Pic of the day: In 2001, I felt convinced that I would spend my retirement, if any, playing Daggerfall. Eh, I probably won't after all. Instead, I'll play City of Heroes... Yeah, right.
In the year 2011
I have been writing this journal for more than 8 years now, although the first months are lost in the trackless maelstrom of the Internet. (It was probably not a great idea to call my files Sunday.html, Monday.hmtl etc...) It is interesting to look back a few years, but how about looking forward a few years? If I am still alive five years from now, I will almost certainly read this and be amused. If not, perhaps someone else will discover it in Google Cache or the Wayback Machine, and be amused. (I'd be happy to prepay my website for five years, but I have so far never had a web space provider that existed for that long without closing down, being bought out, losing all my data or otherwise changing beyond recognition.)
So, what is life like in 2011? Much like now, if at all. I will assume that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will not after all manage to create mini black holes in 2007, as they are set to attempt. Alternatively, perhaps microscopic black holes do dissipate harmlessly after all, as Hawkings has theorized. Not that his theories have been able to predict the changes in cosmology of the last decade, mind you. But assuming that the planet is here at all, there is a high likelihood that it is eerily similar to today.
Mobile phones, pocket PCs, MP3 players and handheld game consoles have continued to merge. The PSP line fell by the wayside because of its non- pocketable size. The hybrids are mostly descended from the mobile phone, but run software from the PC side as well as popular games formerly associated with handhelds. Mobile phone trends that proved highly popular in Japan and Korea will for some reason fail to catch on in the west, such as pink telephones with cat ears that meow when you get a text message. (I just made that up, but they probably exist already.)
The performance of computers continue to double every 18 months, but in part this is because the number of processors double every 36 months now. The latest PCs all have 4-core processors now in 2011, with 8-core in the works. But my latest PC is a dual-core, which I found really cheap just as they were phased out. I do have two video cards, though. You can't have less than that if you want to play the newest games. And I do ... particularly Sims 3.
Sims 3 is astoundingly lifelike, and incorporates many of the social options and gameplay inventions from the long list of expansion packs to Sims2, including the last and most controversial, Sims 2 Afterlife. (in it the Sims discovered spirituality and the ghosts, who had been only an element of trouble from day 1, finally become an integrated and valued part of the Sim community.) Ghost remains one of the "life phases" in Sims 3, with their own somewhat unusual wants and fears and social interactions. Intriguingly, one of the changes in Sims 3 that caused the most controversy was the decision to switch from Simlish to English (and the other languages in which the game was released). Purists claim that this destroys the unique feeling of the game, but newcomers are delighted to hear their Sims talk in their own language. Although their vocabulary is only roughly 2000 words, it is quite enough for everyday life. Meanwhile, purists have developed Simlish mods which you can install to change their speech back to gibberish, reintroducing cherished phrases from both of the original games.
In 2011, City of Heroes has been in decline for a while after the loss of its founder and guiding spirit, Jack "Statesman" Emmert. The game is still hanging on, although with a smaller number of servers and without a separate European presence. The game has to compete with dedicated superhero games from DC and Marvel comics, none of which became a success either. Besides, the slowly growing number of sword & sorcery online games has met unexpected competition from a new subgenre, often referred to as just "online life", games set in a contemporary society with few fantastic elements. Gamers play hyped-up versions of real life professions such as cops and robbers, rock stars, stock traders, gamblers and call girls. Advances in artificial intelligence makes it possible for non-player characters, controlled by computers, to play the less glamorous characters in society. It can sometimes be hard for a beginner to know at a glance whether a character is played by the computer or another human, though it will become obvious if you try to interact with them. There is a lively debate about what degree of "mature content" is acceptable in these games, and some games specialize in that part while others brand themselves as "family-friendly".
In real life, things are less cheerful, which may be why so many people prefer game worlds. The USA is finally bled dry by its overseas wars and a decade of ignorant economic policy. Relations with China soured over the question of Taiwan, and China (which has its own problems) dumped trillions in US bonds, crashing the dollar beyond hope of recovery. The extreme jump in import prices - more than a doubling almost overnight - caused a recession that was more like a panic. The rest of the world duly panicked as well. But in the rich world, this did not result in actual starvation. Still, social tension is high, and the blame is flying like clods of manure back and forth. Life goes on, but it is a bleaker life, lacking the irrational exuberance of the past golden age.
(The new worldview is visible in the game Civilization V, in which the costs of war and of keeping a large empire are quite a bit higher than in its predecessors. I cheered this change in my journal when I bought the game, but I only played it for a few days before getting bored.
The first baby boomers have retired, but there is now much worry about how it will be possible to feed them all. On the bright side, the fight against obesity is finally going somewhere. New prescription medication increases metabolism with few side effects. They are too expensive for those without health insurance, though. These are helpfully advised to eat less. Many promising treatments for cancer are, as usual, undergoing clinical testing.
All in all, life in 2011 is almost the same as five years ago, only with better computers but without the cheerful overspending.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.