An online game designed to predict the future

Computer games are, let's face it, mostly about destruction. Whether it's killing endangered species with gleeful fully-automatic abandon or saving mining ships from the hideous and frequently very gloopy entities that have taken them over most games are about how much and how well you can kill. It's true for online RPGs as well, where grinding your way up through the levels is often as much about avoiding other players out for cheap and easy kills as it is about playing the game.

Superstruct aims to change that. Designed and run by The Institute for the Future, Superstruct is billed as the world's first "massively multiplayer forecasting game" and asks players to take on arguably the most difficult role they will ever play; their future selves in eleven years time.

Set in 2019, the game enables players to choose from one of six "superthreats". Generation Exile sees the world filled with refugees as climate change forces people across national borders, Quarantine permits players to explore a world where REDS (a new super virus) is taking hold, and Ravenous deals with a world struggling to cope with catastrophic food shortages. Also available to players are Outlaw Planet, dealing with global anarchy on the internet, Power Struggle that explores a future where energy sources and revenues are collapsing and The Final Threat, the realisation that humanity has twenty three years left before we become extinct.

Which all sound pretty grim, but that's the point. Superstruct is designed to explore worst case scenarios and how people react to them: the players use blogs, forums, wikis and media files to create a response to their own personal dark future and through that find ways humanity and society can endure. The end result is somewhere between Children of Men and an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), as each future is explored and each response to those futures recorded and analysed to create a "superstruct", a framework to survive the future built on the foundations of the present and the reactions of each player.

Superstruct began on 6 October, will run for six weeks and registration is still open so if you fancy playing a very different kind of game, go to www.superstructgame.org and start building the future. Just make sure you stock up on canned goods...

Article contributed by Alasdair Stuart, of Hub magazine ( www.hub-mag.co.uk )