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Playing video games? No, I’m doing philosophy | The Irish Times

Video games remain largely associated with youth and immaturity. When Frank Underwood – the evil, scheming central character of Netflix’s House of Cards – relaxes after a day’s politicking by playing the blood-splattering Call of Duty, the impression is conveyed that here is a man both juvenile and sadistic.

But according to Jordan Erica Webber and Daniel Griliopoulos, Underwood and real-life gamers may be doing a kind of philosophy, no less, by blasting enemy forces from the comfort of their armchairs.

On the grounds that “philosophy is about everything and games are about everything”, the authors of Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us advance the thesis that gaming is a forum for learning about key subjects like the nature of consciousness, logic and ethics.

Some games perform the function better than others, they say, citing Soma – a complex science fiction game based in an underwater research facility – as a stand-out example. Describing it as “a masterpiece on what it means to be human”, they say it produces “a feeling of existential dread that we’ve not experienced anything like (except perhaps after reading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger while eating bad seafood)”.

The authors also put up a valiant defence of violent video games despite admitting “many of the most popular games treat . . . killing and dying as the most trivial thing in the world”.

As this week’s “Unthinkable” guest, Griliopoulos – the appointed “death” specialist of the duo – explains just why video games should be taken seriously. “Despite their problems, games are also educative,” he argues. “They can show us how to grieve, what the value of life is, how to prepare for our death and that of our friends, and when killing is a mercy.”

What does the research tell us about a link between video games and either violence or a loss of empathy?

Griliopoulos: “With regard to violence, research tells us that there’s no link and no correlation. Prof Christopher Ferguson has been researching this field for several years, because the existing research in the field was so consistently terrible and biased. He’s come up with some startling findings – like finding that school shooters in the US are actually less likely to be interested in video games than their peers.

“Honestly, these questions seem to come from a background of assuming there’s a problem, then trying to find one. It’s a familiar form of moral panic, which happened with video nasties, Dungeons & Dragons, movies, rock and roll . . . and probably back as far as the printing press.”

Your survey of existing games shows that players tend to prefer simulations where they are immortal, or can be reborn. Does this reflect a fear of death, or a low boredom threshold – in that people don’t like to have to repeat their steps?

“I’d say, it more reflects a power fantasy, mingled with expectations from their real lives. Death is a rare occurrence in life and unique in an individual’s own life – that is, we will never directly experience our own death, only the states that lead up to it. So to reduce our capabilities from the real world would upset many players.”

Many futurologists believe we will be spending more time playing virtual reality games as technology pushes humans out of the workforce. Can one gain philosophical insights or enlightenment by playing such games?

“Absolutely, if you play the right games. Like all forms of media, games draw upon and inform the human experience. Soma might be a horror game, but through its narrative about mind-transference, it raises very difficult questions about identity, what constitutes a human mind and what is of moral worth, which philosophers have been exploring in thought experiments like The Chinese Room for generations.

“Similarly, the Ultima series of video games explored the ethics of being a good person, aka virtue ethics, whilst the blockbuster game Bioshock 2 took a look at the practical ethics of maximising happiness, aka utilitarianism.”

What would you say to the view that video games are inherently anti-philosophical as they only ever deal with a representation of reality. Plato, for example, gave us the allegory of the Cave where the prisoners – representing the ignorant – spent their time staring at flickering lights divorced from the real world. He would find it hard to see any merit in “Call of Duty”, would he not?

“Plato also wanted to ban poetry, because he saw it as a representation of a representation, and hence doubly-misleading. I’m sure he’d see all forms of fiction including games, movies and books in the same way. Whilst he’s the founder of philosophy, I wouldn’t argue that his views are widespread today.

“Nor would I accept that games are inherently anti-philosophical. They’re entertainment experiences that provoke feelings and thoughts, which are the foundations of philosophical insights.

“And mainstream games are more moral than most other media, partly because of their interactivity. They tend to have strong moral codes which the player has to enact to win the game, rewarding the player for actively doing the right thing, whatever that may be.

“The US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden told the investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald that games had informed his moral code, that along with history they had taught him that “seemingly ordinary people who are sufficiently resolute about justice can triumph over the most formidable adversaries”. Very few games revel in the sort of nihilism that blockbuster movies and popular crime books get away with every day.”

****

Ask a sage:

Question: Can wisdom come from staring at a screen?

Plato replies: “The mind’s eye begins to see clearly when the outer eyes grow dim.”

Source: Playing video games? No, I’m doing philosophy

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Why don’t we just… use games for good? – Big Issue North

As an art form, video games have come a long way since 1958’s Tennis for Two, but the medium still retains certain problems. Like books and movies, some popular games are violent or prejudiced, whilst others seem addictive.

That said, there are some games that are outright good, even educational. Organisations like Games For Change create and distribute these games to promote awareness of humanitarian issues. Zachtronics creates commercial games that combine entertainment effectively with learning. These range from Spacechem, a puzzle game that teaches the players about chemical reactions, to Infinifactory, a production line simulator, right up to TIS-100 and Shenzen I/O, which teach players about programming.

Beyond puzzles though, other genres have been adapted to be educational. Microsoft has released Minecraft: Education Edition for teachers, which uses the original game’s crafting, digging and open world exploration to promote creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. You might be sceptical, but a national survey in the US found that 71 per cent of teachers who used digital games in the classroom reported that they had been effective in improving their students’ mathematics learning.

Beyond the classroom, games also have a unique advantage in teaching philosophy. Unlike other media, games are interactive – the player always gets to choose what they do, to some degree. That means they’re extremely useful for getting people to live through the consequences of their philosophies. I’ve heard them called “social science petri dishes” for that reason.

For example, Papers, Please (PC, Mac, iOS) is a game about working in passport control on the border of a totalitarian state. Players have to keep track of a changing bureaucratic system to keep their job and provide for their family, whilst constantly being presented with ethical dilemmas. Is it worth losing your job (and perhaps life) to allow a political dissident to escape? Like the Democracy series of government simulators or the global disaster simulator Fate of the World, it’s a wonderful way of helping people understand the structures and complexities of modern political systems.

On the level of practical ethics, there are nuanced non-violent games like That Dragon Cancer, To The Moon and What Remains of Edith Finch, all of which deal with loss and grief in different ways. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Soma, on the other hand, manage to combine science fiction and horror with a thorough-going investigation into what it means to be human and what creatures are of moral worth. Even the popular Bioshock series raises questions about free will, utilitarianism and identity.

Of course, it’s easy for me to just assert these things. But games are a form of media that have become a moral guide to the millennial generation, who have grown up with them. US whistleblower Edward Snowden has asserted that games provided him with a moral structure that informed his actions – that they taught him that anyone, no matter how weak, is capable of confronting huge injustice. He told the journalist Glenn Greenwald that, in games, “the protagonist is often an ordinary person, who finds himself faced with grave injustices from powerful forces and has the choice to flee in fear or fight for his beliefs. And history also shows that seemingly ordinary people who are sufficiently resolute about justice can triumph over the most formidable adversaries.”

With the advent of massive virtual worlds, games and simulations could be the dominant entertainment form of the 21st century. If they are to be so, we have to recognise and encourage their educational and moral components – to make them games for good.

Daniel Griliopoulos is the co-author of Ten Things Videogames Can Teach Us: About Life, Philosophy, and Everything (Robinson, £10.49). He is also the lead content editor at the technology company Improbable

Source: Why don’t we just… use games for good? – Big Issue North

Deathbed Recommendations

This was written in December, 2013, the month before Ari was conceived. I found it in a pile of drafts. It’s worth noting, since this, that I’ve had several more hospital experiences that threatened to be fatal. Luckily, none have.

I don’t know if this is just me.

I was getting morbid. I had to go to the hospital a few weeks ago, so a doctor could put a camera up my urethra. There was a very small chance that what he found was going to be the death of me. So, I went a bit Luzhin in the shower before the event, and started following consequence chains as far as I could.

I thought about freezing some sperm, because it’s likely that if the Docs find something bad, the remedy will remove my ability to reproduce. Then I thought about not getting to see any resulting children grow up. And thought about recording messages to them, and then a yearly message, so (like DeTamble in the Time Traveller’s Wife) I’d be with them, fresh, for each year of their life.

Then I got to thinking about how I’d do it. Genial, wise monologues straight to camera is hackneyed but works. And then I thought about what I’d say. I’d recommend my favourite philosophy, my favourite fiction, the strange old books I’ve happened across which will give that otherworldly edge: Lacfadio Hearn, Kipling, Laurence Sterne, Mikhail Bulgakov, Erskine Childers, Olaf Stapledon and so on. An education by proxy, skipping me, back to the formative years of each medium. I even thought about a few movies I’d recommend: The Princess Bride, Duck Soup, Groundhog Day, Fight Club, Yojimbo, and so on. Light themes but with rich philosophy behind it.

A Book, Spoiled
Yet. I couldn’t think of any games I could honestly say a child of mine should spend time on. Time that would be educative, entertaining and efficient. That irks me a bit. Spelunky? No, too wasteful of time. DOTA? Ditto and too repetitive. A shooting game? Hell, no. Planescape Torment? Good, but the interface is awful – you’re probably better off reading Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the Ur-text for witty rogue worlds. Deus Ex? No, disappointing linearity – read SnowCrash. Mario? Repetitive, brand oriented… no.

(One thing positive I can say of many great games is that they teach you how to learn an imperfect ruleset rapidly. I think of the Reiner Knizia design ethos, which seems to consist of attempting to maximin incompatible-but-overlaid number sets, and I think that’s something valuable for realworld. But that’s something from these games in general, not from any individual game.)

What was wrong with all these games? Not one of them could I point to and say, unreservedly, that is a clean, good, efficient experience which also offers the open edges of a book. Risk of Rain is a perfect action-shooter, with the random drops comboing neatly to force different play styles on you – but I can’t say that I value the compulsion loop of an unlock-based game, especially not for a child, nor can I say that it’s improved me as a human being.

Moving Closer
Is there a game that combines the combined-toolset gameplay of Spelunky with a top-notch scripted experience that still allows the world to have the fuzzy edges a growing imagination needs? I suppose the nearest are Morrowind, Ultima 7, King of Dragon Pass.

An alternative is the Inform and Twine games, the old text adventures, like Violet and Slouching Towards Bedlam. These are near-to-perfection but they waste the player’s time with endless failstates and replays (something the otherwise-light Fable 2 is notable for avoiding). Unless they’re enjoying and learning anew from each failstate, you’re wasting their time. Horse Master is better, in that you carry on to an enjoyably strange ending, no matter what. But a bad text adventure is a short story, spoiled.

This year has seen a few games that have got closer, mingling that Inform experience with production values. Gone Home? Linear, but we’re getting there with the atmosphere, storyline and lack of failstate. Papers Please? Good – linearity concealed behind a clever, shifting toolset and political nous. The problem with these two, like Dear Esther, is that they’re just not all that much fun. The protean joy of the Stanley Parable might be the only modern game I could recommend.

I don’t think I’ve fallen out of love with games. I’ve just recognised that the other media are still superior in what I’d want my kid to input, especially for a peak quality experience.

My 2015

When people I’ve not seen for a while ask me ‘what are you working on right now?’, I give them this kind of glassy look that says ‘how long do you have?’ It’s this kind of look:

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This has been a hard, good year. Apart from coping with a new baby, I’ve probably worked for a wider range of media than ever before, and finally haven’t needed to chase work. Indeed, I’ve had to turn work down on occasion, or at least show a distinct lack of enthusiasm and raise my rates to put people off. That hasn’t always worked, so I’ve been *very* tired this year. What did I do this year? Ahaha. This:

Books

Achtung: Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War
A short story for a collection. It’s about Llandudno, Oswald Moseley, Alistair Crowley and is a bit of a farce, really. I must stop writing farces. You can buy it here.

100×100
The 100 most influential video games for a book that’s 100 lists of 100 things. This was written in 2014, I think, so I wonder if it’ll be out of date by the time Quarto releases it in 2016?

Design: The Whole Story
Six chapters for a book about the history of design, published by Quarto. I covered subjects as diverse as the creation of disposable culture, military paraphernalia, and the internet revolution.

Unannounced Book Project 1
A book about the culture of Minecraft with Alec Meer. Has a publisher!

Unannounced Book Project 2
A book about videogames and philosophy with Jordan Erica Webber. Has a publisher!

Ostrava-IMG_6791

Media

There’s so much to list here that I don’t think I can be arsed including it all. So here are the highlights of the last year!

Geographical
The magazine of the Royal Geographical society sent me to the former coal town of Ostrava in the Czech Republic to cover Europe’s biggest air show. Again, it’s fun writing outside of my comfort zone, but the piece reads unexpectedly well – I’ll be showing it off when it’s out in January… thanks to the editor Paul Presley for setting it up!

BBC Radio 5 – Let’s Talk About Tech
We did two end of year’s discussion of video games for Radio 5 here and here. I’ve just relistened to the second one and it’s actually a damn good discussion, if messy at the end.

The New Statesman
I did a simulation of the British political party manifestoes for this well-regarded left wing website. Lots of fun!

The Guardian
I did a few articles about Global Development for the Graun. I now know about Global Development, kind of.

PC Gamer
I think I may be one of PCG’s longest-running writers. Longest-writing runners? Whatever. This is my 14th year working for them. IIRC, my interview consisted of Kieron Gillen introducing me to Matt Pierce, the editor, as he was walking by. He asked, frowning, “what’s your favourite game?” I said System Shock. He stopped, shrugged, said, “Hired” and walked on. Cue 14 years.

Gamespot
I did a couple of pieces for these guys, which completes my set of the huge games and tech media. I think I’ve written for every one that’s got a UK branch now, so I can turn them into a big robot or something.

Techradar / T3
I got back into doing hardware reviews and list features for these two tech sites, because the pay is good for the work needed. I can’t say it’s wonderfully enjoyable, but I do appreciate the income.

Max PC / PC Format
PC Format, the first magazine that gave me a writing job, was closed this year. It had been on life support for ages, but because it supplied articles to Techradar and because it was incredibly easy to sell ads for, it kept going even as its sales dropped to unheard-of lows. However, as PC Format only had one remaining staff member at the end (the delightful Alan Dexter), it was incredibly cheap to produce – and he’s now moved onto Max PC, North America’s biggest PC magazine. So I’ve moved with him and are writing for them…

Three Moves Ahead
Had a nice chat with Rob Zacny on this podcast about the superb Shadow of the Horned Rat, presaging Total War: Warhammer.

And tons more sites, like Expert Reviews, Kotaku, OXM…

witcher

Consultancy

I’ve done a lot of consultancy this year too, for a range of clients. Much of it was done through the amazing Martin Korda at Videogame Consulting. I owe Martin a huge amount, both personally and professionally – he’s been astoundingly supportive this last year.

Sadly, the only projects I’m not NDAed to the hilt about were The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, but I do get to say this awesome sentence; “I worked on some of this year’s biggest games”. That’s pretty wonderful.

Media Training

I also did media training for a bunch of developers, at the request of UKIE and PR firm Indigo Pearl. That’s where you help people get acclimatised to talking to the media, because otherwise we’ll just eat them up.

Seriously, lots of developers are terrified of talking to journalists or scared about being asked difficult questions. For these sessions, I run mock interviews that go substantially through their CV and their corporate history, pushing them harder and harder depending on how well they respond. My aim is to both put their mind at ease and ensured that they were prepared for the worst sort of questions they should face from the media, whatever their capability – including telling them the questions that they should just ignore.

Mark Hamill!

Photography

Photography was ridiculous this year, even if it was only a minor part of my time. (I never push for more work because of discomfort over the colourblindness – I just take what comes.) I continued to manage the event photography for the Develop Conference, as well as Tandem Events other symposia. I also took pictures for several other clients, including Edge Magazine, Blizzard, Warner Bros and Pokemon.

The highlight though was taking photos of celebs like Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, John Rhys Davies and Gary Oldman for the Star Citizen filming at Ealing Studios. Thank you to Gareth Williams for sorting that one out!

Games

I’ve been working on five games this year, variously as a writer, narrative designer and designer,. I can’t really talk about any of them, but obviously it’s hugely exciting for me to be involved in them. I’m guessing that my developer chums won’t mind me mentioning that I’m doing this, but I’ll update the list below with studio names once I’ve checked in with the relevant devs.

Unannounced Game Project 1
Twotails

Unannounced Game Project 2
TBA

Unannounced Game Project 3
TBA

Unannounced Game Project 4
TBA

Unannounced Game Project 5
TBA

And that’s it! Five years of fulltime freelance writing under my belt. My god. How long can I keep this up?

How Are Games Changing SF Literature?

wakingmars_010

This article originally appeared in PlaySF magazine, way back in 2012.

Walking into any bookshop, the science-fiction section seen, from a distance, is healthy; an island of colour and variety amidst the sad faces of the ‘misery memoirs’, the black and bone of the ‘Dark Romance’, and the silverbacked Penguin classics. Yet, get closer, and there’s something strange. The colour comes in bursts, great streaks of the same style dominating the shelves, logos iterating across shelf after shelf. Stars Wars and Star Trek are there, for sure, but they’re not in charge; video game franchises are dominating science fiction and fantasy.

The video game market is huge, especially compared to original science fiction. Yet, game fiction is often ignored by the publishing industry. I talked to Tony Gonzales, the writer of the Eve Online tie-in novels The Empyrean Age and Templar One, who bemoaned the short shrift given to game fiction; “it’s all piled into Fantasy / Science Fiction,” he said, “located in the most inconspicuous section of the store. It’s the same with digital sales. The obscurity is compounded by the fact that some literary trade publications won’t even review game tie-ins.” So why do SF literary journalists turn their noses up at this burgeoning genre, when it’s bringing new readers to the market?

Gonzales thinks that “general SF purists scoff at gaming because most games reuse ideas and concepts that have been in print for a decade…” Hard science fiction fans also have particular problems with games. Gonzales explains; “(also) most enjoyable games makes some patent flubs to science in the name of creating fun gameplay. That’s pure sacrilege to the hard SF fan because it shatters their immersion… the game audience is used to instant gratification… they have short attention spans and authors trying to capture them better get to the point quickly.”

Given this, it seems necessary for the best SF author to adapt to gamers’ tastes by avoiding challenging material – and this is already happening. “I see a certain amount of literary science fiction trying to appeal to the gamer audience,” Niall Harrison, Editor in Chief of speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons, said, “Mostly in near-future thrillers that incorporate MMORPGs or ARGs as a plot element – I’m thinking of Charles Stross’ Halting State, and Walter Jon Williams’ This Is Not a Game, not to mention Stephenson’s Reamde.”

It’s also happening in the way that further-future SF is written. “Ten years ago I might have talked about a ‘blockbuster’ sensibility in the work of writers like Richard Morgan (who has since worked on the story for Crysis 2).” says Harrison “Now I’m thinking more of an ‘FPS’ sensibility in novels like Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three (and Bear has of course written Halo tie-in novels).” Gonzales agreed; “There’s a struggle between what audiences want to read in SF versus what authors who work in the genre want to write.”

Neil Tringham, an ex-games designer and now editor on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction told me that “there are presumably some people who buy spinoffs from SF games such as Starcraft who wouldn’t otherwise read SF.” What’s new is that the generic science-fiction of the past has been replaced by branded tie-ins, including games. “I do suspect that the part of the book market that was occupied by long running but not especially original sf adventure series, such as E C Tubb’s Dumarest sequence, has to some extent been taken over by long running but not very innovative series based on company owned concepts, such as Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000,” said Tringham.

Not that branded science fiction is new, as Strange Horizon’s Niall Harrison notes; “there has been tie-in fiction for decades and well-respected writers have written it in all periods of the field’s history. It’s always looked down on by the ‘serious’ sf readers, and it’s almost always sold buckets more than the original stuff.” Gonzales hasn’t produced his own universe fiction yet but if he did, “just about all brand-driven fiction would outsell my work… the marketing resources that can support that brand will be vastly greater than will ever be thrown by publishers at standalone books.”

It’s just a pity that so much of in-game narratives and worlds of games are cheesy, badly conceived or safe. Take the Mass Effect universe, where the height of daring for the writers is to accurately depict the same-sex relationships that exist in our society today. “I do see a certain amount of gentle mocking of the Mass Effect universe for being built from elements of umpteen existing franchises.” says Harrison. “A possible exception might be BioShock, thanks to its dialogue with the work of Ayn Rand.” (Rand’s ideas – about superhuman entrepreneurs being held back by the average man – informed the story of the dystopian shooter Bioshock). On the whole, though, when the fiction is reviewed it garners bad scores – probably worse than it would get if it wasn’t branded.

However, it’s not only literary journalists who decry the quality of game fiction. Consider the recent comments of EA’s Chuck Beaver, the producer of the Dead Space franchise; “Gears of War… contains atrocious, offensive violations of story basics. Yet it doesn’t seem to ruin it for many, many people. It’s literally the worst writing in games, but seems to have no ill effects.” He even admitted that his own company’s Dead Space was itself “just a simple haunted house story that we later pasted a personal narrative on top of – a lost girlfriend who is really dead.” (He apologised after this statement.) Admittedly, Beaver’s not talking about the books, but if the original narrative of the game is bad, how far can the fiction improve on it? Is game tie-in fiction just bad?

A Quick Philosophy Lesson
Most game fiction falls into the ‘space opera’ category, AKA ‘science fantasy’; that is, unscientific futuristic fiction. It’s enjoyable, but it’s pulp fiction, like Mass Effect. Is there a moral argument for valuing hard science fiction over fantasy, beyond keeping educated SF fans immersed? Well, let’s assume we want to make as many people happy as possible, beyond the fleeting pleasure of actually reading the fiction. An old exponent of keeping people happy was the utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill. In On Liberty he talked about “experiments in living” like so;

“As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them.”

Now, speculative fiction has always aimed for this. It’s shown people other ways of living, on the basis of other ways the world could be, and explored the personal (Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon), social (H.G. Well’s The Time Machine) and moral (James Blish’s A Case of Conscience) consequences of this. It’s been damn good entertainment, yes, but it’s also opened up people’s minds to the possibilities of other ways our societies could work.

The best at this has been hard science fiction, because it takes the technology of the near future and extrapolates how our society would alter just from that – Clarke and Asimov are the classic examples here, though we might also point to John Brunner’s scarily prescient Stand on Zanzibar or Frederick Pohl’s Man Plus. This is exactly the sort of fiction that the new gaming audience doesn’t like and is getting squeezed out.

And the worst at throwing up these models of living? I’d argue the worst is ‘space opera’. Its relevance to our lives is purely in its unjustified assumption of social parallels. And that’s what’s dominating the shelves because SF video games are pure science fantasy. Indeed, they’re bringing new forms of science fantasy into existence, as the Science Fiction Encylopedia’s Tringham explains; “There are two trends in recent books which have at least been influenced by developments in SF games. I’m thinking of what the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes as Science and Sorcery ( the ‘genre-blending juxtaposition of sf and fantasy settings’) and Medieval Futurism ( ‘sf… with heavy overtones of the Middle Ages feudal systems as the governing bodies’.”

As a gamer, I’m overjoyed that games have such a large cultural impact; as a SF reader, I’m ecstatic that they may be extending the reach of SF beyond its niche; and I can’t deny that many of these books tell a terribly good yarn. Yet, as a good utilitarian, I’m depressed to see something so dominant which rarely mingles its undeniable entertainment value with philosophical lessons or images of our possible futures.

A counter-argument, as made to me by PlaySF’s editor Richie when discussing this article, is that the moral questions can still be raised by all fiction, including space opera; “I thought the patent flub of having clones in, say, Eve Online actually brings about interesting questions about the value of life when death becomes only a minor financial concern – which has been done to death in proper SF.” Indeed, SF games have had a positive effect on the acceptance of SF and fantasy ideas, across all media, similar to the way that Margaret Atwood’s or George Orwell’s near future dystopias managed to avoid the label of SF. “I rarely hear SF games discussed for their interest as SF.” says Strange Horizon’s Harrison. “People are excited by Portal because it’s charming and the mechanic is cool, rather than because it includes any particularly new SF ideas.”

Despite my personal pessimism, it’s likely that the fiction of games will improve, dragged up perhaps by the fresh innovation and quality we see coming from the indie development scene, like the hard science of Waking Mars or the softer humanism of To The Moon. Perhaps games will even be fed by the great Sci-Fi books of the past, as Roadside Picnic informed the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. If we’re lucky, this fiction will trickle over into the mainstream games and hence books pushed to the SF market. I can hope for all this but given the market’s appetite (and the prevalence of games like the appalling Dark Star), it seems unlikely. As Theodore Sturgeon famously said, “ninety percent of everything is crap.” That’s true with both games and with fiction, derived or not.