LOS ANGELES - The grim future predicted in a video game that's been played for 10 years has surprised even the game's original creator.
"Civilization" mastermind Sid Meier says that he never fathomed someone would play the 1996 society simulator "Civilization II" for 10 years, or that it could result in melted polar ice caps and 90 percent of the virtual world's population dead by the year 3991.
Meier's sweeping, turn-based strategy games give players the ability to build and control empires spanning fictional centuries. While the game ends and the world depicted in "Civ II" stops evolving in 2020, players can keep going into the future.
This is what happened with a user named Lycerius, who posted the details of his 10-year-long game on the social news site Reddit. The file and images of the game went viral this week, attracting Meier's attention and drawing comparisons to George Orwell's "1984."
"My first thought was, `Wow! I can't believe anyone has been playing "Civ II" for that long,'" Meier told The Associated Press in a Wednesday interview. "It's been more than 15 years since we released that game, and I don't think any of us expected a decade-long game would come out of it. It would be amazing if we could come back in 2025 and find out if someone's had a 10-year game of `Civ V' going."
In the Lycerius version, only three nations remain on the planet in 3991, and they're locked in a 1,700-year-old war, fighting for resources left after dozens of nuclear battles turned most of the world into a wasteland.
The strategy game pits players against computer-controlled empires across a version of earth. Players' moves in "Civ II" can gradually change economies, advance technology, alter the weather and conquer other nations over time. To achieve victory, players must either be the last civilization standing or be the first to build a spaceship and reach Alpha Centauri.
Meier released the original "Civilization" in 1991. The game spawned several editions, including 2001's "Civ III," 2010's "Civ V" and 2011's "Civ World" for Facebook. The first "Civ V" expansion pack, "Gods & Kings," will be released next Tuesday. Meier said the latest version of "Civ V" could probably be played for 10 more years to create a similarly scary scenario.