March 7th – The Festival of The Supercomputer

It technically takes less than a year for the battery to charge enough for a day’s gaming on the Buentoilliçan Multi-Input Supercomputer (BMIS), but this is Buentoille and here there is an annual mindset, a certain regularity to things. It’s underneath the sports hall of de Geers University; there’s a small set of stairs around the back of the bike sheds that leads there. Whilst the festival is open to all comers, it’s usually oversubscribed for many weeks beforehand, and University students get first dibs on tickets.

Each year the excess energy is usually used to install new, enormous multiplayer games specifically made for the computer. This year there is an offering from Big Tree Games, a company who, according to their promotional materials, specialise in ‘tight narrative experiences’ and ‘synergistic interactions’ between players. Their game for this year is called Staged, in which players will attempt to put on a cursed play, ‘hampered by inter-dimensional beings of unclear intent.’ Their last game made for BMIS, Knight’s Folly, in which players attempted to build a large tower together, received great critical acclaim, but other games they and other companies have made in the past have simply crashed spectacularly.

The issue is that there are no other computers of comparable power, capable of processing inputs from 300 individuals, and feeding back on three hundred separate displays simultaneously, all whilst running the demanding game software itself. At least, there are no such computers in Buentoille. As a result, all the games developed for BMIS are made on smaller, personal computers, and it’s unlikely that they’ve been rested with more than five player characters at one time; in many instances the game simply does not know how to handle three hundred interactions at any given moment. Whilst these games are clearly not intended for mass audiences, they are often edited later into single-player or smaller multiplayer games. Any game that has made it through the process with good reviews is sure to sell well.

BMIS was built in 1985 by an electrical engineering professor called Fiorama Jones, and was originally intended as a prediction machine. When it fell out of usage as such in 1989 (it was found that in order for the predictions to have any accuracy so much data would have to fed to the machine, and the processing took so long, that by the time it had produced a prediction the event would already have passed), Jones’ students began to alter the machine, making it the perfect host for their computer game, Across the Plains and Shimmering Sea, a boundless world of imagination still played to this day. It was originally intended to be a living, constant, otherworld, the software running even when nobody was playing. However, due to the alterations the students made to BMIS that enabled it to have so many inputs, the computer became such a drain on the City’s electricity supply that it was shut down by the Council of Logistics. Now the game calculates what would have happened in the strange imaginary lands it simulates, over the course of the year the players have been absent. A good five hours of the day are dedicated to playing Across the Plains and Shimmering Sea each year.

A large battery was installed in the room next door to the subterranean supercomputer shortly after it was shut down. It slowly stores a constant current of power, a level far within what the grid can withstand, all to be splurged today in eighteen hours of near-constant gaming. At the end of proceedings, the players all adjourn upstairs and vote on the next year’s games itinerary, and then leave for their homes, weary but happy.

Whilst not a game player herself, Jones seemed happy that someone had managed to find a use for the, frankly remarkable, piece of engineering that she termed an ‘unmitigated failure.’ Due to the power restrictions in the City, she has now travelled to Litancha, where the pollution caused by coal-fired power plants is tolerated by the government, despite many studies clearly pointing out the damage it has on the foreign city’s health. A piece in the Litanchan Gazetteer recently claimed that Jones was putting her skills to use attempting to create a new super-computational system, one which makes use of the ‘hive intelligence’ of several interconnected computers. The idea is, apparently, sparking something of a technological revolution, although it’s unclear whether this is the truth or merely propaganda.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of True Dedication
  • The Festival of the Sherbet Fountain