Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (The When’s, Why’s, Do’s, and Don’ts) Part IV
Posted by erikthereddest
Hello all, it’s that time of the week again, and I’m here with another installment of Science Fiction Problems. I’ve still got a couple things left to say about video games in Science Fiction, but next week will be the last part of this series. I’ve got some new stuff after that , starting with a review of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. This week, I wanted to highlight another aspect of modern video games that I haven’t seen handled in a way that makes sense.
Mobile Games and the Future of Location-Independent Computing
Last week I talked about social games and the Skinner Box trick that’s used in many of them, but there’s another similar genre that most people lump together with Farmville and its ilk: mobile games. Games created specifically to be played on a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet PC, devices that otherwise have very limited hardware and are incapable of the sort of AAA games available for higher-end laptops and desktop computers. Angry Birds and other puzzle-type games are some of the most known, but a quick look online will return results for a much broader spectrum of games available, including a large number of surprisingly sophisticated ones, many with 3D graphic s and complicated programming that would have been considered current-generation only 7-10 years ago… now on a device that can fit in the palm of your hand.
While we’ve already discussed the Technological Singularity and how it’s not necessarily reasonable to assume that our current rate of development will continue to increase exponentially, within the span of 2 years, we have achieved a growth in the sophistication of mobile games that it took the rest of the video gaming industry 10 years to accomplish. And, the further we go into developing this technology, the more a particular trend becomes clear- the decreasing need for location-based computing, relying on a cumbersome, stationary system on which to play games or use our work-related programs.
Not only that, but there is currently a push for individual game consoles or computers to be done away with entirely. Listening to the news or browsing the internet, you’ve probably come across the term “cloud computing“, which essentially means using a network of computers as if it were one giant one. This method can be used with wireless internet to connect a smaller device normally incapable of a given task to use the cloud to handle it instead- meaning that a mobile device can use the computing power or data storage capacity of a whole group of computers instead of its own, meager hardware. A common example is the ever-useful (and beloved in our particular group) Google Docs. All that information is stored online, with practically no limits to memory, and can be accessed from a smartphone or any other device, without storing the data on the device itself. Go check it out if you haven’t already, its incredibly useful.
So, what does this mean, exactly? Well, right now there are limitations on how much data can be transmitted wirelessly, but after that’s solved, it could mean being able to play high-end games and use hardware-intensive programs on the go, without having to lug around an expensive laptop. This could mean playing the latest video games on your cellphone, or editing high-resolution images or videos, easily, on a mobile device.
What we’re looking at is a future without a limit on what can be done with a mobile device.
How this figures into Science Fiction
OK, so now that I’m done geeking out about mobile technology, we can get down to actually using this stuff. I think many of you have seen a sci-fi movie where the characters are using some kind of arm-mounted computer (usually with a holographic display), but I’m sure you just assumed that the little unit had all the hardware built into it, and it was cheap enough to be widely used. Well, while that would certainly be possible and plausible, it’s more likely that such a computer would use a network like the one I described above. Obviously, you could have such a device and never go into any detail as to how it works, but if you want to add a layer of world-building that will make your world feel more real, here are a few ways you could utilize this emerging technology:
- Differences Between Consumer and Professional Devices: If there are very few expensive parts in the actual computers that the general populace of a culture purchase, the devices will be very affordable and inexpensive. There would likely be a service fee to connect the device to the network, but that wouldn’t be necessary. The only downsides would be that the device would not work as well (or at all) without a network connection, and using a wireless connection could open the door for government monitoring of data and possible hacking. More expensive devices could contain the hardware, not relying on a network and therefore not be as vulnerable to hacking or connection problems. This could be a way to explain why the elite hacker in your group of characters isn’t nabbed by the evil corporation he constantly harasses, or why a group of activists is constantly found out by a government bent on global dictatorship.
- Saturation of Media and Video Games: With such cheap, powerful devices available, the level of saturation a culture would see of media in all its forms would surpass anything we see today. As I mentioned in the last post, practically anyone could develop games or programs themselves, and depending on the culture, the kinds of media that the populace creates (or are able to create) and consumes would be a great way of characterizing them. With mobile devices, a government could easily censor forms of speech it doesn’t like, but potentially anyone could become an activist in their own right (or, as it were, the protagonist of your story).
(I tried to embed it, but alas. No youtube links. They’ve done several others, so if you’re at all interested in the video game industry and discussing video games as a medium, they’re all fantastic.)
About erikthereddestI'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 July 20, 2011, in Cliches, Editing, Erik Marsh, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, science fiction problems, World Creation, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged cloud computing, Google Docs, how to write science fiction, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mobile Games, science fantasy, science fiction, science fiction problems, Skinner Box, Suzanne Collins, technology, The Hunger Games, the singularity, video games. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.