Heaven vs. Hell (South Park)
In South Park’s “Best Friends Forever,” Heaven vs. Hell is a hotly anticipated real-time strategy game for the PSP in which players must defend heaven from a seemingly endless demon horde from hell. The twist is that the game is genuinely divine, created by God to find a general with the skills needed to save the real heaven from the actual armies of Satan.
From there, “Best Friends Forever” takes a typical South Park turn for the ridiculous. Kenny ends up in a vegetative state after getting hit by an ice cream truck, but God wants Kenny to die so he can come lead the armies of heaven. The result is an extended riff on the Terry Schiavo media frenzy and the right-to-die debate more generally.
Thankfully, a full version of Heaven vs. Hell wouldn’t need to be quite so topical. Demonic and angelic iconography offers plenty of fodder for the different types of units that populate an RTS, while the setting makes it feel like the fate of the universe is (literally) hanging in the balance. Heaven vs. Hell is what you would get if Brutal Legend was a little less self-aware, and the sense of grandeur should more than make up for the lack of heavy metal comedy.
The World (.hack//Sign)
The World gets a nod for predicting many aspects of The OASIS. The primary setting in the 2002 anime .hack//Sign (and the rest of the .hack Project), The World is essentially a tricked-out version of World of Warcraft, a Virtual Reality MMORPG that leans heavily on fantasy tropes and aesthetics. Players are able to log on to go on adventures and interact with other players, building a massive social network that has more currency than reality.
Like the OASIS, The World reflects the particular cultural obsessions of its creator. It also hides a deeper secret. Designed by Harald Hoerwick in the wake of a widespread Internet disaster, the cast of .hack//Sign spends most of the series trying to discover the true purpose of The World. The narrative arc would foreshadow Wade’s trip through James Halliday’s biography in Ready Player One, and while The World has a more specific genre bent than the all-encompassing OASIS, the similarities are striking in hindsight.
Players have been able to explore The World in various .hack video games, but the series has always been set in the same overarching dystopia, which often overshadows The World itself. A standalone version sounds a lot more palatable, especially since .hack//Sign often prioritized conversation over combat. The World was an early attempt to explore the social dynamics of online gaming, and that would be a welcome addition to the gaming landscape.
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