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Alternate history

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Author Topic: Alternate history  (Read 427 times)
Michelle Jahn
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« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2010, 01:18:30 pm »

Video games
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For the same reasons that this genre is explored by role-playing games, alternate history is also an intriguing backdrop for the storylines of many video games. A famous example of an alternate history game is Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Released in 1996, the game presents a point of divergence in 1946 where Albert Einstein goes back in time to prevent World War II from ever taking place by erasing Adolf Hitler from time after he is released from Landsberg Prison in 1924. He is successful in his mission, but in the process allows Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union to become powerful enough—as a direct result of not having a strong rival dictator like Hitler to keep his power in check—to launch a massive campaign to conquer Europe, sparking an alternate (and ultimately costlier) version of the Second World War and, eventually, World War III not once but twice: one where the USSR invades the continental US in the 1970s, and a second where a small group of Soviet leaders, attempting to preempt their defeat, go back in time and eliminate Einstein but end up in a conflict with both the West and a third Japanese side.

In the Civilization Series, the player guides a civilization from prehistory to the present day, creating radically altered versions of history on a long time-scale. Several scenarios recreate a particular period which becomes the "point of divergence" in an alternate history shaped by the player's actions. Popular examples in Sid Meier's Civilization IV include Desert War, set in the Mediterranean theater of World War II and featuring scripted events tied to possible outcomes of battles; Broken Star, set in a hypothetical Russian civil war in 2010; and Rhye's and Fall of Civilization, an 'Earth simulator' designed to mirror a history as closely as possible but incorporating unpredictable elements to provide realistic alternate settings.

Crimson Skies is one example of an alternate history spawning multiple interpretations in multiple genres. The stories and games in Crimson Skies take place in an alternate 1930s United States, where the nation crumbled into many hostile states following the effects of the Great Depression, the Great War, and Prohibition. With the road and railway system destroyed, commerce took to the skies. Great cargo zeppelins escorted by fighter squadrons are the targets of many ruthless air pirates and enemy countries. This world has featured in a board game, a PC game, an Xbox game, a collectible miniature game and various promotional novels, comics and short stories.

The game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" shows an alternative history in which Russia was in civil war between Loyalists and Ultranationalists, with the Ultranationalists ultimately winning. This is continued in the second game of the series when a group of Ultranationalist terrorists, with the help of a deep cover CIA agent, massacre an airport, the leader, Vladimir Makarov then kills the agent, Joseph Allen, so when the Russian authorities find the body, they are led to believe that the attack was carried out by Americans, this leads to Russia launching a surprise invasion on the United States. The game Freedom Fighters portrays a situation similar to that of the movie Red Dawn and Red Alert 2, though less comically than the latter. The point of divergence is during World War II, where the Soviet Union develops an atomic bomb first and uses it on Berlin. With the balance of power and influence tipped in Russia's favor, history diverges; brief summaries at the beginning of the game inform the player of the Communist bloc's complete takeover of Europe by 1953, a different ending to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the spread of Soviet influence into South America and Mexico. The plot of the game revolves around a Soviet invasion of the United States and the resistance fighting in New York City.

Similarly, the 2007 video game World in Conflict is set in 1989, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse. The point of divergence is several months before the opening of the game, when Warsaw Pact forces staged a desperate invasion of Western Europe. As the game begins, a Soviet invasion force lands in Seattle, taking advantage of the fact that most of the US military is in Europe. The game is divided into three parts: the first focuses on the fighting retreat from Seattle towards Fort Teller in the Cascade Mountains; the second is a flashback to the recent fighting in Europe, which culminated in a Soviet attack on Manhattan; the third chronicles the fight to retake Seattle before a Chinese fleet arrives, which could force the US President to destroy the invaders with a nuclear strike.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, released in February 2008, is an alternate history first person shooter where Winston Churchill died in 1931 from being hit by a taxi cab. Because of this, Great Britain lacks the charismatic leader needed to keep the country together and Nazi Germany is able to conquer Great Britain with a successful Operation Sealion. Germany later conquers the rest of Europe and North Africa while mass-producing their wunderwaffe. The Axis launch a surprise invasion of an isolationist United States in 1953, which cripples the country to surrender under a puppet government. The game's main character is a member of a resistance force against the Germans.

Another alternate history game involving Nazis is War Front: Turning Point in which Adolf Hitler died during the early days of World War II and thus, a much more effective leadership rose to power. Under the command of a new Führer (who is referred to as "Chancellor", and his real name is never revealed), Operation Sealion succeeds and the Nazis successfully conquer Britain, sparking a cold war between the Allied Powers and Germany.

Another example of alternate history is the Resistance series of first-person shooter games. The point of divergence is in the years following World War I, where an isolationist Russian Empire-and later, Western Europe- is conquered by an alien race called the Chimera. The aliens later invade the United States.

The Fallout Series of computer role-playing games is set in a divergent America, where history after World War II diverges from the real world to follow a retro-futuristic timeline. For example, fusion power was invented quite soon after the end of the war, but the transistor was either delayed or never was developed. The result was a future that has a 1950s 'World of Tomorrow' feel to it, with extremely high technology such as artificial intelligence implemented with thermionic valves and other technologies now considered obsolete.

Iron Storm is a first person shooter set in 1964, where the Great War still continues and international corporations sell stocks as if "betting" on an outcome. Since profits are so great, they continually press for stalemate to keep the conflict in an ongoing cycle of minor advances and losses.

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