Aside from the film crew of the average Hollywood blockbuster, I can’t imagine many people get the chance to be a fly-on-the-wall during the apocalypse. After finding out via my local boardgames club that the world was soon to be attacked by an unknown threat that could potentially eradicate the entire human race, I knew I there was only one thing I could do; head to Duxford to watch 50 people try to save the world.
After driving for two hours through a suitably ominous fog, I arrived at the Imperial War Museum to join a group of eager individuals complete with DIY-d military uniforms, homemade press-passes, hand-knitted microphones(!) and ten-gallon hats (Hi, Texas!). We were warmly welcomed by Jon and Sam (the masterminds behind the game) who outlined the concept for the day’s events, along with a cheery reminder that we were “all winners". At least until disaster struck….
|Hand-knitted mic, complete with shiny silver threads <3|
Each player was presented with a role-specific information pack, which ranged from corporate organisations to the FBI. These were supplemented by a live feed of news broadcasts, coming from both the in-game journalists and the moderators themselves, and updates via the dedicated site. I have to admit, when I spotted that the first news bulletin related to a “severe fog that has descended on our roads, which the CIA had labelled it as ‘suspicious’” I started to wonder whether the game was actually a genius double-bluff by actual supervillains capable of controlling the weather.
The scene was set, with only 5 weeks to go until the next Presidential Election and the Republicans currently in power. The Government representatives were tasked to elect a Chair and a House Speaker, and the Republicans also had to choose their President and Vice President. I suggested using Rock, Paper, Scissors; but apparently that was inappropriate.
The newly-appointed President was immediately moved into the White House; AKA a corner table in the room populated by the Government. I wasn’t sure whether the subsequent apparition of huge bags of gummy sweets was for government bribes or a result of the first Presidential act, but it seemed like the start of a very sticky situation...
I should probably warn you at this point that my knowledge of the USA’s political system is based solely on watching House of Cards, so I was not best equipped to assess the parties’ individual tactics. However, what was immediately clear (without the need to Google “Which is the blue one?”... ahem) was how enthusiastically everyone had embraced their roles. Every table was in use for in-depth negotiations, with more furtive discussions taking place in the corridor outside and the adjoining breakout room (which housed “the rest of the world”, of course).
After setting up camp on the moderators’ table, I spent the first few hours flitting between various groups, to introduce myself as “non-game press” and assured them I wasn’t the antagonist (aka The Bad Guys). Pleas to the contrary were only moderately successful, as this was of course “exactly the kind of thing the antagonist would say”. I also realised that wearing my Space Dress might not have been the smartest move, as for some unknown reason some people concluded I must be working for NASA…(I wish).
After being saddened by the corporate reps rejecting my suggestion that giant Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would be a more desirable apocalyptic commodity than bottled water*, I then discovered one of the best envelopes I’ve ever seen:
I followed this by going on a tea run, as everyone knows it’s impossible to overcome impending doom without a cuppa, and thankfully returned just in time to witness the Presidential Election; a “proper moment” (defined by Jon) which resulted in the Democrats taking over the White House with their own selection of snacks.
Whilst the Democrats celebrated over lunch, I found myself completely captivated by how the game was organically evolving in response to requests for further information. The basic model incorporates the threats from the cream of cult disaster movies, which can then be enhanced using attendees’ speculations (depending on how awesome they are, of course). Essentially, a query about giant robots could result in the moderators choosing to deploy some giant robots.
Somewhat eerily, after talking to the Head of Defence, I created my own theory based on krakens; which subsequently turned out to be the actual pre-planned threat**!! Along with political assassinations, poisonous aphids, and genetically modified super-soldier conspiracies. Obviously.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, midway through the afternoon the CIA discovered that one of the pharmaceutical companies had been acting as the antagonists, and was essentially personally responsible for releasing the Kraken.... The pantomime-worthy boo-ing that followed was a testament to how seriously everyone was taking this Kraken business.
From that point on, disasters came thick and fast. Nuclear strikes failed to destroy them, oil reserves ran dry, and the Kentucky rep embraced alliterative insanity; declaring himself King of Kentucky and deciding to build a Seapark for the Kraken (rather adorably nicknamed "Karen" due to an earlier newsfeed typo). Despite all of this, the US somehow managed to overthrough the Krakens plural (who had been breeding like aquatic rabbits) and a cheer went up around the room after The President's closing speech.
I had a seriously brilliant time at the Megagame, regardless of the fact I wasn't even playing. I mean, it’s not every day that a girl gets to meet three US Presidents. Admittedly, one of them was actually a President from a previous Megagame who lost control of the US and subsequently committed suicide, but it seemed churlish to hold that against him. Because, it turns out, Megagames are pretty hardcore....
*They eventually opted to sell hazmat suits, complete with the excellent strapline Be prepared for the worst at an affordable price for every American.
** I might have yelled “YES! KRAKENS!” and punched the air simultaneously. Might.