A great video game needs a great universe, and we've been entranced with them ever since Super Mario Bros. As the years have passed, graphics technology has gotten to the point where you can more or less build an entire planet filled with unique architecture, flora, fauna, and societies that takes hours, maybe days, to walk across if you want to, and the only thing holding you back is deciding how far into the looking glass you want to go.
Case in point, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Our brother is buying it this weekend, so we took him out to eat and held a small farewell party for him because for all intents and purposes, he is going to be moving to another country for roughly three months. He will be physically absent from our life, he'll call, he'll send us pictures and videos of his trip, he'll make friends and learn customs, just as if he'd gotten a job in Guam. And that's just him sitting in his apartment.
Some of those amazing worlds, though...they are actually out there, and most are just a plane ticket away. How would you like to see...
Portal takes place in the massive Aperture Science facility, a private, state-of-the-art scientific laboratory that extends for miles underground. Built by Cave Johnson and now run by a murderous and bitchy AI named GLaDOS, all manner of brilliant scientific research was carried out by testing it on human subjects in their enrichment spheres.
What you're seeing up is a picture of construction on the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, and as far as we can tell, the only thing keeping it from being Aperture Science is the absence of a robot making fun of us for being adopted. Built to a scale that dwarfs all conventional thought? Check. Insane science being done around the clock? Double check.
They're working on nuclear fusion, and they are working on it with lasers that the aliens from Independence Day would envy. By shooting almost 200 beams at a dust-mite-sized packet of hydrogen, they're trying to raise the temperature to about 100 million Celsius in an attempt to basically make a tiny sun with which to power the world. It's not a portal gun, but a giant death ray is pretty cool, too.
Few environments can capture the imagination like the underwater city of Rapture from BioShock. The city was the dream of Andrew Ryan, a Randian capitalist who wanted to gather the brightest and best minds in science, business and the arts in one secluded place where they would be free from taxes, laws and regulations. Ryan's society didn't take long to collapse and the art deco paradise tuned into a den of murder mutants, corpse looters and psychopaths.
That last part hasn't happened yet, but we bet you dollars to doughnuts it will once Pete Thiel gets his way. The Silicon Valley billionaire and founder of PayPal has a dream that mirrors Andrew Ryan's minus only being slightly less insane by wanting an artificial island rather than an Atlantean metropolis. Thiel has already spent $1.25 million towards the project, which will be founded off the coast of San Francisco.
Thiel is totally serious, and expects to have full-time floating settlements within seven years. Who wouldn't want to live and work in the middle of the ocean on a flotilla built beyond the reach of all safety codes and inspections, is run by ruthless, autocratic people who value profit over safety, that despises the concept of minimum wage, has no social safety net, and offers easy access to whatever weaponry you can afford?
Oh come on, One F! There is no Mushroom Kingdom where we can run around breaking bricks with our heads while saving a princess. You're mother obviously downed mercury smoothies while you were gestating.
True, there is no Mushroom Kingdom, but there is the Tempest Freerunning Academy in Los Angeles. Freerunning is like parkour, except that you're not actually going anywhere and instead just spend all your time doing flips, spins, lunges and other Mario stuff just for fun and to look cool. As you can tell from the picture, they've fully embraced the Mario connection with their paint job, which means we're just a turtle costume and a blond away from having the most awesome game of Let's Pretend ever.
It's too bad that we don't have some kind of footwear that would give us Mario's jumping ability to really up the ante in a trip to Tempest. Not because they haven't been invented, of course, we just don't have $200 to waste on them.
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Of all the places you can visit through video games, Silent Hill is right on top of the list of places to not go anywhere near. We'd rather vacation in Raccoon City than even stop to use the bathroom in Silent Hill. It is literally a haunted hellscape only pretending to be a regular creepy town, and hulking, helmeted butchers have rape for lunch and murder for dinner there every day.
Oh, and did we mention it's based on a real place, or at least the film adaptation version was? Centralia, Pennsylvania, was a typical small town until something ignited a fire in the abandoned coal mines beneath it, a fire that is still burning today, rendering Centralia pretty much uninhabitable save by the ten or so people who continue to live there despite being on top of, you know, the penthouse of Hell.
Much like the game environment, smoke and steam leak out of the ground all over Centralia, turning it into a misty, haunted setting full of danger. Granted, the danger is more from the high carbon dioxide levels than busty nurses with deformed faces wielding scalpels, but dead is dead, friends and enemies.