DEFCON scares me and science says it will scare you too


This is Defcon. If it reminds you of a certain movie starring
Matthew Broderick, you’re not wrong! No wait, that is wrong. DEFCON is like WarGames… the uhh… Game. And it’s the scariest game ever made. DEFCON plays like a simplified RTS. Each player has control of a continent,
which they fill with nuclear silos, launch-detection radar, airbases and naval fleets. Every player or bot starts with the same
amount of units there’s no resource gathering. There’s nothing to distract you from the
game’s horrifying implications. Over the course of a game, a defcon timer
slowly counts down from defcon 5 to defcon 1. Defcon stands for Defense Readiness Condition,
and it’s how the actual US Airforce keeps track of how ready and raring to go
the US military ought to be. Defcon 5 is like, totally chill, and defcon
1 is you’re finger is hovering over the big red button. In the game, each defcon phase allows players
access to more and more of their arsenal. There isn’t any fighting in defcons 5 and
4; players just place their units. This cold war escalates in defcon 3 when
conventional air and sea warfare begins. Defcon 2 is mechanically the same as
defcon 3, but it feels different. Because you know what’s coming next. Defcon 1: the end of the world. Players are free to launch all of their nuclear
missiles, from their bombers, their submarines, and from the silos dotting their territory. And everyone does, eventually. This isn’t like WarGames, where
the best move is not to play. That movie relies on the theory of Mutually
Assured Destruction: the idea that two logical countries won’t initiate an all-out-nuclear attack
because they know they’d both lose. In DEFCON, everyone loses, but someone loses the least. It’s terrifying, and science agrees! Scientists have studied the hell out of DEFCON:
examining its AI bots, looking into its ethics. Most intriguingly, Concordia University conducted
a study on how the game affects people’s views of nuclear war. Researchers asked the participants a bunch
of questions about nuclear weapons, how likely they thought nuclear war was,
and how likely they’d be to survive one. Then half read articles about nuclear weapons,
and the other half played DEFCON. And when the scientists asked them the questions
again, the DEFCON group was way more pessimistic. DEFCON had literally changed
their views about nuclear war. So how does such a simple-looking game
have such a powerful effect? First of all, this is what it sounds like: * depressing atmospheric music, with
someone quietly coughing or crying* It’s dreadful! It slowly ratchets up the tension as the doomsday
clock counts down to midnight. And if you thought… “hey, was that a
cough I heard? or maybe someone crying?” It’s probably totally unrelated to the nuclear
Armageddon that you are creating… totally unrelated. And that’s the other thing about this game. When you’re playing it, it really drives
home the idea that you’re the one doing it. You’re not an observer in this nuclear war,
you’re an active participant in a game that measure its score in millions of civilians. *In game text reads: “LOS ANGELES HIT, 7.6M DEAD” Sure, you have todestroy the enemy’s
Navy before they destroy yours, and your silos might be able to destroy
some of their missiles before they land. But ultimately, you have to turn your weapons
on the main targets: cities. And if you’re like me, a thought starts
to tickle the back of your mind: How far is this from how it would actually play out? Pop culture is awash with these
images of a military control room. A real war room probably wouldn’t have the
same slick, neon design, or creepy sound effects… but during the Cold War at least, this is what NORAD looked like. And here’s what it looked like in 2005. And we do know the people pushing the buttons
would be far removed from any of the actual carnage. Defcon recreates this detached, abstract,
bunker mentality through its design. After all, the score isn’t actually civilians…
just numbers on the board. The unavoidable truth of these weapons is
that any exchange between nuclear armed countries would almost certainly mean
the end of the world as we know it. Civilian… Military… Everybody dies. Hey, that’s the game’s tag line! *Existential sigh* As part of the Concordia study, one of the
participants explained to the scientists how DEFCON felt different from
a Battlefield or Call of Duty “…this one takes the stance that you’re
somebody from a position of power and you’re moving pieces around on a board. You’re controlling people, but you’re not included in it. So it’s more different. I guess it’s like, it’s worse. Because you’re controlling other people’s
lives but you, from wherever you are, you’re not at risk. Or you’re relatively not at risk, whereas
in the other games, you might kill somebody, but you also risk being shot. There’s no moment in the game where
the screen turns black because your little tower has been destroyed.” There was also something odd in this study’s data. People in the DEFCON group were way more likely
to assume that if there were a nuclear war, they would die in it… but they were also less likely to believe
a nuclear war would actually occur. The study’s writers weren’t sure what
to make of this, but they had a theory: engaging with the apocalyptic conclusions
of nuclear war led them to believe no one would ever let it happen. It was now something so existentially terrifying,
they believed it must be impossible. While researching this script I had the bright
idea to watch HBO’s Chernobyl, a rigorously accurate depiction of one
of the worst nuclear accidents in history. It shows the visceral human costs of radiation. And like DEFCON, it shows that
the people making decisions are often the ones most
removed from the consequences. Chernobyl is pretty horrifying. But DEFCON is horrifying because it’s abstract,
in a way that rings true to life. Defcon doesn’t give a voice or even a face
to the millions of civilians dead. It puts you in the chair, with a finger on
the button and posits a world where mutually
assured destruction isn’t a factor; nuclear war is inevitable, because… It’s a game. Somebody has to win. What’s more terrifying than that? Hey, thanks for watching our video. If you enjoyed it, why not give our channel a subscribe, and check out some of our other videos.

100 thoughts on “DEFCON scares me and science says it will scare you too”

  1. with Chernobyl, you should remember that it's very plausible that if it were a western power in that situation in the 80s, the governments wouldn't have been so ignorant about radiation and try and cover it up

  2. How do i make this game work in 2019, I played it in my childhood and now i bought it on steam and i had to refund getting no way to make the game work. No mouse cursor, bad resolution, lag all the way and freezes my entire pc when i msnage to quit the game or alt tab. And my pc can run new games like forza horizon 4 on hogh settings

  3. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen. What if someone launched a satellite that rained uranium clouds across the globe?

  4. Some reasercher propose to hide the nuclear code into a persson that must be killed to retrieve the code from his body : that way to impersonally kill million you have to perssonally kill one

  5. I played this as a kid, was good at it real quick. It's… sterile. Millions of souls, statistics.
    It's possible to survive pretty well off. There is a winner.

  6. The United States and Russia should each have their people manning each other’s countries missile launch silos, that way it would be much less likely to have one want to fire on the other. It was a good idea I read from a book called Battlefield Earth. (Disregard the movie).

  7. I know this video is super interesting and all, but I can't get over the fact no one seems to pronounce "nuclear" properly and the way they say "nucular" gets on my nerves.

  8. Well. The iron curtain is the first step at preventing this outcome. We have been spending YEARS and YEARS into research on technology that would make the nuke inefficient

  9. Nukes are the only thing keeping the Draco reptilians from invading and subjugating earth and all mankind ,,,
    Ain’t that right David Icke

  10. I'm glad i live in the nuclear age better to go out with one big Nuke war than fighting wars every other year and not little skirmishes i mean major players at war with each other. Pre-ww2 is not a time i want anything to do with. Nuclear weapons are the reason why we live in the most peaceful time in recorded human history.

  11. Some years ago, I taught a history course at a private middle school titled, "The Cold War And Stuff", covering the period 1945-1990. I told my students that my top priority was to try to explain to them why their parents were the way they were, and why they ought to consider every person born before 1980 to be a traumatized veteran of the Cold War.
    I played "Hard Rain" and told them, "Bob Dylan wrote this during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He said each line was the first line of a song he wasn't going to live to write."

    I showed them dr. strangelove and told them, "This didn't happen, but it's what it felt as though we were living through: barrelling toward destruction with maniacs at the controls."

    I wish I could have sat them down to play DEFCON for a few hours.

  12. After looking at the hot spots where the nukes would hit I’m pretty confident I’ll survive.. considering I live in Alaska…. but I’m not sure what the world would be like after in my little nook of the world

  13. The only information I have on this game is that it somehow got into my steam library and I have no idea how. But now I'd give it a try

  14. There's a movie on YouTube named, "The Day After". It involves a buildup of a nuclear war and the aftermath. Most of the movie is character development.. in short it's horrifying.

  15. HBO's Chernobyl is not "rigorously accurate" it gets a lot wrong about the affects, severity and measurement of radiation. It also got the process of a nuclear plant meltdown completely wrong.
    This video explains the inaccuracies and corrects them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsdLDFtbdrA

    Edit: grammar

  16. Nuclear spaghetti sauce is a real thing and it just doesnt go away. And it starts with a confidence game and the prisoners dilema. This man (women) would be apex (psychopath) with dillusions of god hood started off with one mass sacrifice. His points of power are india russia or the united states and he would have to play one mean game of poker or liar's dice.

  17. Oh, don't be like that! Plagie Inc. has the same concept, killing everybody. It is just a game.

    And if people in power wanted to kill everyone, they would.
    The only thing to stop it would be get rid of nuclear weapons, which will not happen.

  18. Where do I get this game and the AI and all of the source code materials to play with the code I love AI and what to run new simulation theory I shall call T-0001

  19. I think a big factor you're forgetting about is that the players are aware that it's a game, none of it actually has any consequences and there isn't any other options that the game gives you to find other solutions.

    If they somehow thought that it was real and most chose to nuke each other, THEN I'd get scared.

  20. Let me tell you a secret: When you''re dead you don't care about the nuclear holocaust. Just be dead and you'll be fine.

  21. My dad played Defcon when I was kid. It's literally the reason I was so terrified of nukes as I kid. I had nightmares about it. The worst part was when he'd launch a nuke you could hear the people scream. I always cried when I heard it. Lol…

  22. SO Polygon discovered what an RTS is? 😀 ever heard of Total War? you basically can destroy villages and cities and can raise them to the ground. Especially when you play as Huns in Attila, all you options are to raise it to the ground and loot the place.

  23. Maybe I’m the weird one but am I the only one that doesn’t need a fucking game to tell me how utterly shitty and bad a nuclear war would be?

  24. Seeing all the snowflakes crying in the comments is hilarious.
    M.A.D. is awesome and has gifted us with the longest period of peace in human history.
    Just a reminder, but WWII took place a mere 20 years after WWI, the "war to end all wars."
    I firmly believe that WWIII would have already happened had it not been for the invention of the nuclear bomb.

  25. This is the message that Hideo Kojima wanted to send in the first Metal Gear Solid, unfortunately we only understood that Snake is a cool badass character

  26. erm youforget the People like me who actully like the game and Play it over and over again GOSH ID LOVE TO PLAY A ROUND OF REALLIVE DEVCON^^

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