In America 2049, the former land of the free has degenerated into the Divided States of America, where sexuality, religion, speech and culture are all controlled and restricted. On the upside: the entire population is on a drug that inhibits aggressive behavior called SerennAide, administered automatically through the water supply. This has led to a decrease in crime rates, an increase in the population’s happiness, and has purportedly helped people to rise above their worst impulses.
Depending on where you stand, this is either a Utopian dream or an Orwellian nightmare. And it is up to you to decide where you stand: alongside the Council for American Heritage (CAH), or with Divided We Fall (DWF).
America 2049 is an immersive 12-week episodic experience that will play out across a new social network as well as using video, fictional websites, and real life locations across the U.S. Once this alternate reality game (ARG) officially launches on April 4th, 2011 at 12am EST, you will be able to interact with characters and other players in real time as you uncover the story and clues. The game is designed to be replayed or revisited at any time, so players who join after launch don’t have to worry about falling too far behind. However, for those interested in a sneak peek, America 2049 has seeded quite a bit of content across a number of websites.
Initial assets for America 2049 point to a high production value for the project, and you’ll likely recognize several familiar faces amongst the game’s cast of characters: Harold Perrineau from Lost, Victor Garber from Eli Stone, Margaret Cho from Drop Dead Diva, Cherry Jones from 24, and Anthony Rapp from Rent all make an appearance in the game’s trailer.
Given the game’s subject matter, it comes as no surprise that Fuel, one of the organisations behind this ARG, has a mission statement focused on the protection of human rights. It is hinted that there will be multiple organisations hosting events year-round focusing on topics related to gameplay.
Game assets already released paint a bleak portrait of America’s future. Things started to go downhill in the year 2012, when Rachel Ng created SMRTTid (an injectible subdermal chip to replace keys, bank cards, ID cards, and so on) for increased convenience and security. This invention also enabled every business and government body to identify and track citizens and their private activities. As a result, many of the civil rights that Americans live by today were dismantled after an oppressive fundamentalist regime came into office.
Fast track to the year 2049: the Federal government is powerless, while individual states have remade societies in their own images, bringing back segregation, homophobia, anti-miscegenation laws, and restrictions against “foreign” cultures. With the nation divided, state against state, a new organisation called the Council on American Heritage (CAH) rose to power as a collaborative effort between private and regional government agencies. They’re “American as Apple Pie” and vigilant in their efforts to “protect the American way of life from anything and everything that might threaten it.”
Their key threat is Divided We Fall, an alleged domestic “terrorist” organisation led by a woman known only as M, fighting for civil rights and the reunification of the American States. Divided We Fall actively opposes the passage of the Abolition Ballot, which would cause the United States to dissolve into a collection of separate states. The political landscape has already deteriorated so far that China cut ties with America due to its “unstable government.”
Divided We Fall is allegedly responsible for a recent attack on a secure government facility, where at least five inmates were freed. This may or may not be connected to the escape of Ken Asaba, allegedly a foreign national who fled from a quarantine center outside of Portland and may be carrying the Namibian Plague. If I’m using the word “allegedly” a lot, it’s because it depends on who you believe – the CAH or DWF.
You don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see how this story parallels real world concerns about medicalization of human behaviour, privacy, civil rights, and privatization of government services. One thing that stands out is how the CAH does business with a web browser called Zooglio, whose stated mission is to “filter out the stuff that made the internet of the early 2000’s dangerous and misleading,” all the while spying on their users’ activity and passing the data onto business and government.
So, the question remains: what would you rather be: happy, or free? Your actions will decide the fate of the country.
You can apply for the position of Agent at CAH as advertised on LinkedIn, where your mission will be to uncover the domestic terrorist group DWF and to (allegedly) restore peace. Or hold off making the choice for now by signing up at America2049.com to be alerted once the game kicks into gear. Until then, explore the various trailhead websites for backstory and join the discussion at the Unfiction forums.
This article was amended to reflect the game’s April 4th launch date.