By now there have been a few posts made on this board about books (fiction or non-fiction) and games.
I’d like to try to tell you about, and hopefully convince you to check out, Jon Bois currently airing (three times a week for the rest of the month) project, 20020.
There is an arc you can follow in Jon’s works, that lead to some of the themes developed in 17776 and 20020. With that in mind, I think it’s best to begin with “Breaking Madden” video series.
In Breaking Madden he constructed ridiculous and impossible scenarios to run inside a version of Madden. Soon, he was also torturing the virtual NBA. Running simulations inside these games for many decades, past the point the game had expected, led to some interesting and surreal results. It’s 2036 and Obama is still inviting players to the white house. It not surprising to me that his thoughts began to turn a little existential, his articles became more absurd and played with format and expectations.
Most of the themes you will find in 17776 and 20020 were first expressed in fiction by Bois in the extremely long “Tim Tebow Chronicles”. In it, Tim Tebow is sent to Canada to play for the CFL. Because the rules of Canadian football are markedly different than america’s, this leads to a surreal 3 million yard drive across the country, the ball left live and in play for years. By the end of it all, football in both America and Canada have been completely destroyed.
(the video portion of Chapter 1 of 17776)
Then 17776 comes along. Humanity no longer ages, but it also no longer advances. The protagonists are a triad of satellites doomed to watch earth from afar as they speed away from the solar system. The entire earth is trapped in a never ending moment, like one of Bois earlier experiments breaking sports games. But what humanity HAS iterated on between now and the year 17776, is football. 17776 describes a world full of football games of all shapes and sizes. With no more threats but also nothing new to excite, America has decided to go crazy with some “house rules” experiments about new ways to play football. This is all well and good, but Bois brings to it a special sense of how to find a story nearly anywhere. As the players cross america multiple times you will get a anecdote or small history lesson about the towns they are passing through (Bois well utilizes his ability to tell a interesting historical narrative in his “Pretty Good” series). Here are some other takes on 17776:
(the video portion of Chapter 1 of 20200)
So now we have the new sequel 20020. A new episode airing every monday, wednesday, and friday for the month of october. Immediately my thought was, “This is excellent. The is a good sequel because it builds on the premise of the first and also builds on Bois other work, thematically. This is the perfect act 2 of a trilogy (later, 20021 would be announced for spring of next year.)”. It’s a lot of years later. And instead of the hodge podge of different games in 17776, now all of America is playing one impossibly large game of college football. 111 teams, a patchwork of fields across the country like the texture on the surface of a ball of yarn. Using his lattice of playable space (determined by the location and angle of football fields across the nation, he again finds ways in the story to highlight the local history of some obscure town the narrative finds his players in.
I was moderately invested before, but now as the month has passed the halfway point, things are getting more intense and I feel like 20020 might end up being something really special. I wanted to let people know here so that they have of chance of watching/reading it “as it airs” and maybe we could have some discussion of it here.
If you dont care about spoilers or dont plan on watching/reading 20020, please at least watch this video. It was released as part of mondays chapter. A “live broadcast” of 9 footballs being “thrown” 13 miles and the entire nation coming alive in response. “Instantly one of the greatest throws in college football history”. It’s just madness taken to an insane scale, and I love it. I can’t wait to finish the rest, and I would encourage everyone to check out 17776 and 20200, but I dont think it’s strictly necessary to have read the former to enjoy the latter.