Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (The When’s, Why’s, Do’s, and Don’ts)

Hello everyone, this week I’ll be moving on a bit to a subject that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now. Movies and books often try to add impressive looking/sounding video games to add to the futuristic flavor of their world, but they often leave me with a wry grin on my face. Since the dawn of the idea of virtual reality, spacey holograms and simulations = future, and everyone’s more or less gotten on board with the idea, whether they actually know anything about video games or not.

Just like its predecessors of radio and movies, this newest medium is likely here to stay, residing on the bleeding edge of our technological progress (and often pushing it even further). If your world is set in the future, as in the case of the Technological Singularity and Robots, you should answer what their role is. In the next few posts I will discuss how video games can be used effectively, clichés and problems you should avoid, and when they should be addressed at all. But first, I would like to address a current event, and its possible implications and considerations.

The Cultural Bugbear of an Unfamiliar Medium

I would like to preface this discussion with the admission that, being a college-age male that resides precisely within most media marketing sweetspots, I frequently enjoy the entertainment of video games. I like to think that I have better taste than most in this area, and balance this hobby with a healthy diversity of interests and academic pursuits (Dostoevsky, anyone?), but just so you know, I am a tad biased in this area. Moving on…

Many people would call video games an irrelevant distraction (and in many cases they would be right), however, recently a major case was deciding in the United States Supreme Court regarding (you guessed it) video games. The issue, as some of you may be aware of, is that of Mature-rated video games being sold to minors. California, in the case of Governor Brown vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association, attempted to pass a law that would make illegal to sell these games  to children under the age of 18.

While it is a universal practice among retailers to restrict sales of M-rated games to minors, it is not actually illegal in any state, and so California’s bill would be the first legislation to enforce this practice with a heavy fine. The EMA challenged the bill, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights (free speech), saying that:

Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech… do not vary” with a new and different communication medium. (

The decision was made against the bill, 7 to 2, and it was declared unconstitutional.

Why This Matters To You

Regardless of what you think about this decision, this event frames an increasing debate regarding the place of video games in American culture, which begs the question, beyond what games will look like in the future:

  • What place will they have as a medium of expression?
  • With family game systems like the Nintendo Wii bringing much larger age demographics into the discussion, where will this issue be down the road as more and more people become “gamers”?
  • Do you think this element of our culture will develop into a net positive or net negative influence?

Before I start giving my thoughts on this subject, I would like to know what you all think! Also, what examples of video games (lame or otherwise) have you seen in science fiction books or movies? Let me know in the comments below!

Sources:, Escapist Magazine, Entertainment Software Rating Board


About erikthereddest

I'm a Masters student in English, and I love technology and Science Fiction. I am refining and enhancing my (admittedly novice) writing talents under the sage advice of my friends here at Lantern Hollow Press, and with the great many books I am reading from the best authors I can find.

Posted on June 29, 2011, in Cliches, Erik Marsh, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Political, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, science fiction problems, World Creation, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’ve thought about this topic (though more from the moralistic setting than the sci-fi writing one) for a while and I’ve come to this conclusion:
    Video games are just a new form of entertainment. Before them, TV was used, and TV was demonized by the generation of adults that saw their children adopt it rather than the old games they used to play. Before TV, books were the ‘adult’ (meaning for adults, not consistently adult in nature) form of entertainment, while children (not knowing how to read yet) played various, usually self-invented, physical games with their friends. There were even times when reading was shunned by various groups, whether as entertainment, or just in general. Plays have been entertainment, and they have been demonized. Dancing has been entertainment, and it has been demonized. Music has been entertainment, and it has been demonized (especially rock music). And all of these things have become more and more accepted as the generations that grew up with them became adult. Gaming is going through the same thing.

    I predict in 30 years that gaming, in whatever form it may take, will be seen as just a valid form of entertainment as any other. And moreover, it will be seen as multiple forms of entertainment, as you can have social gaming (mmos and the like), story-telling gaming (RPGs, adventure games, mystery games, etc.), physical gaming (with more advancements in control systems like the Wii and Kinect), and even possibly all at once. I wouldn’t be surprised if my grand-children get together with their friends (virtually) to explore a haunted castle and rid it of ghosts, and come out physically exhausted because of it. It may even be there for my children.

  2. Personally, I generally agree with Colin. I’ll also add that the lawsuit is inane. There is virtually no difference in content between an M rated video game and an R rated movie. While it is certainly the parents responsibility to know what their children are playing, and watching…and reading for that matter (I wouldn’t want 10 year olds reading most of what I write), it is not the place of the state to intervene. If a parent wants to let their children read adult books, watch adult movies, or play adult video games (adult meaning intended for adults, not explicitly sexual in nature…which is stupid terminology anyway) then it is the parents right to be irresponsible, and our duty to encourage them to be responsible. However, if the state plays mommy and daddy then it effectively dissolves the structures of responsibility within the family unit and relieves parents of their necessary duties. The more parental duties the state takes on, the more it will be forced to take on. This is a bad thing.

    As for sci-fi video games…I like the classics. From two very bad sci-fi movies I bring you: Mario Brothers 117 and Final Fantasy 63 (or 64…62?…I don’t remember, it was 60 something).

  3. Wayne the Shrink

    Coming from a previous generation let me point out one major difference between gaming and all other previous entertainment. Gaming is the first entertainment that allows actual participation in the entertainment on a physically active level in an alien (not created by the imagination of the player) environment. That environment is structured and manipulated by decisions outside the player. Morality and the consequences of actions and choices are structured by the creator of the game, not by external reality.

    I anticipate that there will be a debate, and likely in my children’s lifetime, on the definition of ‘reality’. This will be a very real debate, and perhaps a legal issue, arguing that the alternative realities created by such games should be accepted as parallel and equal to experienced reality outside the games.

    We already see the beginnings of this in game economies, in tactile involvement in games, and with people who today spend more of their lifetime in a game environment than they do in reality. Add in the increasing liklihood of direct brain interfaces and you have all that is needed for this argument to begin to be valid.

    This will have a significant and massive impact on society. Far from being entertainment, Colin, I think they will become reality for a significant minority of the population.

  4. Great comments, everyone! Kyle, I agree with you on that, and 7 out of 9 justices did as well. We’ll see what happens with this sort of legislation in the future (Justice Alito made it clear that he would likely vote for a bill that was more tightly focused and better worded).

    Colin and Wayne, the contrast between your predictions is very interesting! Depending on your story, either approach would make for a cool setting, even if it only acts as a background. I think both are very plausible, or even both at once- there are different levels of interest in video games today, so why not in the future? We have so-called “hardcore gamers” now, the type that either consider themselves elite connoisseurs or are often obsessively engrossed in gaming marathons. Having players in the future who willingly and enthusiastically submit themselves to harsh consequences in gameplay (such as actual financial loss or even bodily harm) wouldn’t be so far-fetched.

  1. Pingback: Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (The When’s, Why’s, Do’s, and Don’ts) Part II « While We're Paused

  2. Pingback: Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (The When’s, Why’s, Do’s, and Don’ts) Part IV « While We're Paused

  3. Pingback: Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (Summation 1) Part V « While We're Paused

  4. Pingback: Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (Summation 2) « While We're Paused

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