Youre reading this on the internet right now. You probably play games on the internet, too, or at least download games, demos or additional content from the three dubyahs. Well, imagine theyre gone. No more web. Disconnected. Session expired. L'internet ne fonctionne pas.
Scary thought, isnt it? Not least for me because it would mean Id instantly be out of a job. Hmmmmm. But never mind me and my need for food and rent payment--imagine what effect no internet would have on gaming. The repercussions are massive. Heres how it would play out for the hours, days and months after 'The Day The World Was Unplugged', or Day U as its survivors call it. So hug your router, tell it how much you care and then proceed through to the terrible event
Day U + 0.1 seconds
Opponent avatars stutter, glitch and freeze. CoD soldiers stand motionless, staring at the floor, shot to pieces by gamers who, for a brief second, think theyve bagged an easy kill.
They haven't. There are no internet hands pulling the virtual strings so all the puppets have stopped dancing. It doesn't matter who you are, whether you're playing Call of Duty, Battlefield or Hello Kitty Island Adventure Online (ver 2.01), everyone is disconnected from their games and booted back to the lobby. Some later claim they can still see that message when they close their eyes. Forget the day the music died. This is the freakin' internet. And it's gone. Not that anyone would realise that straight away...
Day U + 15 seconds
Several million people select www.twitter.com from their address bars and app lists, ready to complain to the world that the internet isnt working. Trouble is, the internet isnt working. So that means no Twitter either. Theres simply no telecommunication available anywhere.
A million mobile tweets are saved to drafts... and stay there forever.
Day U + 1 minute
Everyone assumes its just their equipment thats gone wrong, prompting an amazing variety of home-made solutions. Cables are unplugged and re-plugged in. Consoles are turned off and on again. Wifi networks are abandoned in favour of Ethernet ports and vice versa. The machines can see the routers, but the internet isnt there. Not even Blu-Tak can fix this one.
Day U + 1 hour
With no change in the situation, many lone CoD fans take to the single-player campaign for their fix, some for the first time ever. Many exit in a huff because theres too much talking and they're not getting any reaction from Captain Price when they insult his moustache.
Worse still, those playing on consoles not their own are being booted by failed online checks. 'Youre not signed in'. 'Your license could not be verified'. 'Exiting game'. From now on, it's your own current-gen machine or nothing at all.
Day U + 5 hours
Asses are peeled from seats and bed sores examined. Withdrawal symptoms are kicking in. Shakes. Cold sweats. Some resort to clicking their left mouse buttons anyway, selecting things on the menu screens and back again. Its relaxing. Like a comfort blanket. The more advanced users with fancy gaming keyboards set up macros that enable them to switch from the options screen to the credits screen with the press of a single button, which makes them feel better. For a few seconds.
Day U + 1 day
The internet has not come back up. Nobody can communicate between towns unless they drive there, or take a train. Worse still, Achievements and Trophies cant be synced with the servers. This is serious. Some concerned residents report seeing a man wearing a 'Mr Trophy' hat running screaming down the street. They are advised to stay indoors.
Headquarters of telecom companies are lobbied by increasingly large crowds. When no answers come, fighting breaks out. Some areas require police units. The police are communicating via walkie-talkies. Someone shouts Hey--we can use their walkie-talkies to get online, which the police refuse. An unwise policeman jokes 'take it to Pac-Man if you want to complain'. Rioting ensues.
Day U + 5 days
The more hardcore online gamers are forced from their homes, blinking into the light as the sun rises on a real world of biblical proportions. And by that, I mean the real world is as big as its been for countless millennia, but theyre taking in its enormity for the first time.
Painfully, everything reminds them of their loss. The trees look like trees in games. The sky is a really convincing sky box. Some gamers are spotted crawling along the floor. They're not dying. They're studying the resolution of the ground. It doesnt matter how close up you get to it, theres always more detail. Amazing. Some local friends meet up and connect to home routers for LAN sessions, which still work.
Day U + 10 days
Consoles cant display any online content nor download new content, leaving gamers with whatever is on their hard drives or stored to backup discs. In one positive consequence of the internet going down, video game retailers see a huge surge in purchases of physical media, as single-player adventures and split-screen games are snapped up.
DVD sales increase, as do sales of music CDs. HMV thanks its lucky stars. Game publishers lose out as online passes for pre-owned games are completely useless. Microsoft thanks its lucky stars it had the wisdom to remove its always-online DRM before launch of Xbox One. This would have destroyed it.
Day U + 15 days
People are lending each other games (and DVDs and CDs), or offering to come round to each others houses after school/work to play and watch things together. There's banter, laughter and cheering. Even some back-slapping. Friendships are formed and alliances made. It's beautiful.
However, insults that used to blight services like Xbox Live are now not so commonplace. Turns out insulting some dude's mother while he's in the same room as you isn't such a great idea, as many 12-year-olds discover when they wake up in hospital.
Day U + 28 days
The police have arrested almost all of the game pirates, who are unable to peddle their wares through shady torrent sites and instead resort to local markets, where theyre sitting ducks for undercover cops.
Some pirates still offer hacked collections of games, mods and updates, but most people stay away from them. Antivirus systems havent been updated for a month so few people dare risk plugging anything new into their machines, in case the internet ever comes back and all their bank details are instantly uploaded to a criminal.
Day U + 3 months
The first marriage directly resulting from the internets absence is widely reported in newspapers. Some people tut at the partnership, saying it isn't natural to bond over offline gaming, muttering something about how people met in a chat-room in their day and it isn't right to do it 'out in the open where everyone can see'.
Younger people just shake their heads at such outdated views. Then go off to their singles' cosplay evenings with shouts of 'I'm locking the door at 10pm' ringing in their ears.
Day U + 6 months
With the internet obviously never coming back (something to do with the field generated by a living being... I don't know tech stuff), publishers recognise the need to release their old digital catalogues on disc.
That means not only boxed versions of modern digital games, but that this author finally gets to purchase a physical copy of Daytona HD. It's a wonderful day for all concerned.
Day U + 10 months
Activision and EA start making special cabinet versions of their games using top-spec PC components and renting them to organisers of LAN events. Most other publishers soon follow and gaming halls or 'arcades' start sprouting up around the world. Such is their popularity, there's a national shortage of 100 yen coins reported across Japan, although people later claim the shortage was just a myth.
Home gaming has changed a lot, with split-screen play and even family gaming now very much the norm, while the more hardcore gamers invest heavily in single-player games and retro classics. Nintendo starts selling Wii U consoles in vast numbers due to its canny use of social, asymmetrical gaming. Iwata is quoted by a source as saying 'I told you this would happen'. Some people suspect it was he that switched off the internet. It's never proven.
Day U + 1 year
A year after the death of the internet, the world has turned into a gaming utopia. People are meeting up to discuss classic games, much like book clubs do. Game arcades are now seeing dedicated releases again, some of which later receive ports to home consoles. Everyone complains about how Call of Duty Arcade isn't arcade-perfect on Xbox One.
Magazines about games have seen a huge resurgence in popularity, covering cheats, previews, reviews and features. The best one? GamesRadar, of course!
What do you think it would be like?
These musings are pure speculation, of course. Speculation fuelled by educated guesses, but speculation nonetheless. So how do you think the gaming world and community would adapt to a world where there's no internet? Let us know in the comments.
And if you're looking for more, check out What if video games didn't exist and we all read books instead and What if video game characters were sold in a pet shop?