Things were not quite of this world on campus last week, as students participated in a live mega-game called “Watch the Skies.” The premise? How does humanity react to the revelation of intelligent alien life? More specifically, alien life that wants to destroy humanity, though the players don’t know that.
The exact method of destruction can change with each game. In this run, the extra-terrestrial opponents had a goal of push-ing humanity to destroy itself, utilizing subterfuge, cunning and technological advantages to reach its goal.
Humanity’s salvation? Why, nuclear disarmament, of course, with the in-game UN even securing much-maligned Russia’s co-operation in the accord. We could not confirm if players were purposefully attempting to imitate national stereotypes, though in-game press releases certainly gave that impression.
Yet it was Russia who was ultimately this game’s salvation of humanity. The alien plan involved exploiting the country’s repu-tation as the scapegoat to start a global conflict and ensure the self-annihilation of the human race. The crux of the plan revolved around the assumption that – of all countries – Russia must have kept a secret stockpile of nuclear weapons. Yet at the end of the game, it was revealed that the Russian team was the only truly honest country, as the only country to not have kept a secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
It could be said the alien invaders bet on the wrong horse in this game. Yet this is one of the key aspects of the game’s design; humanity is unpredictable. A combination of nation-teams, the aliens, and non-player media to impact the course and progression of the game make this not only fun, but educational in exploring interactions between groups.
The end-game summary reads;
“At the end of the game, the forces of humanity were shocked to discover that the great nation of Russia, which had been so badly maligned in the world press and at the negotiation tables of the world, was in fact completely innocent. The Alien invaders, in an attempt to have us wipe ourselves off the map, had suborned national communication lines in order to send consistent and false messages about the dangers posed by Russia. This alien force was forced to abandon its mission with the heroic Russian destruction of their moon bases, and the arrival of the flagship of the Commission for Galactic Oversight, which explained to humanity that the other aliens were in fact breaking numerous interstellar laws. A galactic wide pledge drive was being raised to help the poor, long suffering humans, and with the on the ground assistance of Japan, who had mastered alien energy technology (sorry about all those nuclear meltdowns) humanity was to enter into a golden age of peace and prosperity.”
The NAIT game run featured teams of four people representing five major countries; Japan, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S. Four students took on the role of the aliens and three students took on the role of the media as non-player entities. Country teams were able to research new technologies and take all the actions we would expect from a world-level simulation game.
The added bonus? The interactive non-player role that participants could take on as the media, influencing gameplay almost at will through turn-based press releases.
Any group can organize a Watch the Skies game run with enough people. You can find more information on this mega-game at watchtheskies.net. We promise it’s not a conspiracy website.
Nicolas Brown, Issues Editor
Image by Michael MacComb