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Video games that eerily predicted the future

Even the tiniest video games need a good writer. A compelling story doesn't just spring out of nowhere, and writers for our favorite medium are not just responsible for the story. Kotaku spoke with a variety of writers, and they all echoed similar sentiments: video games are a huge collaboration, and writers are a part of that design team. This means that those writers have to come up with some interesting hooks to keep players going past the tutorial stage, and many popular genres overlap with the real world.

Many of these titles take place in the near-future, and for older games, that near-future may have already come to pass. Throw enough stories at the wall, and some of even the most outlandish predictions will come true. However, there are coincidences, and then there's just downright freaky. Today, we're going to take a look at some of the most bizarre cases of video games predicting the real-world future, sometimes to a frightening degree. It should serve as a tribute to writers out there: come see what magic these particular stories wove.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution predicted a political neophyte becoming the prime minister

Deus Ex: Human Revolution took on a difficult task: predict a real-world near future for a science-fiction story. You don't want to overextend and suggest all sorts of outlandish things happening in twenty years, but you also don't want to keep everything the same. Where's the fun in that? One of Human Revolution's most bizarre claims was of a young, relatively unknown (at the time) politician becoming the Prime Minister of Canada. A young man by the name of Justin Trudeau.

The National Post wrote about Canada's Liberal Party circa 2011, the year Human Revolution released: they had just been destroyed in national polls, and it looked like there were going to be tough times ahead. Trudeau did not even gain leadership of his party until 2013, so it seems likely that this was a bit of a winking gag when the player discovers the information buried in some in-game text. Either that, or the developers at Eidos had some sort of glimpse into the future. If so, prepare for some shake-up on the world stage: the game also predicts that Canada will overtake the United States' economy by then.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon predicted an invasion almost a decade before it happened

Games based around military conflict are bound to get it right eventually: there's only so many countries out there with genuine, believable tension, so they're sometimes going to hit the jackpot. Even then, sometimes predictions are so spot on that they make you wonder just what the writer knew as they were putting things together.

Endgadget writes that Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon did just that in 2001, missing the mark only by about three months. The first level sees you controlling US special forces as Russia invades the country Georgia. Seven years later, Russia invaded Georgia, which the Wall Street Journal writes was their first conventional military attack against a neighboring nation since they invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Similar to the game, Russia's forces completely dwarfed what Georgia could muster: the same WSJ article reports that 200 Russian airplanes were deployed, while Georgia's entire Air Force had fewer than a dozen planes. As far as we know, there were no supersoldiers with infinite lives deployed to the conflict.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake predicted that algae would become fuel

The Metal Gear games have plenty of bonkers plot details: for example, how is a team of supersoldiers' most difficult boss a guy in a bomb suit wearing roller skates? But sometimes, Metal Gear gets some of its "out there" plots correct, like the central idea of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

Metal Gear 2 came out in 1990, and Kotaku writes that it was set later in the decade. In the game's plot, a major oil crisis has devastated the world economy, and the world has turned to algae as an alternative fuel source.

Although algae hasn't surpassed oil at this point in time as a fuel source, using it as energy isn't just some scientific dream scenario, either. In 2012, SF Gate wrote that certain stations in the bay area began selling fuel made from algae that significantly decreased automobile emissions. And, as you'll see, Solid Snake isn't done predicting the future.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance predicted a familiar sounding political slogan

Back to Metal Gear! This time, let's take a look at Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a game with a completely awesome name and absolutely detestable villain. Senator Steven Armstrong is a power-hungry, warmongering psychopath who would be right at home ruining the lives of small town America in a Stephen King novel. He orchestrates an assassination attempt on the president, and he constantly whines about Americans lacking the backbone to do what's necessary to regain power.

Kotaku writes that he also spouts the idea that he will "Make America Great Again."

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance came out in 2013, long before the idea of Donald Trump actually winning the presidency began to coalesce. A huge part of Trump's rise to power has been his ability to brand his political message, and "Make America Great Again" is right up there with "Lock Her Up" and "Build the Wall" as far as his catchy slogans go. God only knows if Trump is also full of nanomachines that make him impervious to physical damage.

Homefront missed a major political death by only a few weeks

This one is really freaky. Homefront predicted that the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would lead the country into a series of aggressive military actions that culminate in an invasion of the United States. In Homefront, Kim Jong-il dies in 2012.

In real life, Kim Jong-il died on December 17, 2011. A few weeks later, and Homefront would have been spot on. The game also predicted how the succession of leadership would play out: just like in real life, North Korean rule passed on to Kim Jong-il's third son, Kim Jong-un.

As of this writing, Kim Jong-un has yet to launch any military invasions, instead engaging in Twitter wars with US President Donald Trump over the size of their respective "buttons."

Madden 15 nails the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX

Every year, EA Sports runs a simulation of the Super Bowl in that year's Madden game to see if the game can accurately predict the winner. It's actually fairly accurate: in 2018, Forbes wrote that predictions had been correct ten out of fourteen times (which is now ten out of fifteen, as Madden incorrectly predicted the New England Patriots to beat the Philadelphia Eagles that year).

Predicting the winner of the Super Bowl happens fairly regularly. But getting practically everything right about a Super Bowl, like Madden did in with Super Bowl XLIX, is pretty darn impressive. Yahoo has a rundown of everything that the game predicted would happen that year, when the Patriots played the Seattle Seahawks. The simulation predicted: who would score first (Patriots), who would win the MVP (Tom Brady), and the exact score (28-24). It even had the Patriots scoring at the last minute to win on a touchdown pass from Brady to Julian Edelman. About the only thing it didn't get right was how many yards Brady would throw for — and it only missed that mark by 27.

Metal Gear Solid 2 predicted everything wrong with our current society

Here's a scenario for you: a shady group of very powerful people have collected a massive amount of personal data of an entire population. They are using that data to manipulate everyone in it, mainly by targeting them with memes and fake news to keep them off balance and in the dark about what's really happening. If you think that sounds a lot like what happened leading up to the 2016 election with Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, get yourself a cookie.

If you think that sounds like the exact plot to Metal Gear Solid 2, get yourself a second cookie. Games Radar draws all manner of parallels between the two: the game predicts a world in which a person's digital history can be used to target specific misinformation directly to them, or even to drown out valid reports by flooding them with false ones. MGS2 came out in 2001, and some of its warnings about the direction of the world are downright terrifying in their accuracy. Watch this video of an in-game conversation (again, from a game that came out in 2001) between protagonist Raiden and his superiors, and just imagine it in the news in the months following the 2016 election. Freaky.

The Football Manager series predicts future stars with excellent success

Living in the United States, it can be hard to realize just how huge the world (and business) of soccer is. One great example is Sega's Football Manager series. For those not in the know, they might just seem like boring sports games where you don't actually get to play the sports. However, the real-world player databases in the series are massive and scarily accurate: some professional teams have even hired experts at the video game to coach their team in real life.

Some players wanted to see how accurate the games have been at predicting future star players. And, if you're looking for some gambling advice, it turns out you could do worse than Football Manager.

Kotaku writes about some fans of the series returning to Football Manager 2007 and going through the youngsters pool to see which players had the most in-game "promise," which measures their potential. You can check out the full list on Reddit, but some of the names are bona fide international superstars at this point: Luka Modric (who led Croatia to the World Cup final in 2018), Sergio Aguero, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Ramos are just a few who Football Manager thought could go on to much bigger things.

Elite: Dangerous's algorithm predicted a solar system before NASA discovered it in real life

Depending on how you look at it, this could be the most impressive instance on this list. Elite: Dangerous is a spacefaring game that has a procedurally generated universe: the developers created a series of rules for how the game would put together its galaxy, and, as players explore, it builds solar systems according to those rules.

So, when NASA announced the discovery of the Trappist-1 system, it came as a surprise to the team behind Elite: Dangerous. Their algorithm had created almost the exact same system in the game, and had even placed it at roughly the same position in relation to Earth.

The game's developers add real-world discoveries to the game, and they went to do that for Trappist-1. Imagine their surprise when the game had beaten them to the punch: its algorithm had created a system of seven Earth-like planets roughly 40 light years from Earth, just like the real Trappist-1. All they had to do was rename it.

It's not truly a prediction, but it shows what a good algorithm can do. It may not be long before games like Elite: Dangerous become the major way to explore the unexplorable.