Science Fiction Problems: Video Games (Summation 2)

This is the final part of a series, and the second part of the series’ summation. 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

Summation I: Questions to ask yourself while considering the above

Well, here we are at the final pieces of this enormous puzzle. Thanks for being patient with me while I attempt to cover every angle of this topic. I hope this series has been informative and interesting. Next week I’ll have my review of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, as promised, but now, lets take a look at those final two parts, and what we can do with them:

Social Gaming and Psychological Conditioning Through Video Games:

social gaming demographics age pie chart by Newzoo

Age demographics by Newzoo - keep in mind that these games tend to appeal to all ages

Nefarious intent or otherwise, using games designed to manipulate its players to act as their creators want… would be attractive to many organizations/governments/corporations. Whether for profit or social engineering, you might want to use psychologically-conditioning  video games in your story. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out how they would fit:

  • Significance: We already have Skinner Box-type video games in our own world, so for them to matter (and hence be usable as a plot point) they have to be significant in your story, and different enough to be interesting. First, how significant do you want these games to be in your story? You could do anything from merely describe the daily, gamified tasks of a character as he apathetically works at his work console, making the game only a descriptor of your world, or the games could easily be the entire focus of the plot. Perhaps no one realizes that they are actually being brainwashed by these repetitive, addictive games, and the one who finally understands must find a way to stop the corporation/government who creates them from gaining control of the population through hypnotic suggestion. Try to think of the ends these games could meet, and how they could be abused.
  • Prevalence: Tied into this is the degree to which these games permeate your world- is it something of a full-scale epidemic inexplicable and alarming to anyone who analyzes the trend, or simply a localized thing, within certain companies or industries, or even only in specific subsets of the population (more or less how it is in our world). Prevalence would greatly affect the significance of these games in your world- if literally everyone is playing them, that says a lot about your characters and how their minds work.
  • Motivation: Finally, who puts out these games, and why? Are they just a product created to sate the appetite of the customers, or are they an instrument of control? Are there laws and regulations to control these games, how they’re made and who’s making them? How do different cultures in your world view these games, or use them?

The Place and Nature of Mobile Technology:

wimax road to 4g mobile technology

We already have 4G wireless connections to give us an idea of where the technology will go in the future

While this one’s kind of a given in a lot of stories, if you want your technology to feel like it developed naturally from our own, you should take mobile technology into account. Here are some questions to help you use mobile technology in your story:

  • Availability: We talked about how this technology would allow people to use powerful computers wherever they want, but just where is “wherever”? We’ve all had to go hunting for a wireless internet hotspot on occasion; do the characters in your world have to do something similar? There are already city-wide wireless connections in our world, are your cities similar? This would be a good way to distinguish between urban and rural areas, of course, but also slums, refugee camps- any place where undesirables gather would likely not have great internet reception. Other than the service itself, who actually has access to these devices? Are they expensive, limited in number, or regulated? A dictatorial government would likely have something to say about its citizens having access to the internet (they do in our world), especially if you have cyberspace in your world. Certainly the sort of self-contained models that do not require a connection would be at a premium in such a world, and would likely be reserved for only the elite and properly licensed agents of the state. Think about how the availability of these mobile devices and the services required to run them would affect or be affected by your world.
  • Hackers: There should always be hazards associated with power, even if they go unrecognized. This offers a feeling of balance, and thus allows you, the author, to skew that balance to one side or another in order to create conflict. The same goes for mobile technology, and you should take into consideration what sorts of hazards we already face our day, and how those might translate. One rather obvious example is hackers- people who are skilled in working themselves into the cracks of security and exploiting tricks and loopholes to get a system to give them what they want. In our world, that is often information- financial information to be used to steal funds, or some dirty secrets to be used to gain leverage against someone. More and more today, however, we are seeing Hacktivist (hacker activist) that have some political motivation, using their powers to cause havok for their enemies. Especially if practically anyone can get hold of a powerful mobile device, practically anyone could be a hacker if they had the right skills. It could be that hackers are central to your plot, or you might not want to consider them at all, but you should think about how they would be handled in your world.
  • Other Hazards: Depending on how your world is set up, other hazards could be having your data watched by someone you don’t want seeing it. Overbearing governments, corporations, or perhaps a private citizen with the right strings to pull could find a way to gain control of the flow of information. This could be a 1984 “Big Brother” situation, in which any sense of rebellion or dissent is met with harsh consequences, and only a handful of people have the right to free speech, or it could just be that illegal activity is recorded and used as evidence later. If you don’t want this situation, what prevents it? Are there laws, perhaps a certain bill of internet rights that the citizens cling to for protection? Remember that if there is some power left to be exploited, it likely will be unless there are specific actions taken to prevent it.

This concludes my summation, and the series. Don’t worry, I’m going to work on making my posts more stand-alone from now on, minimizing the series. It just so happens I had a lot to say on this topic, but from now on I’ll attempt to spread it out in a more reasonable way instead of dwelling on one subject this long.

Next week I’ll have that review I’ve been promising (I promise). Until then, did I miss anything in my summations? What are some other considerations that I didn’t cover?


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 August 3, 2011, in Cliches, Erik Marsh, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Plot, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, science fiction problems, World Creation, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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