I am looking for a short story which I read as a kid, probably in the late 80ies / early 90ies. It's been a long time, but I'll try to describe it as I remember it.

In the story, the protagonist awakens from cryogenic (?) sleep. He is a successful player of a game simulating historical events which plays out in real time (think "civilization" but in real time); every couple of years, the players wake up, give orders, then go back to sleep. I think in the story, he is "playing italy", and in-game events take place in the 20th century, around the world wars. He is proud of being very successful doing that.

So one of his first orders is to "buy italy", presumably to get the right to play that nation. But to his shock, somebody else is already playing it, and that person is quite thoroughly unraveling everything he built up... I think in the finale, this other player is revealed to be his son or so.

Any hints as to the title and author of this story would be greatly appreciated.


"Breaking the Game" is a short story by American writer Orson Scott Card. It appears in his short story collections Capitol and The Worthing Saga. Card first published it in the January 1979 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

Here is the synopsis:

Herman Nuber has just woken up from a state of suspended animation brought on by the fictional drug Somec and is looking forward to returning to his virtual world conquest game. Unfortunately for him his position is being played by someone else and that person doesn't want to sell it for any price. When he discovers how poorly the person is playing he gets desperate and arranged to meet the other player. He is shocked to discover that the other player is his own grandson Abner Doon. During the conversation Abner tells Herman that he is going to completely destroy his position. After his position is destroyed, Herman meets with Abner again and learns that he plans on doing the same thing to the empire in the real world. When he tries to warn people Herman is locked away in a psychiatric hospital for five years until he is convinced that it isn’t true. At the end of Herman’s life they meet one last time and Abner says he's sorry for ruining the game.

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