Gaming the Apocalypse

Sunday night, I dragged a fellow gamer to see Contagion. She didn’t want to see it at first, but in the end we both enjoyed the film. Don’t worry: I’m not adding movie reviews to this blog. At least not as such. And I don’t reveal any spoilers. I have enough trouble keeping up with games and making time to compose thoughts (personally rewarding) and write in unbroken English (sometimes rewarding).

More compelling than the film was the discussion that followed. Instead of talking about the film’s plot, editing, or its sometimes inconsistent acting, the title of our discussion might have been called “What would you do in the apocalypse?” A favorite and easy game of the imagination, perhaps only outmatched by the more pedestrian fantasy of sudden, boundless wealth.

In the case of Contagion, the end of the world scenario arrived in the form of a disease epidemic. In theory, the apocalypse could come any form. Many imagined events cause destruction and human extinction. And our generation of disaster movies doesn’t limit itself to a hotel or a ship – it’s the whole planet suffering a comet strike. Nuclear war. Zombies. Mad scientists. Climate change. AliensDragons. Hackers.

Hmmm. Do we hate our lives or our world sufficiently enough to joyfully contemplate its catastrophic demise? Insert a partisan political joke here. Then again, human imagination has focused on the end of the world for a while now…

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice…

Sorry for the abuse, Robert. Anyway, our conversation rambled onto a realization of just how ill prepared for armageddon we were. Even ignoring such theoretical concerns of preparation for an afterlife, disaster readiness is pretty lacking. No significant store of food or water. No firearms. No weapon more likely than a kitchen knife. No store of medicines. I can say that’s the outcome of living the liberal, urban lifestyle of San Francisco, with grocery stores and restaurants on every street corner. But it doesn’t say much about our skill as gamers, does it? I played Gamma World, Nuclear War, and Left for Dead! And yet here we keep taking our chances that the world won’t end tomorrow. Seems pretty reasonable, actually.

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