You won't read about it in the headlines, but deep in the high-tech corporate campus of the Research Triangle Park, in Durham, North Carolina, desperate refugees fight for survival against mutant cannibals in a dystopian wasteland where civilization is just a dim memory.
No, it's not a hyperbolic recession metaphor (at least not exclusively), it's Fallen Earth, the post-apocalyptic virtual world created and maintained by RTP game company Icarus Studios. Fallen Earth, you see, is a video game — one in which thousands of players play simultaneously via the Internet and their personal computers.
Technically speaking, Fallen Earth is an MMORPG. That stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game — surely the industry's most unwieldy acronym. Launched this fall after an extensive beta test period, Fallen Earth is hoping to capture a corner of the MMO market left open by established games like EverQuest and World Of Warcraft.
Frankly, they could be onto something: end-of-the-world scenarios seem to be on our collective mind these days. Recent and upcoming films like 2012, Cormac McCarthy's The Road and the animated adventure 9 are upping the ante in the disaster flick category. Clearly, we are sublimating our collective anxieties about global warming, pandemics and terrorism.
But don't despair: while MMO games like Fallen Earth project our fears, they may also be pointing to a potential solution and an escape from the aforementioned apocalypse. Let's say civilization does end — via virus, radiation or ocean waves. Why not simply upload your personality as a ROM construct to your favorite virtual world?
Okay, there are some logistical hurdles here. For starters, we'll need to bury the server farms along with several trillion batteries. But I'm the idea guy — I'm thinking big picture. And no matter what your way of life, I'm convinced that there is a virtual world into which you could plausibly retreat in the event the world you currently inhabit is burned, flooded or otherwise rendered unavailable to you. And I can help you find it.
Check out these virtual worlds listed below, all of which are actual MMO games. (OK, all but one — see if you can spot the fake.) Which would you choose?
Club Penguin: Use your penguin avatar to waddle your way through various puzzles and games.
Urban Dead: Live forever fighting zombies as a human survivor, or eating brains as a zombie. Your call.
Monopoly City Streets: Buy and sell virtual real estate on real-world streets using Google Map images.
Lots and lots more, after the jump.
Toontown Online: Fight back against hostile corporate takeover by deploying classic cartoon "gags" — banana peels, seltzer bottles, dropping anvils, etc.
Ran Online: Fight undead undergraduates from rival universities.
Continuum: Abandon the third dimension entirely and live forever in a frictionless 2-D cosmic world.
Third Life: Try, try again in a virtual world exclusively for those who have managed to screw up both their real life and Second Life.
Sociolotron: Fight monsters, establish a dynasty and have virtual sex. (Link NSFW.)
Kingdom of Loathing: Fight monsters, establish a dynasty and get drunk. (link barely SFW)
Hello Kitty Online: Help Hello Kitty fight a "mysterious and malevolent power."
Monster Farm Online: Breed and raise specialized monsters, then fight them.
Pirates of the Burning Sea: Swashbuckle your way through the Caribbean circa 1720.
Tantra Online: Help your tribe defeat monsters from Hindu mythology.
Blackout Rugby: Manage a virtual New Zealand rugby team until the end of time.
* Third Life isn't real, although it should be — too bad some cybersquatter is sitting on the domain.