Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Science Fiction Makes Great Games

Greg Tito | 24 Oct 2006 12:04
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The first Otherland novel was published in 1996, right about when graphical MMOGs emerged. Although MMOGs grew out of text-based MUDs and were already in development before Otherland hit the shelves, I can't help but wonder if Williams' vivid descriptions of a fictional game called Middle Country didn't spark a few designers' imaginations. In the novel, Orlando Gardiner is suffering from a debilitating, fast-acting, terminal disease. He escapes from his reality by spending most of his time as Thargor, the svelte barbarian hero famous throughout Middle Country for his amazing feats of strength and courage. Orlando inhabits his avatar and ranges across the realistically-detailed countryside, fights evil creatures, meets people in roadside inns and avoids his parents in real life. When I read Otherland, I yearned to play a game like that, but like the monster-infested chess game played by R2-D2 and Chewbacca in Star Wars (Dejarik Holochess for you purists) and the 3-D hologram airplane battle from the bar in Star Trek III, this game would remain a figment of a shared imagination until someone with the programming chops to bring it to a sort of reality came along. Enter: Commodore 64 classic Archon, a slew of fighter plane simulators and World of Warcraft, for lack of a more ubiquitous MMOG.

True creativity flows not from the mind of one man, but from a wellspring of dreams and ideas fed by the consciousness of an entire civilization. As science fiction inevitably becomes science fact, so, too, does it feed the stream of gaming's creativity. For years, games have struggled to receive mainstream recognition as an artistic medium. Some day we'll see the stream reverse itself; when the well begins to be fed by the games, and creations from the minds of our industry brightest and best take their places beside Ender, The Metaverse and Otherland. When that day comes, widespread recognition will not be far behind. Games will have finally become firmly ensconced as a vital cultural institution.

Greg Tito is a playwright and standup comic residing in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently splitting time between World of Warcraft, a new D&D 3rd edition campaign and finishing one of his many uncompleted writing projects. He also blogs semi-regularly at http://onlyzuul.blogspot.com/.

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