Last night at around 3 AM, someone came into my room and woke me up. Knowing that I had stayed up too late the previous night and had to get up at 6 the next morning to go to work, I wasn't too happy about this.
As I woke up somewhat, I realized that I had no idea who this person in the house in the middle of the night was, which was rather scary. Even worse was that when I asked who he was, he said that he was from the year AD 2019 and wanted to tell me what was going to happen.
Evidently, following the immense popularity of several games over the years, online computer gaming displaces watching television as the most popular way of spending free time in American culture late in this decade. Infantry is the first such game, peaking at about a million people online at peak times of the day in around 2007 before slowly declining to about half that in 2019 as more games become available.
I tried asking questions about political events, sports, lottery numbers, and so forth, but the visitor wouldn't answer any of them. He said he was only going to tell me about the future of Infantry.
He said that Infantry remains free to play indefinitely, but Sony makes a fortune (estimated in the billions of dollars over the years) off advertisements in it. While ad prices are down now, they go back up with the rapidly growing popularity of internet shopping in the next several years. They integrate advertisements into the maps all over the place. They even target ads at players by making it so if a player mentions a keyword associated with a type of product in the chat, the ads in the map are suddenly ads for companies selling that sort of product.
The visitor also said that Yankee leaves Infantry in 2004 for a government position in the Presidential Commission on Internet Gaming. It seems that online gaming becomes so popular that politicians decide that they need to study it because it might need to be regulated, taxed, subsidized, or otherwise tinkered with. With the loss of Yankee, they release the zone editors for players to make zones and hire a new employee to sift through the player made zones to find the few worth hosting.
Not realizing that it was only a dream, I asked the time traveler why he was telling me this. After all, wouldn't knowledge of the future change the future? His reply was that when he is gone, I won't have any proof that he was ever there and if I tell people that someone from the future visited me, I'd get locked up in an insane asylum. Further, he explained that when he was gone, while I would probably remember the incident, I wouldn't believe that it actually happened.
The visitor offered to connect me to the Infantry server from 2005 to see what was up then. I got the updated list of zones, but when I tried to join one, it said I was already playing. It seems that the visitor had just happened to connect me to some time when a future version of me would be playing the game. I asked why the "future" version of Infantry still said version 1.25, and he seemed disappointed with me, reminding me that I hadn't downloaded the updated .exe file yet.
We logged off Infantry to make another station name so I could play. Just after logging back on, we lost the connection and I absent-mindedly typed in my main alias from this station account. While talking, I discreetly took a screen shot, wanting proof that would remain when the visitor had left, and he didn't seem to notice. After mumbling something about stupid connection problems that were officially "fixed" months ago, the visitor suddenly panicked, said something about someone finding him, and ran out into the hall. I tried to follow, but saw a flash of light and he was gone.
I went back to the computer, saved the screen shot, realized that it was still the middle of the night and I still had to get up at 6 the next morning, turned off the computer, and went back to sleep.
But here's the weird part: when I got home from work today and got on the computer, the screen shot was still there. It was only a dream, so that screen shot shouldn't have ever existed.
I looked through the screen shot I had. BBX and CM are back, Titan Rally and WZA are back with some variants, some zones currently under construction are finished, as well as some others not yet discussed. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Skirmish [Weather Forecast] is real, and even popular enough to leave up.
Still unsure what to make of this, I've posted the screenshot on my web page at http://quizz.8k.com/futrzone.gif I promise you, I have not edited the screen shot at all other than to save it (in both .bmp and .gif formats), neither in the dream nor now, nor has anyone else edited it to the best of my knowledge.
It was... only a dream... wasn't it?