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What draws you to science fiction?

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What essential elements to you look for in a science fiction game? IOW, what "things" makes it science fiction, to the extent that if they were removed, the game would no longer appeal to you? I've got some categories, but feel free to add your own. What elements would be most important, and what elements least? 1) Visual Representation: Futuristic look and feel to objects and places. You love the beauty of space and stellar environments, or ultra-modernist geometry that makes up cars, buildings or character outfits. 2) Cool Wow Themes: Lightsabers, mutants, lasers. You've grown up with these themes, from books and movies, and you like seeing them in a game for their wow factor. You don't mind swinging a +1 sword to solve a problem, but dammit, it better be a "light sword!" 3) Unique Environments: Sci-fi offers environments that you couldn't or don't often encounter in any other genre. Open space, lunar environments, rotted urban hellholes, etc. 4) Genre Exclusion: You can't stand elves, fairies and all that other crap ([smile]stolen from a Fallout ad years ago). 5) Inherent Complexity: The future is just more complicated than the past. You like that the world may have more gray that black and white, as is common in fantasy. 6) A Well Imagined World: You expect the game world to be well thought out. You read the email / datacubes / etc. found in game, care about the character motivations, and want background on the factions or empires. The worst thing in the world you can hear is "Generic Megacorporation X took over the world and blah blah blah" 7) Impossible Possibilities: You like the thought of encountering what you simply wouldn't encounter in other games: Aliens, different worlds, or technology impossible or unavailable to another time. 8) Scientific Faithfulness: You like science, and you like to see it faithfully represented in a game. You're not afraid of physics, or chemistry or biology, but at the same time don't necessarily want to have to have a PhD to play the game. You just want it to be somewhat accurate. 9) Unqiue Gameplay: Just face it, you can't drive a mech or fly a battleship in a medieval game. What you use is more important than how you use it (that is, a wagon just won't due, even if it has the same gameplay as Halo's Warthog). 10) Future-philia: You like the sense of being there. Post-apocalyptic, utopia, Tron cyberworld, whatever, the world doesn't matter, you just want good gameplay in a futuristic environment. Any others?

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6,7 and 8... and 2

Freedom man, freedom. SciFi is a means to an end. Most games based on a known mythology/reality binds player and story to a known universe. SciFi (and fantasy i guess) allows the author to experiment. Alternative moral-systems and ethics, interesting technological advances and/or alternatives and philosophies based on non-standard axioms. It's a playground for authors, artists and philosophers alike.

If you want an immersive story which caters to the intelligent player, you need freedom freed from preconceived ideas. Everything else has been done in one way or another.

Oh, and light-sabers are pretty damn cool.

This is my first post in a long time. And im drunk. Bare with me.

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If you compare to fantasy, I like science fiction better because it has a more analytic, less mystical way of looking at things, which agrees more with my own perspective.

For 3 you might also want to include unique cultural environments, and psychological environments inside character's heads.

I consider 6 to be the most important, but this virtue can also be found in fantasy and historical fiction, it's not exclusive to science fiction. Basically I like learning about unique, surprising (because they're new to me), well-designed worlds, especially the culture and biology of those worlds, and the psychology of individual characters having this biology and living in this culture. Science fiction fans are often said to be motivated by xenophilia, love of the new and different.

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Original post by NewDeal
...SciFi (and fantasy i guess) allows the author to experiment. Alternative moral-systems and ethics, interesting technological advances and/or alternatives and philosophies based on non-standard axioms. It's a playground for authors, artists and philosophers alike.

What he said.
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...Everything else has been done in one way or another.

Which is why I don't care about #9 and quite frankly can think of no examples. Similar thoughts can be expressed about #3, #2, & #7.

I like #1.
#4 is a non-issue as is #5, there's no reason to expect the future to be more complicated and the games certainly do not bear this out.

#6 is vital. I'm a reader.
#8 is good. I like to think what I'm seeing could happen.
#10 ....eh, not quite like Wavinator puts it, perhaps the first half of the statements. I like being there in those worlds but I don't have an affinity for them over other settings.

The thing is, "science fiction" is described only by the first statements I quote from NewDeal's post. Sci-Fi has nothing to do with space ships, other planets, aliens, or even technology. No thing makes something science fiction. Look again at this quote, "interesting technological advances". Not important, not earth-shattering; technology merely provides the backdrop.

To say that we look for certain things in science fiction games implies that science fiction games are somehow different than the rest of them. The point I'm getting to, and this part's important, is that Wavinator's list works for all games(provided you translate #4 to 'no cliches', #8 to 'consistency', and only use the first sentence from #10-You like the sense of being there). When looked at it from the perspective that the list transcends genre, I'll say that all of them are essential, but for 'sci-fi' games only, see my opinions above.

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This is my first post in a long time. And im drunk. Bare with me.

Good post, glad to see you came back.

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well sci-fi for me relates to an alternate reality that is akin or based on ours. sci fi can draw more parallels to our current world than fantasy, I think.

we have computers, sci-fi has computers. planes, cars, have sci fi equivalent.
stars, galaxies are known to us now. sci fi can draw the player's knowledge of these things to provide more immersion than fantasy games. give the player a computer terminal and the player can associate a thousand images, uses for the computer simply because the uses probably some experience with computers.

Personally sci fi appeals to me because of the what-if factor. jules verne's novels come to mind. They were considered science fiction yet we now have submarines and have put men on the moon and back. I like a world that may be the future of our world.

in response to your elements: 6 would be my best bet.
a well thought out world that has many parallels with the current world so player can supply some of the immersion but with enough new things to make the world interesting.

8 is also good provided general laws of nature are preserved or adequate reasons (technology) is provided

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i always liked robert heinlein's "Science Fiction is speculative fiction in which the author takes as his first postulate the real world as we know it, including all established facts and natural laws. The result can be extremely fantastic in content, but it is not fantasy; it is legitimate--and often very tightly reasoned--speculation about the possibilities of the real world."

most of what most people think is "science fiction" is really "futuristic fantasy"... not that i have a problem with that genre :)

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I like SF as a way to indirectly hold a mirror up to our own society and examine it without being in your face. Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, Left Hand of Darkness, even Star Wars all have important things to say about the world we live in. And they are still entertaining.

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Original post by krez
most of what most people think is "science fiction" is really "futuristic fantasy"... not that i have a problem with that genre :)


I think here we run into the problem of language - is it how a term is commonly (mis)used or how a term is defined by "experts" that determines its actual meaning?

Myself, I use "SF" to cover a range of meanings depending on mood, company and context. As a rough rule of thumb, I regard "hard SF" as "the equations and diagrams are in the back of the book" while "movie SF" is "anything involving space ships and laser beams" (pretty much what krez is calling "futuristic fantasy").

Of course, there are cases which blur the boundaries between SF and fantasy - a good example being Anne McCaffrey's Dragon series - the earlier stories look like pure fantasy, while the later writings look a lot more SF (though possibly not very hard SF)

Or there's the example of Battlefield Earth which has (in the edition I own) a lengthy foreword reminiscing about the author's days of writing for the magazines, as a way of lending credibility to the eventual assertion "... as an old pro, I assure you that it is pure science fiction." - an assertion that I find a little hard to believe - not because the post-apocalyptic setting is non-SF, but because the science is shockingly poor in places - I particularly notice the maths, but I assume the rest is as bad.

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What draws me to science fiction is the inventor in me that empathetically responds to new ideas and inventions. I also am drawn to it because of the physical boundaries of travel are so vast (across time and space itself) that it represents the kind of distance requirements my form of escape enjoys.

I enjoy science fiction because I was raised in the Air Force, where my dad worked on projects like the x-15, the rocket sled, Area 51, etc. I got exposed to it, flew in it, watched them streak across the sky, and well, was hooked for life the second Niel Armstrong spoke in the greatest remote broadcast of all time to date.

Adventuredesign

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I agree with all the ones you've listed, except for one little point.
None of them are really essential to sci-fi. They're all generally nice to have, and can be really cool, but you could make a sci-fi game without any of those, and I might still be interested in it.

I suppose the main thing for sci-fi, is the feeling that "This could happen". Admittedly, it might not happen without a devastating nuclear war, or the discovery of FTL space travel, but it *could* happen. ;)
Or at least, it should feel like it could.
Another side effect of this, is of course that bonus points will be awarded for trying to draw connections or parallels back to the real world, give a few hints to how our world turned into the world portrayed in the game. :)

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Original post by rmsgrey
I think here we run into the problem of language - is it how a term is commonly (mis)used or how a term is defined by "experts" that determines its actual meaning?

for me, it depends on who i am talking to :)
i'll lump it all in "sci-fi" when i'm BSing with someone who isn't as huge a geek as i am, but considering this thread is related to Wavinator's game design, i think it is a very important distinction because it will determine the game's audience.
why do you think the star wars dorks and the trekkie dorks hate each other? and don't forget the hardcore dorks that think neither counts a sci-fi :)

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I guess for me, the thing that draws me to SF is the way the science is part of the story. You may still have a thingamajig that enables the hero to do just about anything, but there is at least some attempt to explain how it could work - while the Platinum Uber Sword of Doom is just plain magic, a Light Saber is some form of projected forcefield (which is borderline "magic"), and a monafilament encased in a stasis field is hardly magical at all...

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a science fiction author once described sci-fi as "Modern mythology" since it allowed an authoer to explore topics and themes that could not be exlpored in other forms. If you want to write about what people are willing to do to survie when their civilization has been destory and its people scattered, and how this reflect both on personal and social level then sci-fi is the ideal medium with which to explore this topic in.

In regards to the topics you've listed I would say the most important aspect of sci-fi to me is how the technology effects, and relates to the world in which it exists and the people who live there. I'm less interested in reading pages upon pages of details on andriod constuction and technology, then I am on reading pages on the impact that androids have had on the society.

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I've been absorbing the feedback so far (big thanks!) and wanted to say how surprised I am at the responses surrounding worldbuilding and big ideas (social / technical impact, how things might turn out, etc.)

Would anyone care to hazzard a guess at what's behind this, psychologically? Is it just human nature to want to know how things work? Or do we subconsciously want to know how things will turn out if we experience this change or that technology shift (the "what-if" impact)?

Or is it, maybe, just a case of liking complexity and texture?

(Hope this question makes sense)

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i don't think it is so much knowing how things work (a lot of it makes hardly any sense at all, generally, unless you got a book with pages upon pages of physics notes to catch you up), but rather it lends familiarity that the story can build on. it is similar to some posts i have seen here about using themes/religions/whatever that are familiar to the players; one can relate to a device that shoots laser beams more than to a magic stick that shoots fireballs, simply because we know that complex devices can be (and have been) built, and that lasers do exist.
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Original post by TechnoGoth
a science fiction author once described sci-fi as "Modern mythology" since it allowed an authoer to explore topics and themes that could not be exlpored in other forms.

i think this is key. if you want a story about humans as we know them (but under some altered circumstances, such as the way androids would affect society), you have to start with humans as we know them. fantasy just, wouldn't work here; you'd end up with a book about how the androids affect the society of some other people in some other place, and not just an extrapolation of reality.

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Original post by krez
if you want a story about humans as we know them (but under some altered circumstances, such as the way androids would affect society), you have to start with humans as we know them. fantasy just, wouldn't work here; you'd end up with a book about how the androids affect the society of some other people in some other place, and not just an extrapolation of reality.


? Sorry, I'm a bit confused. You can't be saying that we simply want familiarity, right? If that was the case, then you'd think we should stick more closely to things we know (guns, not masers; near earth, solar system only, not a galaxy far, far away, etc.)

I hate to throw the big R word (realism) but maybe what so many are looking for is the semblance of a world / universe realistic enough to be lifelike on many levels. But if that were all, fantasy would be an equivalent, when I know for many it is not.

Or am I missing this completely?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
sorry, after re-reading my post it did seem to come out kinda crappily...
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I hate to throw the big R word (realism) but maybe what so many are looking for is the semblance of a world / universe realistic enough to be lifelike on many levels. But if that were all, fantasy would be an equivalent, when I know for many it is not.

it isn't about being "lifelike on many levels" (any good author can do that in any genre), it is about being lifelike on many level while not crossing the line into the impossible or purely made-up (it is all purely made up i know, but fantasy doesn't care if it is magic that does it or if the third law of thermodynamics was just broken; SF will at least invent a good, logical-sounding reason for those wacky things to work). i guess what i am trying to say is that science fiction attempts to explain itself in terms of our actual reality, whereas fantasy expects a "oh that's cool" and gives no further explanation.
as for familiarity, i meant that people's brains are made to recognize and categorize patterns, and doing so "makes it happy" (so much for a technical definition, heh). that is why so many people see the face of jesus or elvis in mold or on trees, because their brain is "recognizing" a known pattern amid what is actually random stuff.
before you accuse me of going off on a tangent: one of those old final fantasy games had both Excalibur and a Masamune sword available at some point, because it is much more fun to get a legendary sword (one from a completely different mythos, and the other from reality, which i suppose counts as a different mythos than wherever that game took place) with all of those associations floating around in your imagination, than it is to get a powerful, but less familiar Platinum Uber Sword of Doom (much better quality, but there aren't tons of stories about it that everyone has read or at least heard of (yet)).
in the same way, it is more fun (for a hard-SF fan) to learn that this nifty thing in the game/book/movie is an extrapolation of something real, that they already know about (being a geek and all), and can kind of understand how it works. rather than a completely new random thing, it is a thing that fits in the already-known pattern, but in a new way (that hopefully relates to the theme, if it is any good).

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Original post by Wavinator
I've been absorbing the feedback so far (big thanks!) and wanted to say how surprised I am at the responses surrounding worldbuilding and big ideas (social / technical impact, how things might turn out, etc.)

Would anyone care to hazzard a guess at what's behind this, psychologically? Is it just human nature to want to know how things work? Or do we subconsciously want to know how things will turn out if we experience this change or that technology shift (the "what-if" impact)?

Or is it, maybe, just a case of liking complexity and texture?

(Hope this question makes sense)


Well, I suppose what it boils down to is that stories are only interesting when we can relate to them.
We can accept weird aliens with lots of tentacles or squid for heads, because there's a lot we don't know, and hey, maybe those guys do exist somewhere. At least, we don't know for a fact that it's untrue. ;)
But a shallow world, or stupidly singleminded species (say, an entire race who are completely incapable of thinking about anything other than warfar, research or money (depending on which of these cliché's/traits have been assigned to the specific race)) is harder to swallow, because we know pretty damn well that people aren't that simple. We know for a fact that big ideas do have social / technological impact. We know for a fact that wherever lots of sentient beings get together, things happen, and an entire race of individual tends to disagree with each others and have different goals and ideas. Worldbuilding does take place, so to speak. Ignoring this just makes it seem flat and not very interesting.

Saying that we want "familiarity" might not be the right word, but we do want something we can relate to. Something that doesn't violate the things we know about. (Which might be less scientific that, say, the laws of thermodynamics, but instead refer to stuff like how a sentient lifeform thinks or reacts. There might be a way to travel faster than light, but there's no way we can accept a static, shallow world)

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I love SciFi for many reasons, one of them being that it gives us some insights on what a futuristic society might be.
Currently a common view is that our societal organisation has defaults but is still the best solution. I really like when an author has built a complete system where life for an individual is better than it is in our society, even if his model is flawed or limited.

I also really like the ideas scifi authors can have, think of the human machine interface shown in Minority Report, it can be a great innovation once we have easily accessible holographic techniques.

Also it expends the horizon, being presented with green aliens can change the perspective on the skin color of your neighbour...

SciFi should be a part of the education of our children!!!!!!
(five exclamation marks, I'm turning mad)

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Would anyone care to hazzard a guess at what's behind this, psychologically? Is it just human nature to want to know how things work? Or do we subconsciously want to know how things will turn out if we experience this change or that technology shift (the "what-if" impact)?

Or is it, maybe, just a case of liking complexity and texture?


Are you familiar with the idea that fiction is important because it's the only form of communication complicated enough to be capable of transmitting memes? This is related to TechnoGoth's comment that sff = modern mythology; one theory of mythology is that it evolve as a vehicle for tribe members to be able to teach each other how to solve various problems, like how to kill a 'monster', how to deal with someone who is jealous, how to make it back to civilization after being abandoned alone in the woods, how to become an adult - a lot of the basic problems of early human life.

By using a time period/technology/culture other than our current one, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction avoid the ambiguous muddle of real life and replace this with a deep coherent worldbuilding of their own to communicate to audiences new ideas(memes) about individuals in societies. What DungeonMaster said about utopias - "a complete system where life for an individual is better than it is in our society", and pwrhaps more commonly dystopias - a society designed to highlight one particular problem and force the characters to deal with it in a variety of aspects from a variety of angles.

A sf story with good worldbuilding is like having an interesting intelligent discussion about how the world works; a story with no worldbuilding is like listening to someone repeat the same old thing over again; and a story with rudimentary incoherent worldbuilding is like listening to someone babble nonsense.

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I like science fiction because there can be some very clever ideas in them that may come to fruition in the real world sometime in the future (star treks' communicator waay back then was simply amazing to me the first time I watched and now we have the mobile phone). Although I like fantasy too, it doesn't interest me too much because I know there's no magic in the real world...sob.

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IMO science fantasy is just futuristic fantasy instead, and I like pretty much all fantasy for the same reason - different possibilities. It isn't that the new possibilities are better, there are more of them, or any of that really (well, as long as the new possibilities aren't entirely inferior to existing posibilities) just that they offer something different.

I guess that would be 7, but I feel the way you worded #7 isn't quite the same as what I'm thinking.

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Another thing about SF is that it offers the chance to explore solutions before the problem exists.

By focusing on the future, it offers a chance to see where we might be going.

A quote I encountered some years back classifys SF into three types:

"What if?"
"If only..."
and
"If this goes on!"

Of the three, I tend to find "If only..." the most boring (as a massive generalisation), "What if?" the most exciting, and "If this goes on!" probably the most worthy...

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