The 2020s, as predicted by videogames

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Near the end of a thousand years with the number one in front of them, the number two became the de facto symbol of the future, bringing us 2001: A Space Odyssey, Death Race 2000, Knight Rider 2000, and so on. The real year 2000 did not involve evil AI light bulbs or, in Knight Rider's case, a Dan Quayle presidency, but some sci-fi took things even further out by adding another 'two' to the mix, setting their dystopias in the 2020s. 

We still haven't even tried a human interplanetary expedition and Dan Quayle remains the guy who didn't know how to spell "potato," but maybe this time around the speculators will nail it. I hope not, because games set in the 2020s tended to predict death and destruction more than anything else.

The aliens should be here any minute

Half-Life takes place sometime between 2000 and 2009 according to the original manual (which provides "200-" as the year its events take place). Gordon is brought out of stasis over ten years later at the beginning of Half-Life 2, so those events take place sometime around now, when the alien Combine have enslaved pretty much everyone.

Crysis also takes place in the 2020s—it starts on August 7, 2020—and involves bothering ancient alien visitors who were just hanging out on an island. In Earth Defense Force 2025, which obviously takes place in 2025, the bug aliens have already invaded and are invading again.

I haven't been enslaved by any Combine soldiers or decapitated by a large ant, so it is probably safe to say that an alien invasion has not begun. If they're here, though, I'm sure former Blink 182 frontman Tom DeLonge will let us know—his UFO research org was the first to obtain US Department of Defense footage (above) of a 2015 encounter between US Navy pilots and a glowing dot. The truth is out there. Who knows how many dots could be flying around right now.

Body augmentations will be big business

(Image credit: Crytek)

According to Crysis and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the 2020s are a period of body modification—the kind that grants superhuman abilities, not the unfortunate eyebrow piercing that characterized my face during my own early 20s. 

On the surface, the 2020 nanosuit tech of Crysis seems less invasive than Human Revolution's 2027 body augmentations, implants which grant X-ray vision and superstrength but require suppressing the immune system. But Crysis' nanosuits aren't just suits: they bond with the wearer and can become inseparable from the flesh. If you don't want to live your life as a permanent Venom cosplayer, it's probably best to avoid wearing any reverse-engineered alien technology in the coming years. 

In fact, maybe anything with "nano" in its name should be rejected. Patagonia's "Nano Puff" jackets are warm, but is it really worth the risk of looking like a Portland-based nature blogger forever?

Human Revolution is obviously closer to the truth: It's unlikely that tiny alien robots will be repairing internal organ injuries soon, but people have been messing around with technological body modifications for some time. There was a brief craze over embedding magnets under the skin to add a sixth sense—detection of magnetic fields—to the human repertoire, but interest has died down over the past decade. Still, more than a few people have non-medical RFID implants beneath their skin today. They don't have the ability to punch through walls, but they may be able to unlock locks specifically designed to be unlocked by their chips. I guess that's something.

We're about to become trapped in VR

Novel, manga, anime, and game series Sword Art Online begins in 2022, which gives Valve, Oculus, and HTC very little time to imprison thousands of players in a virtual world from which there is no escape—unless they can defeat its enigmatic creator.

This is why Gabe Newell should be the final boss of Half-Life: Alyx.

Sports should become more cyber

Esports aren't the future of sports. The future of sports is American football, but played by robots with a ball that explodes. That's the scenario in 1988 Atari game Cyberball, which takes place in 2022. (See footage of the Genesis version above by way of extremely useful YouTube channel 10min Gameplay.)

For some reason, the sequel, Tournament Cyberball 2072, added another 50 years of history to the sport. Seems unnecessary to me.

Robot battling, while briefly popular during the late '90s and early 2000s when British competition Robot Wars was on the air, faded away when it became apparent that wedge-shaped bots won almost every time because flipping opponents over was far easier than wrecking them—though upside-down spinning colanders had some success. The series was revived in 2016, but was cancelled again in 2018. Maybe that wouldn't have happened if they'd added an exploding football.

Cyberball isn't out of the question, though. When they aren't being used for the brutal repression I assume they're meant for, the spry machines built by Boston Dynamics could probably find a spot on the Bengals' offensive line.

The only problem is that watching robots do things humans can do doesn't sound like much fun. I have never found myself wishing 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel made more whirring noises during touchdowns. But maybe games like Cyberball aren't predicting a future in which humans watch robots play sports, but a future in which robots watch robots play sports. I bet they're a bunch of charging station quarterbacks, too, beeping angrily at the holoscreen every time Robot Daniel Jones robo-fumbles.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.