If you're like me, you play video games to escape from real life... which is kind of pointless in my case since my job involves playing video games and writing about them. You, however, probably have a real job with like pens and keycards and bosses that aren't willing to reimburse you for the steampunk sex toys you bought for research purposes only! In your case, though, games are probably a welcome distraction.
I wouldn't hold onto that escapism too hard if I were you because plenty of video games are coming to life as we speak thanks to a combination of innovation, greed, and the sum total of fucks in the world plunging at an alarming rate. Sure, some of it is good news. Want to leap like Mario? $299 is all you need. How about a stealth suit from the Metal Gear Solid games? Don't worry, Harvard is working on it right now.
Then again, always remember that Slayer was right and God hates us all. Science and industry aren't just concentrating on the bringing the fun parts of video games to life. Nope, some of the worst parts of video game culture are unfolding all around us. Sure, the Slender Man isn't real and the inspiration for Silent Hill can only kill you with toxic gas instead of rape giants with mega knives, but there's plenty of horror crawling out of the console into your living room. Like...
Google is Turning into Shinra from Final Fantasy VII
Final Fatansy VII is notable because it was the first game in the series where the initial enemy wasn't a despot or sudden supernatural evil, it was a corporation. Specifically, it was the Shinra corporation, an energy company that had developed a new power source called Mako which was drained directly from the planet. After becoming the main or only provider of electric power in the world, they had essentially overthrown all government, leaving puppets in their place, while they wielded absolute power.
You know who else is getting into the energy business? The $80 billion information giant Google. The company got into solar energy big in 2006, when it started building massive solar power panels to provide electricity for its servers. The project was the largest corporate solar power hub in the United States. Just last year they began investing nearly a billion dollars into various forms of renewable energy.
So what, right? They're just doing it in order to reap the publicity benefits of going green and provide themselves with free energy. Maybe, but in 2010 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Google the right to sell the energy they produce, though they have not yet started doing so.
Admittedly, the amount of money that Google is spending on energy is a fraction of what the federal government is spending, although that is rapidly changing. In the wake of the Solyndra bankruptcy the federal subsidy of the solar industry and green energy in general is under attack. Should generating such reserves prove a profitable business for Google, they would be a serious national competitor for power.
I guess it's a good thing that their competition isn't under extreme stress, like hydraulic fracturing for natural gas being hounded for potentially damaging drinking water or a nuclear power threatening to close the conduit for 20 percent of the world's oil. We certainly wouldn't want our power supply to be dominated by a company that essentially already knows every single move you make online.
Building the Libertarian Utopia Rapture in Real Life
BioShock is one of my favorite video game series because it's historical fiction that explores what happens when various ideals, like apocalyptic religion or nationalism, are taken to unhealthy extremes. In the first game, we visited Rapture, an undersea art-deco metropolis founded on Ayn Randian principles of free enterprise unhampered by altruism or government regulation.
Spoilers, it turned everything into a fuck more clustered than was previously thought possible by clusterfuckologists. Science sold designer genetic to the populace that turned them into murder mutants, guns were available in vending machines, and not one of the 1 percent that fled beneath the waves was willing to clean a toilet. A valuable lesson was learned by... no one.
Meet Peter Thiel, or really meet him again because this is the third time I've brought him up and you will listen until you are properly scared by his dream. Thiel, who got obscenely rich by developing Pay Pal, has decided that the only way for him to get any richer is to take his empire and create a new one off the coast of San Francisco. There were some doubts that he would really go forward with his floating libertarian city, but as of May he's already gotten 100 international technology companies on board.
The plan is something closer to a cruise ship than a hidden city, but 1,000 residents will call it full-time home, apparently. The goal is to create a concentrated hub of Silicon Valley bigwigs that will be close enough to visit by ferry, but will able to get around certain restrictions like work visas for international entrepreneurs. Honestly, it sounds a lot less sinister than it was originally portrayed, and Thiel and his partner, former Google (See previous entry) engineer Patri Friedman, seem focused only on tech start-ups rather than biochemistry. Still, you'll pardon me if I don't turn my back on a group of geniuses that want to stay connected to one of the most important and fastest growing American industries while hovering 12 miles off shore, living according to lax commercial laws developed in the Dark Ages and now mainly used by people to avoid oversight.
Homefront Predicts Kim Jong-il's Death, and Maybe More
I didn't play THQ's Homefront, and judging by sales it's likely that you didn't either. Not that I blame you. It's not like there is a shortage of first-person-shooters in the world. In fact, of the five games on this list every single one of them either is or has a spin-off in the genre. Still, THQ is going forward with a sequel.
One of the quirks about the game was that it eerily predicted the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. The game takes place in March of 2013, and states that Kim Jong-un had succeeded his father a year earlier. That means that THQ missed the actual date of the Great Leader's death by mere months.
Granted, it wasn't that out there. Kim Jong-il had been in poor health since at least 2008, and Kim Jong-un as his successor was not a surprise, but Homefront had some other little quirks that make me wonder whether or not it's more prophecy than game.
Some of it is obviously not going to happen. The superstate formed by a reunited North and South Korean is less likely than Atlas Shrugged Part 2 making money, and it doesn't look like Iran and the Saudis are going to come to nuclear-powered blows as they do in the game. And it's certainly not like Texas is going to try and secede from the United States like writer John Milius claims, right?
Well, we do have a prominent judge in Lubbock saying that Texas had better get started preparing to remove itself from the United States because President Obama was supposedly going to turn over sovereignty (That means guns in dumbfuck) to the United Nations. But hey, maybe that's just Lubbock being Lubbock.
OK, well, even though our governor, Rick Perry, didn't out and out say that Texas should secede if politics doesn't adhere to conservative ideals in 2009, he did at least imply that it wouldn't be a bad thing. Then there was Texas House Concurrent Resolution 50 that same year, which sums up nicely as, "We'll be in the United States as long as you don't ever try and tell us what to do."
Luckily, a comfortable majority of Texans favor sticking with Uncle Sam. Except among those who identified as Republicans, half of whom said Texas would be better off as its own nation. That would be the party that currently controls all three branches of state government by a solid margin. Surely no worries.
DARPA Goes All Umbrella Corporation
Resident Evil's perennial antagonist, the pharmaceutical company Umbrella, has the following time-tested business strategy. Zombies equal Profit. Maybe that's true if your industry involves making movies and video games about how awesome it would be to shoot people in the head because they're zombies, but is not really very attractive to people looking more for things like painkillers and boner pills.
Still, they keep on keeping on with their plan to use science in order to grow the ultimate genetic soldier no matter how many times they have to create pulsing bags of eyes that hunger for the blood of women in improbable outfits instead. That kind of can do spirit can be found right here in America, and in real life you don't even have to worry about the bottom line for such shenanigans. As a taxpayer, you're already an Umbrella customer.
DARPA is the "Oh God Why" branch of the Department of Defense. They specialize in developing really advanced technology in order to make killing more effective and/or possibly fun. Their current list of projects include telepathy, self-healing robots, and artificial genetic organisms for battle. Here's my favorite quote from that article.
"DARPA is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military's advantage, creating "synthetic organisms" that can live forever -- or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch."
It's called BioDesign, and the pitch literally states that evolution is too random and slow for effective military use. Of course, we can all sleep easily knowing that the scientist have done what no one in all of Umbrella apparently ever though to do, give your murder golem a damned off-switch. It doesn't quite balance out the ability to instill permanent genetic loyalty to a master into the creature, or the fact that the ultimate goal is to make them otherwise immortal, but you know, it's a start.
Oh hey, remember that scene in the first Resident Evil where the giant mutated shark attacked you from behind? Yeah, so does DARPA, and they added cybernetic implants to boot because if anything is worth doing it's worth horribly overdoing while cackling like a sadistic maniac.
Cave Johnson's Lemon Dream Comes True
Portal 2 is one of the greatest games of all time, mixing the immersion of the first person shooter with the elegance of a finely crafted puzzler, all the while entertaining an audience with the funniest antagonist this side of Fawful. I know you're hoping at best I'll tell you the portal gun is in the works or at worst science labs are turning their resource controls over to bitchy AIs that have access to deadly neurotoxin, but the truth is way weirder.
In the game, scientist and entrepreneur Cave Johnson gives a speech that has become famous. It goes...
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"When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons, what am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!"
The mastermind over at The Chem Life decided to be one of those engineers. In this video, he walks us through exactly how to make a combustible lemon. Specifically, a long burning flaming lemon and a lemon-ade for explosive purposes. Luckily for the yogurtheads of the world that might try it at home and blow themselves up, he doesn't go into the exact nature of his homemade explosive, but fittingly enough he says it's citrus based.
The flaming lemon comes out perfectly, but the lemon-ade clearly needs some work for mass production. Of course, that video is a year old so God only knows what he's done with it since then.
Now that you've got lemon ammo in order to carry out the angry will of Cave Johnson, what do you do? You can't just hurl flaming lemons at people. That's not science. Have no fear, just head over to Spud Gun Tech for a ridiculously large selection of produce-shooting launchers. The pneumatic ones are much safer than the combustion ones, but once you've come this far is safety really that much of a concern? As Johnson said, "Science isn't about why. It's about why not."