Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (Summation 1) Part V
This is the fifth (and final) part of a series. For the other parts, click the following links:
Part I: Video Games as a Part of Culture
Part II: A Brief History of Virtual Reality and its Role in Science Fiction
Part III: Psychological Conditioning in Gaming
Part IV: Mobile Computing and Video Games in Science Fiction
After several weeks in this series I think its time to move on, but first I want to summarize what we’ve talked about here and give you some questions to ask yourself when trying to wrestle with these ideas in your stories. So, let’s start with the ideas we talked about in Part I and II.
Video Games in Your World
Bearing the legal questions of selling mature-rated video games to minors in the California law discussed in Part I, the legal and social place of video games in your own story world should be considered and thought through if you intend to include them. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out where video games fit into your world in general:
- Are video games generally considered closer to art or merely a distraction? Depending on how they are viewed by the culture, they could develop into a primary form of expression, or recede into meaningless entertainment. If it isn’t important to your culture, it doesn’t have to figure into your story, so this is a good way of factoring out video games if you don’t want to deal with them.
- To what degree are video games regulated in your world? How much is content restricted, and in what ways? Are violent, sexualized games widespread and accepted, or are they restricted and minimized? What does the culture that accepts this look like? Is development of video games restricted or open? Can just anyone make games, about anything they want, or does the government regulate developers?
The Place of Virtual Reality in Culture:
As we discussed in Part II, virtual reality has (apparently) been a part of science fiction since nearly the very beginning. It’s become such a staple of modern sci fi that it would feel strange to not have it at least addressed in your science fiction story, especially if its particularly futuristic. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help figure out how this idea fits in your story:
- What uses would your culture have for virtual reality? This goes beyond whether or not it exists in your world, going to the simple matter of whether or not it would be used. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a good example of this- while the technology almost certainly exists in her world, It isn’t likely to be very useful to her characters. Most are simply surviving, others get their daily entertainment out of watching children fight to the death in an American-Idol-gone-wrong game show. In this example, virtual reality is simply unimportant to the story, and so Collins doesn’t even have to address it. If you find that your culture really would have uses for virtual reality, how widely is it used? Does it have professional applications, or is it just entertainment?
- Is it a world or merely an interface? Is virtual reality just a cool way that your characters play video games, or is it a world in itself? We talked about cyberspace and how it developed, but having virtual reality in your world doesn’t necessarily mean that your characters have their own version of The Matrix. Not all stories need or can afford to take on the idea of a virtual world. Careful! Unless you plan to have your version of cyberspace is a primary part of your story, it can be very difficult to balance it and make both worlds feel necessary. If you decide it is, you’ll need to answer the same questions you will for the real world.
- What does Cyberspace look like?: If you choose to include it, cyberspace must have its proper place. New forms of crime, new forms of businesses, forms of entertainment, all come with a virtual world. You will need to define the rules and the possibilities of this world. Who has access to it, who controls it, and how do all of these issues affect the real world? I’ll likely make a post about this to help put together a virtual world, but if you give it some thought, you can apply any of recommendations for world-building we’ve given in previous posts.