Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog. I decided to do something different and put together two of my favourite things in the world: video games and science fiction. As such, I’ll be answering to a video by Extra Credits on the subject of sci-fi video games.
The game really starts to fall apart for me when it says it will use a looser definition of sci-fi than “most purists”. You may use a more abridged or simplistic definition of the subject you’re going into but a looser definition? There are no looser definitions, you either use the dictionary definition or you don’t. That’s how things usually work, man.
So what is science fiction?
In resume, sci-fi is all fiction that speculates on the future of mankind. It uses concepts of futuristic cities and science, faster than light travel, alternative universes, time travel and alternative universes. If often explores the possibilities and consequences of science on humanity, Earth, and the Universe and has given us many ideas for scientific innovations. This time of fiction usually as a basis, even if faint, on real life science though that always doesn’t have to be true. For example, From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne was by no means based in any science (or barely any science) that existed in 1865 and it is a sci-fi book.
As best said by Isaac Asimov:
“Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”
Now, there is hard and soft sci-fi.
Hard sci-fi is the kind that takes place in worlds or realities of things that could possibility happen and even has made predictions of technology or achievements of mankind. Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne are good examples of that. Hard sci-fi is also known for having actual science in it and detailing such science, as such, some authors of this type of sci-fi are actually scientists. Another noteworthy author is Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and co-wrote the script for the movie.
Soft sci-fi, on the other hand, is based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political sciences or sociology. The term is also sometimes associated with absurd “science” and unlikely situations but is also used to describe sci-fi stories that focus on character and story rather than on the science itself. These stories are by no mean soft as two good examples of this kind of sci-fi prove Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Let’s keep these definitions in mind and also the fact that the two can blur.
Next, I’ll have to explain what science fantasy is because he says that video games create science fantasy, not science fiction.
In short, science fantasy is a type of fiction that puts together elements from fantasy (such as magic) with elements from sci-fi (such as time travel). Star Trek is considered Science Fantasy by many (including Arthur C. Clarke), which is also a point where the video fails.
The difference between SCI-FI and FANTASY SCIENCE is the difference between Star Wars and/or Star Trek (if you want to consider them fantasy science) and Doctor Who. No matter what, none of them stop being sci-fi because they have elements of fantasy.
Another thing I would like to explain in the term suspension of disbelief.
Often used in literature, suspension of disbelief is what makes you believe that in a world of fantasy creatures like dragons and elves evolved into existence (or popped into it whatever floats the creator’s boat). It’s what makes the impossible possible and all of fiction sits on its lap, whatever it’s fantasy, sci-fi or fantasy science.
This is another reason why the ST vs SW = sci-fi and fantasy science doesn’t work. Both sit on the lap of suspension of disbelief and want you to believe that what they show you is real and could be real in the universe the characters live in.
SW is always told as being in “a galaxy far, far, far away” where these humans could be so advanced that some can use their mind to move objects and where there are honorable knights. Although it does takes much from high fantasy (high fantasy is stories like The Lord of the Rings, pretty much), that doesn’t mean that it stops being sci-fi or showing possible technology for humanity, it just happens to take some elements from high fantasy.
There is no sci-fi versus fantasy sci-fi, just because you’re using magic and technology in your story it doesn’t magically stops being sci-fi. It just isn’t like that. Just because you’re Final Fantasy XIII or Chrono Trigger and you have this whole mixture between fantasy elements and sci-fi elements, you don’t stop being any of those things, because things can be of many genres and, in fact, who cares if sci-fi games aren’t hard sci-fi? It would probably be boring for most people if Deus Ex: Human Revolution dealt with the science behind Adam’s new body rather than with the social impact of Adam’s new body.
And then I scratch my head.
Doom was made way back when, when stories weren’t such a big deal (they still aren’t but roll with me for a sec). You didn’t need the complicated plot because you were a kid and wanted to fight demons in Mars because that’s cool. Of course, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was sitting there, but most of us wouldn’t care for a story and most of us didn’t even understand English to understand any explications if any is given to us.
With this, I would like to go back to the concept of suspension of disbelief.
Everything that wants to believe in has to provide us with an explanation. Witchers don’t just exist, it is explained that Witchers are (mostly) boys stolen from their families who get intensive training and go through magical mutations to become a Witcher and most of the boys actually die trying to become Witchers. You believe in the existence of a Witcher because it is explained to you how they came to be and what they’re needed for. There is another world, with magic and monsters, that needs (mostly) heartless mercenaries to dispose of them. These monsters are part of the world’s fauna as much as tigers and dogs are part of ours. And the same works for magic and science.
Everything needs a reason and if something looks out of place and isn’t explained the world starts to fall apart because your suspension of disbelief is broken. Which is why people would raise their eyebrows if Metal Gear Solid just threw you into the game and said, “Big Boss is evil, now kill him”.
Of course, Doom works differently because it’s meant to be a fun shooter and not an experiment on fantasy and/or sci-fi tropes à la Taro Yoko.
The reason why we are so scared of making video games mundane is because they’re our escape from our mundane lives. They’re this place where we can go mount a dragon, fight wizards or drive a spaceship to meet up with some aliens. Even the most mundane of all games, The Sims, offers some absurd elements to make it looks less mundane.
When video games become just another part of our lives we stop having a need for it because they’re no longer the magical (and sometimes thought provoking) adventures that we once sought out so quickly. While Extra Credits can perfectly video games can become mundane through something, but I don’t think we can turn the video game into mundane things because we only want to do the things we see in video games because they seem so magical and cool and life changing. Once they become mundane they stop being cool. Maybe we’ll want to climb up a building because it’s thrilling but after a while a Portal Gun will become as mundane as our fridges or cell phones.
As for sci-fi games…
I think everyone owns Deus Ex an apologize.