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Decade Dissonance

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Not Invented Here: Trade of technology will not exist. One place in the world will have all the techno-gadgets while all the others will be harvesting dirt.

A large-scale form of Schizo Tech.

Every country is different thanks to culture and geography, and no two cities in any one country are alike either. However some worlds can take this to extremes, making two side by side cities as different as night and day. The differences can be purely cosmetic or go all the way to lifestyle, architecture, and even technology. You can have a Utopia city made of Crystal Spires and Togas sitting smack dab next to a ghetto... sorry, "quaint hamlet" that never left The Middle Ages.

The reason, if any is given, is that there's no technology trade between the countries, so any discoveries a country makes (from Agriculture to Zoology) never leave it. Other times it's a question of societal values, where the "savage" village has chosen not to develop technology in favor of peaceful agrarian lives; however you can expect them to have copious and advanced magic if it's a Magic Versus Science setting. It's almost never purely stylistic, like Gotham City and Metropolis. Both exist in the same year and country, but one is firmly entrenched in 1920's Gothic and Noir style, while the other is an Art Deco optimistic future.

More plausible is Used Future, where one area is able to maintain a relative level of sophistication After or Just Before the End where others are reduced to tent villages. In these cases, advanced technology is known of by most, but becomes uncommon away from the advanced areas.

See also: Crystal Spires and Togas, Advanced Ancient Acropolis and Ludd Was Right. Compare Low Culture, High Tech, where a backwards culture uses technology it doesn't understand. Possibly also a Tomorrowland.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Windaria, the coastal city-state of Itha runs on windmills and admittedly sophisticated dams and waterwheels, and its military has hot-air balloons, crossbows, Molotov cocktails, and some kind of unarmoured hovercraft. The nearby mountain kingdom of Paro is a dieselpunk dystopia with monoplanes, assault rifles, and tanks. Somehow they fight a war on equal terms. Although Paro's army being an undisciplined drunken rabble probably at least helps.
  • In Kino's Journey, cities are separated by great distances and form separate countries. Also, travel is dangerous and most people never leave their hometowns. Thus, there are vast differences in technology and culture between cities, which vary from medieval to futuristic in nature. This is made even stranger by the eclectic technology.
  • In One Piece, Vivi explains that the difficulties of mass travel among the islands Grand Line, which include sea monsters, needing place-specific compasses, and dealing with extremely unpredictable weather, means that culture and technology can vary widely from island to island. The end result are islands that range from existing in a Pre-Historical Stasis to a sprawling desert kingdom to a city of shipbuilders that was able to build a Cool Train that could run on the ocean to a society where bionic technology is common and most animals are cyborgs. The only people shown regularly traveling from island to island are pirates who acknowledge the risks and take them anyway, and government officials such as the Marines who possess the technology to mitigate the hazards.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Neo Domino City is the technological center of the world, but it throws its trash into Satellite, an island trash heap where workers in rags are forced to recycle by hand for a living.
  • Berserk: Midland is a medieval kingdom for the most part, but some other kingdoms seem to be at a Renaissance level of architecture and dress (however, guns are still limited to bombards, with Guts' Arm Cannon being the closest thing to a personal firearm anyone has ever seen).
  • Invoked across multiple levels in the world of Dragon Ball. The Earth as shown in the story has a strange mix of WWII-style vehicles and mechs that wouldn't be out of place in a parody, cities and flying cars that are seen as futuristic from the lens of the '80s, phones, CRT televisions and normal cars that are more literally from the 1980s, pirates that somehow use all of the above, and of course the science-fiction elements that originate from space. This not even mentioning the elements of ancient China, Native Americans, Arabic cultures and Nordic towns mixed in, as well as the futuristic elements evolving to match the aesthetics of the time (compare Bulma's tech in Dragon Ball Super to what was made in Dragon Ball Z). The use of WWII designs is unsurprising once you learn that Toriyama is a keen model builder.
  • Attack on Titan: Within the Walls, technology appears to be stuck around the late-Medieval/early-Renaissance era. It's later revealed that this due to the government suppressing the development of new technology in order to maintain the status quo. Even later, it's revealed that humanity is in fact not extinct beyond the walls, and that the outside world has advanced to early-20th century levels of technology and society.
  • Twilight Star Sui and Neri has the island city of Tetsunagi, which is a remarkable contrast to the far future Earth outside of it. Whereas most of the Earth's cities have sufficiently advanced in terms of technology and culture, Tetsunagi is resembling more of a Japanese city within The 20th Century to the 21st Century, where obsolete, ancient things like physical cash and coins is still used as the main form of monetary currency. The technology is more so a collision course between the ancient past and the modern future, where radios and computers still exist across the city.

    Comic Books 
  • Gotham City and Metropolis both reflect the style of their hero: Dark for Batman and shiny and optimistic for Superman. A common saying about the two cities within DC was that Metropolis was New York City in the daytime, while Gotham was New York at night. The Animated Series for both these shows even cross over, however Superman ended up visiting Batman at night (and Bats usually took the night with him to Metropolis).
    • There is some overlap. For instance, Metropolis has a rough area called Suicide Slum where a few street level superheroes keep themselves busy with small time crooks.
    • Gotham also contains Decade Dissonance within itself — there are TV studios, computers and modern guns (right alongside Tommy Guns), but everyone drives 1930s cars and TV shows from maybe 10-15 years ago are in black and white. In Batman: The Animated Series, this was deliberately done to make the time period of the show difficult to pin down.
  • Gyro Gearloose makes this possible in the Scrooge McDuck universe. The comics are set in a vague, 1960s-esque world, but the Mad Scientist is able to bring any and all technology that would otherwise not be available for the stories. And this even applies when the comics are clearly set in the present, as they tend to be if not by Don Rosa. It would apply even if they were set in a realistic far future. Gyro Gearloose can create any kind of invention with no regard to whether it's actually possible.
  • Bone takes place in a magic-fueled, monster-roamed medieval land, yet the three main characters come from a town that reportedly has an education system, advanced economy, industry and even nuclear power. In order to, presumably, avoid distraction from the story, the technological differences between Boneville and the Valley are only used for side-jokes and don't play any role in the course of events... save for one major plot point.

    Fan Works 
  • In Aeon Natum Engel due to many circumstances, the defenses and general technology level of the Order-controlled Iceland consists mostly from the stuff dating back to the first Arcanotech War, when the fic takes places during the Aeon War, which itself was formerly known as a Second Arcanotech War.
  • The Conversion Bureau gives Equestria Ancient Grome-era military advances, a pre-industrial revolutionary (that is, agricultural) economy, and very medieval politics and governances (being essentially The Good Kingdom). This, in combination with its other High Fantasy traits like Black-and-White Morality, usually causes interesting conflicts with the cosmopolitan, highly advanced and usually democratic countries, such as the US, and this usually pits both the extremes of romanticism and enlightenment against each other, both technologically and morally.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street does this (kind of) with style. Most of the film is set in Tim Burton's dark and bleak Victorian London, but when Sweeney has a flashback, the atmosphere becomes a bright and sunny Georgian or Regency version, and when Mrs. Lovett fantasizes about going to the sea with him, they are dressed in Edwardian outfits and stroll along a sunny beach.
  • Batman Begins is almost a carbon copy of the Philippines example under Real Life — glittering modern skyscrapers coupled with dark and steamy shanty towns/dirty back alleys in the same city. The sequel averts this somewhat due to the slums being torn apart in throes of madness and essentially written off.
  • The Hunger Games: Particularly highlighted in the film. The Districts, especially the "lower" ones like 11 and 12 look straight out of The '50s at best, if not the Great Depression or even the 19th Century. It's no wonder then that those from there tend to be awestruck by how modern the Capitol is.

  • Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood) is set somewhere late in the 21st century, and shows present day trends of inequality taken to the extreme. The privileged few live in gated communities in comfortable settings, the majority live in the "Pleeb Lands" which are disadvantaged, violent (or at least perceived by the privileged as such), drug-fueled and dependent on mass-produced technology that trickles down from the upper echelon.
  • Old Kingdom series: In the Old Kingdom people are using swords and riding horses, while in neighboring Ancelstierre they're using guns and shooting bombs at things. This is because most technology fails in the presence of magic (this also means that the Perimeter Guards have guns and swords, because any magical creature that gets close enough will make their guns fail).
  • Invoked deliberately in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. In the year 2194, Resthaven is an independent country within Zimbabwe that was designed to emulate tribal African culture. Outside of Resthaven people use hovercars and all sorts of futuristic technology, while inside they herd livestock on foot and don't use technology much more advanced than a saddle.
  • In Time Scout's depiction of Victorian London. Neighborhoods of opulent wealth are right next those of absolute squalor.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure, the Milago and Bedoowan live within spitting distance of each other: the Milago live in small huts and shit in holes in the ground, while the Bedoowan castle has running water and uses naturally glowing stones to provide artificial light.
  • The Wheel of Time: implied in Towers of Midnight, in Aviendha's vision: the descendants of the Aiel are reduced to little more than savages, while the Lightmakers, descendants of the Seanchan, have "high-tech" equipment (they are building a railway through the desert and have some kind of shotgun). Justified because the Seanchan could benefit from the technological improvements that were popping up in Rand's academies, while the Aiel were almost hunted to extinction.
  • In Ringworld, this justified by the sheer size of the eponymous structure. There simply hasn't been enough time since the collapse of the last advanced Ringworld society for technology (like gunpowder) to spread very far.
  • Justified in Noob. Not only was the Emperor Scientist that discovered technology very reluctant to share with anyone else, but part of the Coalition considers the use technology to be some kind of offence against the gods. The part of the Coalition that can best described as "just jealous", did manage to steal a few secrets, but the rift in technology level is still more than enough to qualify.
  • Justified in Five Kingdoms: the really high-tech kingdom is actually powered by Magitek, and magic fron one kingdom won't work in another, meaning there's one kingdom with AI and flying, self-driving cars, while three of the others are in different flavours of Medieval Stasis.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, roughly a century After the End of the world, the Mountain Men have maintained most of the technology and culture of early 21st Century America, while the Grounders who live on the land surrounding the mountain have regressed to tribalistic Future Primitives. A Justified Trope, since the Mountain Men's low radiation tolerance means they can't survive outside of the mountain, keeping them cloistered away from the rest of humanity's development, while they actively suppress any attempts by Grounders to pick up Lost Technology that would let them challenge the Mountain Men for supremacy.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is also a bit confused. In the pilot, New Chicago and other major cities were protected by domes, and a Mad Max atmosphere reigned outside them. That seems to have been dropped later in the series.
  • In the early seasons of The Wire, despite taking place in the 2000s, we see the police department still using typewriters due to not having the budget to get computers.
  • Spoofed on How I Met Your Mother when the gang learn that Robin was a pop idol in Canada named Robin Sparkles. Although her singing career was in the mid-nineties, the music video they watch looks like it's from the mid-eighties. When Ted comments on this, Robin explains that the eighties didn't come to Canada until 1993.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Halbrand notices there is a huge technological and cultural difference between the advanced civilization of Númenor and the race of Men in Middle-earth, who go now through The Dark Ages, having no large cities and living in dirty towns built of wood only.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise is a bit of a confused setting in this regard. The producers made a mighty effort to make the art, style, technology and costuming designs evoke a "Pre-Zeerust" feel much like that of The Original Series while being "modern" and 20 Minutes into the Future enough for contemporary audiences (while not breaking the Pre-Zeerust feel). Whether this tightrope act succeeds or not depends mostly on the viewers' tastes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer:
    • The game has this big time with Bretonnia (read Medieval England and France in a fantasy setting) and The Empire (the Holy Roman Empire in a fantasy setting). Bretonnia is typical Medieval fantasy fodder with a feudal system, knights, archers, etc. with literal Fantasy Gun Control being enforced by the nobilitynote . The Empire, on the other hand, has mostly 16th-17th century technology with armies consisting of pike-and-shot formations with plentiful muskets and cannons to complement their polearms and swords. They even have smatterings of early Industrial Revolution tech with Steampunk thrown in for good measure. This can make for some interesting battles in the series.
      • Bretonnia's status as an independent state in the face of an expansionist technological superpower is justified for a number of reasons. First, the most mundane: there's a giant mountain range on the border between the two nations that makes moving armies between them difficult. Second, magic granted by the local goddess, the Lady of the Lake, gives Bretonnian knights some level of resistance to bullets (modeled as a 6+ ward save on the tabletop, i.e. attacks have a 1/6 chance of being negated without doing any damage); it doesn't prevent them from getting slaughtered the many times they try to charge an artillery line, but it does help. Third, the Bretonnians have managed to domesticate the Pegasi and Hippogryphs which live in the mountains of Bretonnia and recruit Pegasus and Hippogryph Knights in such numbers that the country effectively has an organized and powerful air force — in the Empire, meanwhile, Pegasi and Gryphons are exceedingly rare and really just a neat pet for the nobility. Fourth, the Empire's armies are constantly busy with other threats (or fighting each other), being right next to Norsca, the Orcish Badlands, the Chaos Wastes, and the continent's biggest concentrations of Beastmen, meaning they have little power to throw at Bretonnia, who more often or not is more valuable as an ally than an enemy (think Gondor and Rohan from The Lord of the Rings). Finally, the absolute lack of technology and infrastructure in Bretonnia means that even if the Empire managed to successfully conquer them, they'd have monstrous logistical and economic problems — for a real world analogy, think the issues that faced West Germany when it was reunified with the much less economically prosperous East Germany after being split for nearly 50 years.
    • To say nothing of the other two major human factions, who themselves are internal cases of this trope along with Culture Chop Suey:
      • Kislev initially started out as an amalgam between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Tsarist Russia, but in their modern incarnation (as introduced in The Old World revival and Total War: Warhammer III) they now incorporate elements from the Kievan Rus' in their soldiers. Despite drawing inspiration from a later culture from that of the Empire's, they are situated in the middle in terms of technological advancement between that of the Empire and Bretonnia, with their most advanced technology being a BFG on a magical ice sled pulled by actual bears. Their technological situation can be partially justified by their geographic situation, given that they are sandwiched between the Empire's eastern border and the Chaos Wastes being essentially the Old World's buffer/shield against the Chaos invasions and their land is mostly barren tundra and steppe ill-suited for industrial development. Not unlike historical Eastern Europe, which took much longer to industrialize compared to the rest of Europe, Kislev winds up being behind the Empire but is willing to take on as much technological advancements from the Empire that their limited industrial complex can support in order to survive, in particular gunpowder weapons.
      • Grand Cathay is Imperial China, but despite this their culture draws from multiple elements of Chinese history. This article goes into further detail regarding the specific influences, but in short there are Jin Dynasty lamellar armors alongside Ming Dynasty brigandine armors and gunpowder such as shotguns and firework launchers. Their technological level is just as advanced as that of the Empire, but leans moreso towards Magitek as they lack the steam power that the Empire has access to. Case in point, while the Empire might rely on actual steam-powered tanks and mechanical steeds, the Cathayans opt to use magical birds to power giant airships or have magically powered terracotta automatons and giant-sized sentinels.
    • The other races vary; the Dwarfs are mostly on par with the Empire, but some of their units - mainly primitive helicopters - are well beyond that level. This all makes sense considering how they were responsible for most of the Empire's technological advancements in the first place, but are slowly being outpaced technologically due to their staunch conservativism and adherence to tradition. The Chaos Dwarfs on the other hand are just as advanced as their uncorrupted counterparts but are not as hindered and constrained by tradition and morality; they boast daemonically powered constructs and full steam trains that can pull railway guns. The Skaven have even more advanced technology including primitive machine guns, flamethrowers, motor vehicles, genetically-engineered super soldiers and monsters, and chemical weapons. Heck, in The End Times they invent a transdimensional communicator, and in Total War: Warhammer II they have literal Fantastic Nukes and even a spacecraft which is responsible for instigating the plot of the game's campaign by destabilizing the orbit of the Comet of Sotek and by extension disrupting the Great Vortex, but it doesn't work right very often. The minor human nations like Tilea, Estalia, Marienburg, Araby, and the Border Princes average out around the Empire's level with only the Amazons (being based off South American tribes but with access to some Magitek artifacts) and Albion (who at their most advanced are Iron Age Celts and at their least advanced are basically cavemen who can't even understand each other) being below that of Bretonnia. The rest of the factions are less technologically advanced to the point of making the Bretonnians look modern, but make up for it with magic. Magitek, and natural strength. Similarly, the Lizardmen of Lustria and the Southlands are supposedly stone-age, but they have inherited a lot of Magitek technology from their long-gone Old One masters which leads to them having access to Kill Sats, Deflector Shields, and Wave-Motion Guns.
  • The BattleTech universe applies this concept across a couple hundred worlds, with technological and industrial infrastructure destroyed by massive wars. Major worlds enjoy the use of starships, giant robots, cybernetics, faster-than-light communications, and worldwide computer networking, while many other planets fell to 19th-century lifestyles, with a starport or two and a FTL communications array somewhere on the planet so they aren't totally cut off.
  • Traveller does this trope too, but as an analogy of the Truth in Television example above: the low-tech worlds still have access to more advanced technology, but the local industrial base isn't equipped to produce it so it has to be imported at extra cost. It's a similar situation in Firefly, which was not inspired by Traveller but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, different planets within the Imperium can have massively different technology levels and cultural views. Examples range from "feral worlds" with mostly medieval technology (save what's imported from other planets), to planets with fairly modern-looking cities (except with more skulls and statues) to dystopian hive worlds where the entire populace lives inside enormous plasteel towers surrounded by uninhabitable wasteland.
    • They actually stated in one issue of White Dwarf that they'd created a fictional universe where you can have rock-waving barbarians and antigravity tanks on the same battlefield.
    • In this case it's probably Justified: for once the writers did have a sense of scale. The Imperium is a galaxy-wide government, and the Imperium has settled so many worlds (numbering in the tens of thousands), that often entire planets and systems slip through the cracks and aren't checked except for the Imperial Tithe and the Black Ships taking any psykers on-planet. There just aren't enough resources for every planet to be brought up to the same level of technology and society as the more advanced ones, and the harsher conditions make better troops anyway.
    • It also often applies within planets or even single cities. It's especially used in the Necromunda setting, with underhive gangers often using what amounts to real world projectile guns and even just point sticks, while rich kids from the upper hive will come down to hunt them with all the highest tech available in 40K — powered armor, stealth suits, and so on.
    • Many of said Feral Worlds are also base of operation for transhuman Space Marines in Powered Armor wielding repeating grenade launchers and matter-disrupting gauntlets, since the tribal wars are excellent for identifying promising recruits when they are still young enough to undergo the transformation process. The most famous example would be the Space Wolves from Viking Age Fenris
  • Ravenloft can be bad for this, with domains ranging from the Stone Age to a Pseudo-Victorian era. Granted it makes more sense when you realize each domain is snatched up from a different world, and some of the Dark Lords tend to isolate their populations from the influence for multiple reasons. Also, the Dark Powers are explicitly stated as inducing Laser-Guided Amnesia in the populations of various domains so that they do not question their surroundings and certain peculiar aspects thereof. For example, many darklords have lived for centuries and yet the general populace does not notice, much less connect it to the supernatural. The Dark Powers also apply Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity in order to maintain the status quo. For example, Medieval warlord Vlad Drakov will always fight using weapons and tactics appropriate to his culture. Even though some nearby domains have things like firearms, he will never adopt them. Drakov's stagnation is actually justified by Drakov's immense arrogance and psychosis; convinced that magic and guns are "coward's weapons", he stubbornly refuses to adopt them and instead insists on doing things the way he always has. No, it's not sane, but then, sane people don't impale people each night as dinner entertainment. Drakov's lack of sanity should never be in doubt.
  • The Hollow World D&D setting has a similar patchwork feel to it, for pretty much the same reason: it was designed by the Immortals to preserve favorite cultures which were dying out on the planet's surface, and they used really powerful magic to make sure these cultures would neither mix nor change.
  • There's plenty of this in Rifts, where a rural community with no technology to speak of (save for a laser rifle or two gotten from somewhere else) can be less than 50 miles away from a large city full of people with mass communication, hover vehicles, giant robots, and other futuristic gear. Not to mention communities built on magic. The "no tech sharing" angle is implicit with the Coalition States; they use their superior technology to lure in other communities, either through force, coercion, or more subtle methods. But it doesn't explain why benevolent places like Lazlo aren't sharing the wealth.
    • This tropes makes sense because travel on Rifts Earth is extremely dangerous. The vast majority of people from low tech/low magic communities never travel more than a mile or two from their home town. In a lot of cases, they probably don't even know there's a massive city full of magical and/or technological marvels only 50 miles away, and vice versa.
    • Capitalism is alive and well on Rifts Earth, with both native corporations (Triax, Northern Gun, Titan Robotics, etc.) and alien ones (Naruni Enterprises, the Splugorth) selling advanced technology, but not giving it away for free. Thus there is an inevitable situation of haves and have-nots where people with no money and nothing to trade do not end up with cool technology, much as is the case in the real world with many impoverished countries. More tightly-controlled societies, such as the fascist Coalition States, also deliberately and actively work to limit how much technology anybody has (including their own member states) so as to maintain control. Lazlo would doubtless share more if they could, but they are already on the CS list of potential war targets and cannot be very missionary in spreading their way of life beyond their borders.
    • In the western parts of the former United States, beyond the Coalition's reach, many people have adopted an idealized "Old West" lifestyle based on recovered entertainment media. But many of them use robotic steeds and carry advanced weapons as opposed to old-fashioned guns. Others, such as the Colorado Baronies, use magic and techno-wizardry as well. Native Americans are also divided between traditionalists who have gone back to living pre-colonization lifestyles and embracing the return of magic, and those who use modern technology.
    • An even purer example can be found across the Pacific, where you have the Empire of Japan (feudal, about 16th Century technology plus extensive use of magic) right next to the Republic of Japan (a temporally-displaced portion of Japan from 2098 A.D. loaded with pre-Rifts advanced technology). The Empire is deliberately primitive, having adopted anti-technology attitudes since the Great Cataclysm and reverting to a more traditional way of life. The Republic was literally brought forward in time from the moment of the Great Cataclysm, and thus still has a capitalist, technology-centric culture that does not use magic. Stepping across the border between the two is very much a case of crossing centuries of cultural differences.
  • The Dark Eye has cultures ranging from stone age tribes to Renaissance/early industrialisation nations. Besides, there's a country, where you have, through demonic possession, scyscrapers, tanks, and temporarily the whole capital turned into a flying fortress. And that's just the human side of things.
  • Pathfinder's various Fantasy Counterpart Cultures represent vastly different eras of real-world history: Osirion is based on Pharaonic Egypt (before 30 BCE on Earth), the Lands of the Linnorm Kings on Viking-era Scandinavia (8th-11th century CE), the Shackles on the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy (mid-1600s-early 1700s), and Andoran on the early American republic (late 1700s-early 1800s).

    Video Games 
  • A goal for many experienced players of the game Civilization was to reach the industrial revolution while leaving opponents in the bronze age. It is not uncommon to see your tanks getting attacked with spears. And losing.
    • Forget that. On easy difficulty with the Aztecs, you can easily get Space Flight before 500 BC!
      • "You have invented Space Flight! What would you like to do next?" "Actually find one of those other three nations I'm supposed to be competing with."
    • Of course, your own units can also get left behind technologically if you leave them, say, guarding a city or something, and never bother to upgrade them.
    • Same with Rise of Nations. It's not impossible to find yourself using missile cruisers to screen your battleships from incoming fireships. Or rolling out tanks to take down a band of hostile musketeers. Or even reacting to your opponent inventing the petrol engine with an atomic strike on his capital.
    • Similarly, Empire Earth (especially with cheat codes) can have a human player reach the near-future epoch and send Humongous Mecha against their opponents, who at best could be in Middle Ages. Unlike the above-mentioned Civilization example, the archers and knights on horseback aren't as effective against robots shooting lasers at them.
      • This is also used in the final mission of the Russian campaign, which involves time travel and forces you to fight soldiers wielding advanced technology from a century in the future with present-day weapons. Luckily, you can steal some of the futuristic technology.
  • The entire premise of Project Eden for the PS2 is descending from the utopia on the top floors of the city, miles down to the slum. This is an example in a single city. The opening FMV shows a young child on the top floor balcony at a party dropping his teddy bear and the fall is followed as the teddy falls through areas that are ever increasing with rust and tramps.
  • Arcanum deconstructed this. The reason that cities like Qintarra and Dernholm (the capital of Cumbria) have no advanced technology is because they rejected them in favor of using magic. Magic and technology do not work well together, so focusing on one or the other (or, as in Caladon, maintaining a careful balance between the two) is a choice a society needs to make. (For humans, focusing on magic to the exclusion of technology is a bad call; for elves, it's a necessity.)
  • This is seen in many parts of the Golden Sun universe. That giant sentient god-machine Gabomba kind of stands out against his/its fantasy tribal-African worshippers.
    • This is actually a major theme in the Golden Sun series, especially the second game. Lots of areas feature the dying remnants of an ancient culture living near (and in some cases, trying to harness the power of) an ancient monument or city left over from before the World Sundering. The Champa and the leftovers of the Ankhol civilization, Lalivero and Venus Lighthouse...
      • Subverted darkly in Dark Dawn when one such nearby civilization is formed of displaced refugees who don't know what the local Magitek is or what it does, and are tricked by the villains into attempting to use it, to disastrous effect.
  • Subverted in Guild Wars in that the African Elona and Nordic Norns is actually just AS advanced as the south American-seeming Krytans and European Ascalonians. Same with the Asian Cantha, and some even have their own technologies similar to others.
    • In the case of Elona, the designers specifically tried to imagine what the old north African empires would look like had they existed for another few hundred years, and had magic. The results were fairly badass.
  • The Mushroom Kingdom in the Super Mario Bros. series. You've got towns and villages like Toad Town set firmly in the middle ages equivalent, then shiny futuristic cities like Mushroom City, Twilight City and various cities from the Wario Land and WarioWare series games with modern technology equivalents. And then Mario travels around the world in Super Mario Odyssey, where different countries have vastly different technological levels. New Donk City in the Metro Kingdom has modern high-rise skyscrapers and Steam Gardens in the Wooded Kingdom has extremely advanced robots, but then you have Lake Lamode in the Lake Kingdom in which the inhabitants live around the ruins of a presumably earlier society and have only adapted minimally and Shiveria in the Snow Kingdom whose town infrastructure is mostly made of wood and they live by candlelight. That being said, it may be closer to a Schizo Tech, as an inhabitant of the traditional-looking town of Tostarena talks to Mario about NFC technology, Shiveria's famous Bound Bowl Grand Prix is broadcast within the town on a humongous flat-screen TV, and space travel is so common that it's considered trivial all around the world.
  • Also, Wario Land: Shake It! arguably does this. You've got the basic settlements shown in the first world and the intro cut scene that the Merfles lived in, then right in the middle of the wild west themed area, you've got Glittertown/Neon City which is basically some Las Vegas equivalent complete with modern technology, electricity and slot machines.
  • Played extremely straight in The Spirit Engine. On one end of the country, you have Homestead, a very rural area stuck in Medieval Stasis. On the other end, you have Silthea, which has tanks, high-tech copters, sentient A.I.s, military-grade robots and a hundred levels tall skyscraper. Semi-justified in that the Frontier Corporation, which is responsible for pretty much 100% of technological progress, is seated in Silthea, employs all known scientists and doesn't care one whit for anywhere else. And that it's run by a scientist who used to live in our world but was dimension-shifted due to an accident with a particle accelerator.
  • The Warcraft universe, in which the Orcs and Tauren live in huts made from animal hides, while the Gnomes have fled their homes due to radiation poisoning from their nuclear reactor. At least some of it seems to be by choice, however. The Tauren, for example, have access to gunpowder due to being part of the Horde but otherwise prefer to live closer to nature. Meanwhile the Goblins live in a industrial port city complete with highways and taxi cars, with Gallywix having his own golf course and pool. To say nothing of the Draenei with their Crystal Spires and Togas aesthetic, complete with actual spaceships (both Draenei races' home cities, the Exodar and Vindicaar, are spaceships) and Wave-Motion Guns.
    • Warcraft is actually a major aversion: Until recently, many of those diverse cultures used to be isolated from one another. With the rapid exchange of knowledge and technology, many races managed to catch up with their modern brethren while those that did not have suffered massive cultural upheaval. In particular are the universe's two major factions, the Alliance and the Horde, being roughly on the same Magitek/Steampunk technological level complete with flying capital ships and motorbikes.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII has the Cyberpunk dystopia of Midgar brimming with neon signs and robots, bordered by Kalm, which looks exactly like a stereotypical JRPG town down to having a city wall and pretty wattle-and-daub buildings. In the Nibelheim of Cloud's childhood there's only a single truck in the whole town and people still draw their water from a communal well. However, everyone has access to the same level of technology - it's just unevenly distributed.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has Esthar. The rest of the world is slightly behind the real world in most respects, with cars, machinery and television, but Esthar (besides looking very futuristic) is much more technologically advanced, with floating public transit, advanced spaceflight, and the ability to cloak the whole city from the rest of the world... which helps explain why this technology never spread.
    • Final Fantasy X has an example fitting the page quote: You have one group of people, the Al Bhed, who take pride in salvaging and making use of the local Lost Technology, while the rest of the world lives in small villages who actively shun such technology. Of course, this one's justified - the Al Bhed are the only ones who don't worship Yevon, and the Yevonite religion condemns technology since it was responsible for Sin. Though this is revealed to be a lie: Bevelle, the heart of the Yevon faith, freely uses advanced technology (including rifles and giant killbots of doom), and Sin was created by a summoner from Zanarkand, which Bevelle warred with in the past. After Yevon is dealt with, the sequel shows technology becoming increasingly wider-spread.
    • In Final Fantasy XV, the kingdom of Lucis is all modern but with swords, compared to the rest of the world being all medieval but with guns, because they used their crystal sparingly instead of getting caught up in an arms race.
  • Jade Empire has a fairly extreme version, if believable. Towns out in the countryside look like ordinary ancient Chinese villages; at the capital city, though, everything is far more modern, down to having power lines. Seems that the Empire just doesn't care about its outer provinces.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series suffers from this. In Sonic Adventure 2 the main city is clearly based on San Francisco with modern buildings and ordinary vehicles. Meanwhile in Sonic Heroes and Sonic Riders there are extremely futuristic locales with flying cars, anti-gravity transporters, and buildings that'd look at home on Coruscant. And there's even tribal villages too. Whether the series is supposed to be set in the twentieth, twenty-first, or twenty-second century is a matter for debate, given that building a city-sized space station wasn't an obstacle 50 years before the series' present. Sonic Forces has this trope within the same game: You have the location simply known as "City," which looks like a traditional Latin American town from the early 20th century, and then you have the bright, shiny Crystal Spires and Togas looking Metropolis.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, this is justified repeatedly by the enforced Medieval Stasis. Tethe'alla, as the flourishing world, has higher magitechnology levels than Sylvarant, and anything backed by Cruxis, in either world or on Derris-Kharlan, is even higher still on the scale, since they're the greater power that's keeping everyone else locked down.
  • In The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure, many of the people and locations in Saxton seem stalled in some previous decade. Antique radios and a blacksmith's workshop exist side by side with interactive video exhibits at the museum and loudspeakers at the faire. While several of the people turn out to be ghosts who don't realize they're dead, others' status is left ambiguous. Lampshaded when Nigel asks the barkeep what year it is, and never gets a straight answer.
  • Used deliberately in Red Dead Redemption, which is set during the Twilight of the Old West - in 1911, to be exact, with the epilogue being set in 1914. The final taming of the West and the death of the culture it supported are the game's primary themes.
    • The contrast between Armadillo (the first town you visit) and Blackwater (the last) is mind-blowing. Armadillo is every town you ever saw in old Westerns - dirt roads, horses everywhere, cowboys walking along wooden steps. Blackwater? Cobblestone roads, dignified gentlemen and ladies in fine clothing, and cars with internal combustion engines, while every other vehicle in the game is either horse- or steam-powered.
  • In Red Dead Redemption 2, this comes up again, as the game is set in 1899. Case in point, the sleepy country town of Rhodes where the only stone buildings are the town hall and the train station, compared to the thriving New Orleans-esque city of Saint Denis, which has a tram system.
  • In Terranigma, there is in fact tech sharing, but if you don't grow certain towns, you can end up with strange situations, like having the American town Freedom as a bustling metropolis, while certain European towns remain as rural as they were the day you freed them from their oppressive king. In addition, certain towns begin extremely differently. Apparently, at the same time you were helping Thomas Edison discover electric power, Japan and parts of China have had television for quite some time.
    • Somewhat justified in that everything on Earth was destroyed and recreated, starting from the continents themselves from stored templates. It's possible China and Japan were stored as more advanced versions than Europe and America.
  • In Chrono Trigger the Earthbound live in caves and look as though they're just a step or two above actual cavemen. Whereas in the same time period the Kingdom of Zeal is a Floating Continent powered by magic where there exists modern philosophy, advanced architecture and Magitek on a Crystal Spires and Togas level. Disturbingly justified as you talk to people; the Zealots, who can use magic, deliberately abandoned those who couldn't (the future Earthbound) when they created Zeal, with the implication that they smack down any attempts at the latter improving their lot.
  • Though you never get to travel to Zzyzx in Rune Factory it maintains a presence in several of the games (especially the first) and is mentioned to be highly technologically advanced, even running an army of tanks against the town of Kardia, While all signs point to the fastest transport in Norad to be a horse drawn carriage. Word of God is that Zzyzx focused on technology while Norad focused on magic.
  • In Infinite Space, technology varies widely between regions. Within the Small Magellanic Cloud, Nova Nacio is the most advanced state due to its ties to the Large Magellanic Cloud, while Kalymnos is nearly a match for it due to their focus on advanced battleships and military build-up; meanwhile, peripheral areas like the Ropesk Dominion are poor and backward enough that a single destroyer is often the flagship of an entire fleet. The Large Magellanic Cloud is somewhat more uniform in tech level (though even they have backward areas like Escondido): a destroyer from the Large will utterly annihilate a first-rate battleship from the peripheral, chaotic Small. However, there are still some differences between regions in the Large Magellanic Cloud; while actual Technology Levels rarely differ, some regions focus on different forms of technology than others (such as the transhumans of Zenito.) Lugovalos' technology is moderately more advanced than the top end of the LMC. And, of course, all of this pales before the Lost Technology of the Overlords.
  • Most Paradox grand strategy games take some steps to avoid this by applying a larger penalty to research the further ahead you get in technology compared to real history, and by giving regions a research bonus based on how much more advanced their neighbours are. However, they also deliberately play it straight by giving large penalties to cultures that historically didn't keep up with technological advance. So in Europa Universalis, for example, it's difficult (although still possible) for European countries to get this relative to each other, but difficult to avoid it compared to most of the rest of the world.
  • Mass Effect brings this up in the codex entry for Earth in Mass Effect 3. It brings up that the planet is entering a golden age due to the wealth its colonies are bringing in, though many developing countries are still at a 20th century technology level.
  • ELEX takes place on a world similar to present day Earth called Magalan. However, an asteroid struck the planet and caused the old nations to collapse. Said asteroid brought with it the element Elex which can be used to power advanced technology or give people special, magical powers when consumed. The part of the world you explore is divided between four factions and they all have a very different aesthetic and tech-level. The Albs and Clerics of Calaan are both high-tech factions with troops equipped with Powered Armor and wielding plasma weapons and have mechs in their armies. The Outlaws are a Mad Max inspired faction and have modern day weapons and equipment. Then you have the Berserkers who are a group of warriors who have renounced modern technology, embraced a medieval life-style and purify Elex into Mana to wield magic and restore life to nature on one side.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in an alternate universe where the Nazis discovered a cache of precursor technology and used it to conquer the world. Problem is, instead of bribing the people they conquer with bread and circuses made from their reverse-engineered toys, they continue to use fear and genocide to keep the masses cheering for them. End result? The Nazis are using 24th century technology but the people on the streets are stuck using 1950's technology in 1961. They're pissed off.
  • The Kirby games generally stick to pastoral areas in a generally Standard Fantasy Setting. King Dedede, for instance, lives in a stone castle with a drawbridge over a moat. However, most games have at least one futuristic stage near the end, as well as another one where Kirby must travel into space to fight the final boss, and characters and groups can potentially cover any theme from any time period, from the Squeak Squad, who take from Renaissance-era adventure stories, to Paint Roller, who embodies the Totally Radical aesthetic of the early 90s.
  • The Kingdom from Vector Thrust was regarded as this in the Battle Weary World before it's destruction in a nuclear civil war in 1983, due to it's fame in the Industrial Revolution and their production and export of next-generation weaponry. To give an idea, when the leading superpower Kaesel (the equivalent of a combined United States and Israel) was starting production of F-14s and F-15s, The Kingdom was testing F-22s and F-35s. In the 1970s.
  • Intentional in Asteroid 5251: The medieval Gladsbury folks and the futuristic Leeir people lived smack next to each other for quite a long time before they discovered one another.

    Web Comics 
  • The Shared Universe that makes up 3/4 of MS Paint Adventures, at least according to Problem Sleuth. The Imaginary side of the universe (where Jailbreak takes place) is modern with a vague swath of medieval where the warring kingdoms are, while the Game of Life (where Bard Quest takes place) runs the gamut of whatever era would be appropriate at the moment; A covered wagon and relevant diseases from The Oregon Trail are not so far from a 21st century city or a medieval swamp. Meanwhile, the Real side of the universe (home to Problem Sleuth) is stuck in a 1920's Prohibition that has access to GameFAQs, sudoku, and Soul Plane.
  • Stormbow has the Felinians, who have electricity and computers, while the rest of the world seems to be in Medieval Stasis.

    Web Original 
  • The Casus Belli Republic from Lambda has Powered Armor and Humongous Mecha, while Soleil, the nearest up in the tech race, is still in the Age of Sail and muskets. This however, results from the fact that the Bellans as a race have low magical potential compared to the rest of the world, and so use what little they have to advance their technology to the top.
  • On Neopets, lands with medieval, modern, Victorian and even stone age societies exist on the same planet and even freely interact.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Earth under Aku's reign in Samurai Jack is like this, encompassing every culture from every time period imaginable, sometimes right next to each other. Jack could spend his time in a city of Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain in one episode, then wander into the Standard Fantasy Setting setting the next, then The Wild West after that, creating Genre Roulette in the process. Unlike the standard reasons for this trope, it appears the various civilizations never needed to advance past a certain point. All technology is depicted as roughly equally effective regardless of how advanced it is, with only slight advantages or disadvantages. The Spartans, for instance, could fight robot armies using their spears and shields, while somewhere else, mobsters armed with Tommy guns park their Model-T's and break into state-of-the-art security systems.

    Real Life 
  • This is very much present in Real Life. In many developing countries, farming is still done with oxen, and muscle-powered rickshaws are still very much in use. Millions still die from diseases whose vaccines were invented decades ago; there are millions in the corners of Africa and Asia who are still not connected with the electrical grid; there are tribes in dank jungles of the Amazon, Indonesia and Andaman Islands who still live as hunter gatherers.
    • Interestingly, however, cell phones are literally everywhere; portable technologies have lesser infrastructure requirements, leading to cases of farmers riding donkeys to the rice paddy while chatting on their cell phones. Phones and mobile Internet are also used for bill payment and tracking crops in developing nations (in some parts of Africa, transferable mobile phone minutes are used as currency substitute).
    • One group of Andaman natives, the Sentinelese, actively refuse any contact with the outside world, even resorting to violence sometimes. Nowadays Indian authorities just leave them alone and look around so that everyone else does the same. That's actually putting it pretty mildly; they attack anyone nearing their island, even helicopters, on sight except for one incident where the visitors threw them some fish.
  • During the Middle Ages, Constantinople embodied this trope (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Byzantine Empire) with regards to Europe. At a time when Western Europe was still recovering from the fall of Rome and the resulting collapse of infrastructure, they had a teeming cosmopolitan city that maintained and improved on most of the old Roman building traditions. Add in fairly high literacy rates, a university system, a mature legal system, and a stable bureaucracy, and then compare it to just about any other European country at the time. Europe got better eventually, but by then, of course, Constantinople had long-since been raided by marauding crusaders and taken over by the Ottomans, under whom it continued to be rather well-kept relative to Europe until the 'Great Divergence'.
  • People living in the deepest parts of the Amazon Rainforest, compared with those living in Manaus. Or the Amish living near New York.
  • Societies like the Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch for example) often do advance somewhat using imported equipment without sacrificing their core lifestyle. You get weird combinations of technology like gas-powered planting machines being pulled by horses, and they will go to a regular doctor instead of relying on older types of "medicine" that you would associate with their general tech level.
    • Amish acceptance of technology is based on the effect it has on their community, particularly if the device would prevent them from being self-sufficient. Running a compressor using purchased fuel and using air power (a.k.a. "Amish Electricity") for appliances is fine, but paying a monthly bill for electricity is not. Some tech like solar panels and pay-as-you-go cell phones (especially since a flip phone is just an upgrade to a wireless phone) are accepted on these grounds, while many Amish are happy to pay for a ride to work in a car.
  • Another rather blatant example is the differences between South Korea and its neighbor North Korea. North Korea is sandwiched between South Korea and China, two industrial nations with healthy economies and cutting edge technology. In comparison, North Korea has almost zero electricity usage and infrastructure, and outside the capital, you'll only find farmland and military bases. To put things in perspective, this is what North Korea looks like at night compared to its wealthier neighbors. There are city blocks in New York City with more IP addresses than all of North Korea.
  • This image of Makati, Philippines — an economically booming city just outside Manila — houses shacks next to gleaming skyscrapers, though the image is sometimes incorrectly identified as being Detroit.
  • The US-Mexico border; the US side is mostly barren while the Mexican side will have development. Played straight in some places, outright averted in others. In this picture, right side is Mexico.
  • Common in India, which has a very significant presence in the global technology industry, centered around large modern cities. However, nation-wide infrastructure is somewhat limited, and thus many places in the country will have small villages that live like they have for centuries. A rather nasty side effect is that some of those villages have adopted farming technology and techniques introduced to the area in the Green Revolution, including use of powerful herbicides and pesticides, with no real understanding of how it works or the dangers inherent in those materials due to the lack of educational infrastructure. This has led to massive over-use of the chemicals and a total lack of basic safety precautions in some places, with corresponding damage to the water supply and general health.
  • Malaysia as a whole is like this — its location at the intersection of the South China Sea, the Java Sea, and the Malacca Strait means that some of its cities are quite wealthy and wouldn't look out of place in South Korea or Japan, especially their shopping malls. However, most of these large, expensive, shiny shopping districts are not far from residential areas that are substantially more humble and run-down; some sections don't even have paved roads, instead having to make do with gravel and sand. Some houses are little more than clapboard squatter arrangements built in the shadows of high-rise condos, but due to Malaysia's location, the slums usually suffer more during the seasonal torrential rains and typhoons. Due to the income gap of the nation, it isn't unheard of to see expensive, modern luxury sedans next to sputtering old motorcycles from the 70's side by side on the street.
  • Russia, for that matter. Just compare Moscow and St. Petersburg to the hunters of the Far North — or sometimes even to plain Russian villages devoid of sanitation.
  • This can be said of China in comparison to the rest of the world especially after the fall of the Roman Empire. Until the Industrial Revolution, China boasted the world's largest cities, largest population, largest global GDP and the only blue-water navy in the world. Even during the Industrial Revolution, the Chinese economy remained viable, until a combination of natural and man-made catastrophes destroyed much of China's infrastructure, leading to economic collapse.
  • Often invoked by Catholic monks and nuns. Their basic garments haven't changed since the Middle Ages: but they'll add modern garments (parkas, hats, gloves, etc.) to dress for the weather. They also don't carry bulky wooden chests, since you know, that would be wildly impractical (or do any of the other things you'd associate with someone dressed like that). The resulting mismatch can be rather humorous (and usually they'll be the first to crack the obligatory joke). It gets really weird when they whip out a cell phone and start speaking Latin... At least if you live outside of Italy, it's easy to forget that Latin is still the language used for day-to-day business by The Vatican.