15 August, 2008 - 19:37 — Bryan Lambert
Memo to Richard Garriott: CUT IT OUT.
Look, dude. I think it's great that after two decades of making Ultima games, you're taking the piles of money they gave you for that and fulfilling a lifelong dream to go to space. That's great. I bet you're loving the training, and if I had $20 million, I might join you. But this Operation Immortality you've got going? That shit has got to stop.
You see, Garriott has made a MMORPG called "Tabula Rasa". If you don't know what an MMORPG is, it stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. If you don't know what THAT means, it means "Like World Of Warcraft". If you don't remember what World of Warcraft is, it's the game from that South Park episode. If you're still confused, enjoy your trip to Wikipedia. Anyway, he made this game, and the game involves humanity being mostly destroyed by aliens, so as a marketing tie-in, Garriott is going to fill a bigass storage device with a pile of data and drop it off at the International Space Station.
And the main thing on the drive, and the reason it's called Operation Immortality, is the sequenced DNA information for a bunch of people. Ostensibly, the idea is that if humanity is wiped out by global warming, or alien invasion, or a whole bunch of new offshore oil wells finally waking Cthulhu from his slumber under the coast of Florida*, the human race can be reconstituted from the information on the Immortality Drive.
Which is cute. Or it would be cute, but here is the most complete list I could assemble of the humans who will be "preserved" in Operation Immortality to date:
Richard Garriott, of course. Noted electric guitar noodler Eric Johnson. Warbler Patrice Pike. Jacked-up pro wrestler Matt Morgan, also known as "Beast" on American Gladiators. A female editor from game site The Escapist. Random players of Tabula Rasa who win a sweepstakes. Oh, and Dragonlance Chronicles co-author Tracy Hickman, who it turns out is a dude.
Before I get into the specifics of the program, TRACY HICKMAN? Immortality? Fuck that. Being one of the people responsible for the Dragonlance Chronicles is like being one of the guys that fucked a sick monkey and created AIDS. You thought all you were doing was having a bit of fun, but it turns out you're unleashing a plague on the literary world it has yet to recover from. Fucking Raistlin.
OK, back to the project as a whole. I think you can start to see the fundamental flaw. Some alien civilization comes along, decodes the Immortality Drive, and reconstitutes humanity on a small colony world or island. Matt Morgan immediately declares himself king, takes Patrice Pike as his queen, and the poor Escapist editor has to play Smurfette to a nation of slightly pudgy, goateed dudes who think if they keep going into the same cave over and over again, they'll come out with different stuff each time.
Johnson won't hunt, because you can't kill the alien equivalent of a wild boar with an eight minute guitar solo. Matt Morgan can't hunt, because the aliens won't realize they need to stock the colony with trained animals who fall over when you hit them lightly. The nerds will start to starve, Morgan and Pike will be forced to turn to cannibalism until they get sick of the taste of nerd burgers, and the aliens will chock it up to an elaborate practical joke played on them by a long-dead race of comedians. Offended at being intergalactically punk'd, they'll blow up the dead Earth out of spite.
Of course, there is one other possibility. You see, the Immortality Drive will also contain the avatars of every active Tabula Rasa player as of September 2, 2008. If the aliens decode and understand THAT, then humanity's only future will be as sweatshop labor in the alien equivalent of a Korean Internet cafe, grinding for rare virtual alien artifacts that the aliens can sell for huge space dollars on eBalien. Matt Morgan will be executed for accidentally crushing every control device the aliens provide for him.
Now, I love my nerd brethren, but I say this as a pudgy begoateed man who will, as soon as he's done typing this, go play a point-and-click adventure game based off a ten-year-old webcartoon I don't even watch: DO NOT REPOPULATE THE SPECIES WITH JUST ME. I only have one survival trait, and you're looking at it. So unless we're reconstituted by a bunch of snarky liberal aliens suffering under a perniciously stupid and evil sociopolitical system, I will not be able to help you.
Sure, it's a marketing ploy. And sure, any calamity that takes out the Earth will probably take the ISS with it. And I don't think even advanced aliens can clone nerds from a flash drive. But it's bad enough that we've been beaming Gilligan's Island reruns into space for decades. If the aliens get the impression we spent fifteen bucks a month and days and days on end playing Tabula Rasa, and voting Star Wars as the greatest movie ever** they're not going to hand over the fusion reactors and the cancer cure. They'll just dust off and nuke the site from orbit, because as we all know, it's the only way to be sure.
*Yes, ALL the Old Ones go there to retire.
**Yes, they did. So they're not even proper nerds. Proper nerds would vote for The Empire Strikes Back.