life is our mark of stubborn refusal to accept the inter-stellar Armageddon as the end. Lifespans shortened by unknown viruses, nature is our enemy now, yet, here in our darkness, technology reigns.
We have taken technology and science to our bosoms as never before, developing our under-world according to our own rules. We have learned to live in a new way.
No longer can we travel as freely as we did under an open sky. We are limited now to ultra-low frequency sound wave communication with other survivors existing in the sub strata of their own continents. There is no commerce, no cultural exchange, no physical contact; just ghostly voices murmuring in the distance.
The air we purify and manufacture does not allow great physical exertion. The carbon content required to remove the toxins is too great, an unseen restriction of our respiration. The work is difficult and tiresome as we strive to maintain and develop our new lives.
Pioneers search for new ways to improve our lot, each drawing from their own specialised fields of science; each with their own small army of colleagues, guided, directed and controlled to achieve their vital daily tasks.
Over time, in our formative generations, we have developed The Machine to control the very function of our lives. Pioneers design and implement the programs, and build and maintain the equipment that preserve our environment and provide for our needs. Then our engineers program The Machine to manage those processes for us.
More than a super-computer, it has become our heart and soul of everything we have and do. Without it, we would soon be nothing There simply aren’t enough of us to run all the programs that now make our days possible.
It is also programmed to learn. Extrapolating from all our knowledge and every new input from our daily lives, simple functions are now executed without our intervention. Every situation is analysed and contextualised to our history in millionths of a second. Where conditions match, then so do the reactions and operations of The Machine.
I am one of the Pioneers.
Mine is considered a lesser task, but, as I tell the skeptics, our bleak new world needs entertainment to make our lives seem worthwhile. My father and grandfather had both been developers with Atari-Commodore, and thus the Gaming Group is all I have ever known, its history ingrained in me. The two relatively small companies merged in the Console Era and, by 2012, were about to revolutionize the home gaming industry with their interactive football simulator.
Their game was to be a next generation release that would have stood to suppress the greed that had taken over so much of the real sporting world. It was a game to replace Pro Evolution Soccer, FIFA and Football Manager; to replace the X-Box1020 and PS3D, even, the market leading three-dimensional consoles; it was a game that was to be the ultimate. It was the game that would destroy the very sport that had given it life and that it mimicked so well.
Now, in our new world, but for very different reasons, we play The Game.
The Machine’s speed of thought and ability to learn have been key components in the development of The Game. With extensive data recovered from prior to the meteor storm, we have been able to program the history of a host of professional football clubs. Whether European, South American or otherwise, every bit of data regarding each player, coach, and executive’s tactical and business acumen, physical strengths and weaknesses, personal and professional temperament, and ability to cope with intense pressure in crucial situations, has been fed to The Machine. As the game is for everyone, with some wishing to be players, others managers, and a few chairmen and technical directors, we have included every available piece of information regarding every personality, now matter how inconsequential or irrelevant it may seem, into The Game’s program. No kernel of knowledge, no grain of fact, is considered unimportant.
There now exists a new Premier League. Every lifer is registered to a team of their choice, every part controlled by The Machine through a system of interpretation, each player having their very thoughts and brain waves read through an electroencephalogram, and each thought assimilated by The Machine. Their thoughts are The Game. They exist in a fourth dimension, their minds linked to The Machine’s physical approximations of footballing greats, seeing through their eyes, running with their legs, breathing with their lungs. Registered Chairman and Technical Directors interact, competing to hire the best Registered Managers and Coaches, and recruit the best Registered Players. The templates include the best of the Final Generation: Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi, Xavi, Buffon, but also the Immortals of Generations Past: Marsh, Best, Eusebio, Puskas, Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Charlton, Giles, Shilton, Zoff — the annals are endless. Once a template is taken up by a Registered Player, age is taken into account, and the historical player’s abilities are blended with those of his operator.
As we play, each single bit and byte of data is compressed, transmitted and calculated in millionths of a second by the massive computing power that is The Machine. The permutations of combined personalities are infinite, and The Game’s potential limitless.
No longer will fans have crave the atmosphere of the stadium; their game environment will create it for them. No longer shall they express anger at inabilities, decisions or tactics; they shall be the players and the managers. No longer need they pick and choose which games to attend due to astronomical cost; they can freely be part of every game.
Corporate greed and the Prawn Sandwich are the only losers. Playing, or even just watching, the game returns the sport to the masses. Subsequent to the inter-stellar Armageddon, the masses are less, it is true, but this is their game.
We know from our records that at the time of destruction, the tag line to Atari-Commodore’s advertising was to be:
Who needs real players when you can be part of a global challenge, using the best of each generation in a multi dimensional world?
They could have added:
…to create a sport played from the armchair, where most of life is spent.
Futureball by Roger Slater is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License