Life after people


Last Updated on 2022-07-08 by Joop Beris

Not too long ago, I purchased a Sony PS4. It came packaged with the game Horizon Zero Dawn by Dutch game company Guerilla Games. I immediately fell in love with the game, as have many others. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are no longer the dominant species on Earth. As you explore the beautiful open world of Horizon, trying to figure out what happened to the “Old Ones” (that’s us), you often encounter ancient ruins left over from our civilization. And that got me thinking. How realistic are the ruins Guerilla put in the game? And what would Earth really look like in a life after people?

Ruins in Horizon Zero Dawn (Source: Falcon Game Reviews)

I have to say that the ruins in Horizon Zero Dawn look beautifully realistic, littered with small details that make them believable. Exploring them, you come across familiar things such as half buried cars, street lights and even statues. The game paints a vivid picture of how fragile the world we have built actually is. Seeing as the storyline of the game takes place some 1000 years after the collapse of our civilization, how realistic is that you can walk around these ruins?

All that is left of our civilization… (source: unknown)

Life after people in reality

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who wondered about what would happen if humans disappeared. That question is answered elaborately in a series produced for the History Channel, aptly named “Life after people”. I found this series on Youtube.  Watching it is a rather humbling experience. You learn that many of the most familiar landmarks, like the New York skyline, would crumble to rubble and dust in some 200 years. Entire cities would be swallowed by desert or jungle in that time. In a 1000 years, you’d be hard pressed to find many traces of our civilization at all. Only here or there, where conditions for preservation are ideal, would you see much of anything. It’s depressing to think that the plastic floating in the Earth’s oceans will long outlive our tallest skyscrapers.

After watching “Life after people”, I think I can safely conclude that Horizon Zero Dawn’s ruins seem fairly accurate, apart from some frames of skyscrapers still standing. The steel would most likely have corroded too far for them to stay upright all those years. You have to admit though that it looks very dramatic, which for a game like this is probably more important than getting it just right.

Aloy walks past the ruins of what was once a busy city… (source: unknown)

For our sake, let’s hope the planet won’t have a life after people any time soon.

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