Ogres of Our Better Nature: When Science Fiction Games the Future of War

As computer technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been coming on leaps and bounds, so too have concerns about how it might be used and misused. Elon Musk, noted technology entrepreneur weighed in on the issue recently in a tweet responding to this article,

“China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.”

Time also had military AI on the mind, noting that because of its myriad uses in civilian life, it’s not a technology that is going to be easy to control;

“The intelligence behind autonomous robots isn’t like stealth technology, which was created in secret defense labs and tightly controlled by the military. Autonomous technology is everywhere. Hobbyist drones that retail for a few hundred dollars can takeoff, land, follow moving objects and avoid obstacles all on their own. Elementary school students build robots in competitions. Even the Islamic State is getting in on the game, strapping bombs to small drones. There is no stopping AI.“

So while AI comes into the view of policy makers now, for science fiction creators it’s been a subject of thought for decades. Most people think of The Terminator, the globally huge sci-fi franchise about a self-aware AI that deduces the only way to defend itself is to destroy humanity. Before that there was 2001: A Space Odyssey where an AI, given conflicting instructions by its creators, ends up murdering its fellow crew members in an attempt to make sense of its orders.

But there has also been much speculation on this in gaming too: the 1977 classic board game Ogre, in part inspired by the Bolo novels, explores a future where AI is transplanted into huge cybernetic tanks so large and inhuman they even scare the humans fighting on the same side. Called ‘Ogres’ these immense tanks face off against each other on the battlefields of the last war. Ogre has both entertained and provoked debate around the subject for four decades now with its fearsome predictions of a near-future blighted by both AI and nuclear weapons.

Over at Auroch Digital, working alongside Steve Jackson Games (the original game’s creators) they’ve taken this concept even further. The release of the new digital version of the physical classic has an original campaign – Nightfall – where even the Ogres on the same side go rogue…The game is on Steam now so you can ponder the end of humanity at the hands of AI while you play in a simulation of how that might play out.

Ogre - on Steam now!