During the exam week, I kept finding increasingly creative ways to procrastinate studying. Though this decision wasn’t particularly well thought out and I did encounter increasingly intriguing websites on the Internet. One of them, disguised as a sports article “What Football Will Look Like in the Future,” hosts the multimedia story 17776. It’s a mishmash of sci-fi and good old American football, set in a distant future where no one ages or dies, and where there are no more new births. Through 17776, author Jon Bois attempts to answer a question central to humanity: why do humans play sports?
Much of the narrative centers around the now-sentient space probes Pioneer Nine, Ten, and Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) discussing the football games that are occurring on Earth in the year 17776. In an era where there is no sickness, hunger, or war, the immortal human beings of Earth have turned to a pastime: Football. With no fear of injury or death, football fields now cross state lines and can take as long as a millennium, with increasingly contradictory and ridiculous rules.
An Innovative Take on Storytelling
What immediately makes 17776 stand out is its creative (and liberal) use of GIFs, YouTube videos, and newspaper clippings. While there have been similar predecessors such as Homestuck, 17776 creates an immersive experience through which a reader can get completely lost in this fictional future. You get to follow along with various perspectives that occur at the same time, giving you a feel of what the characters are going through. The various media used help create a world that feels believable: even in a post-immortality society, the world still has a use for newspapers, television, and music to communicate things to one another. The conversations between Nine, Ten, and JUICE consist of chat logs accompanied with tacky elevator music; this gives an impression that we’re getting an up-close and personal view of their ‘lives’. As their discussions span from Lunchables to Ten’s Pioneer Plaque to a football game that destroys the Centennial Bulb, their sentience comes off as lifelike.
A humanity that’s bored with its immortality.
The crux of 17776 is humanity; Bois explores this through a unique allegory, football. Despite the major changes in Earth’s history, football keeps Americans together. Furthermore, this newly evolved form of football challenges human beings into continuously changing and pursuing their goals, despite clearly achieving all they could have possibly hoped for. By banding together and pursuing what they see as a ‘collective good’, it serves as a reminder that human beings are always interconnected and always seek a form of companionship and togetherness. It also shows a humanity that’s bored with its immortality: with nothing left to do, football becomes the one thing that a nation focuses on, even dedicating full trans-state competitions and turning football stadiums.
However, 17776 demands much of your attention and time. Scrutinizing a chapter often takes up to half an hour, due to the sheer length and size of a chapter. On the other hand, several chapters merely consist of videos that take less than a minute to watch. This results in a rather choppy pace. You’d also have to view the website on a laptop with a working Internet connection; due to a large number of images and GIFs, the site is more likely to lag on a mobile device.
Its digital format is both a blessing and a curse. While you are able to read the story for free, the most optimal experience is achieved by reading the story in one sitting. It’s possible to read 17776 in parts, but the gap of time between chapters may leave a disjointed experience for several readers.
Nonetheless, in my opinion, it’s still worth checking out. Even procrastination has its benefits; with many of us trying to get through our final months of university, finding interesting and niche stories like this could bring something new to our lives. 17776, as bizarre and time-consuming as it may be, manages to be an interesting experience. Its unlikely protagonists and supporting cast (which, incidentally, includes a sentient Hubble Telescope) round off the story into a thought-provoking, funny, and memorable one. You can read 17776 here.
Final verdict: 8.5 out of 10