In Search Of Serious Science Fiction Gaming Epics

In the first installment of the daily Speak-Up on Kotaku for the year 2011, commenter Murkurial wonders why game developers aren't spending more time exploring the deeply detailed worlds created by science fiction's greatest authors.

What has anyone heard (or what are your thoughts) about a company like Bethesda making a game in the mold of Fallout 3, but set in a more dystopian or cyberpunk, futuristic setting? Not the "burning cars lining the streets and everyone is dressed like someone out of Mad Max" dystopian aesthetic, but something more along the lines of a Mass Effect or Deus Ex.

Something with the scope of Fallout 3/Oblivion, but set in that city that you can see off in the distance when you're watching cut-scenes of Mass Effect on the Citadel. I never really felt like the city beyond the Citadel was alive and I know that it's due in part to the developers looking to give the game a larger scope, focusing on a story that encompassed more of the galaxy as a whole, but I think it'd be great to see a game set in a futuristic city, but approached in a way that would suggest that it's got just as much history as D.C. does in Fallout 3. I feel like someone needs to craft a story set in that world much in the same way that I wish directors would take some cues from the more imaginative Sci-fi novels of the 70s and 80s (and more recently novels like "Altered Carbon" by Richard K. Morgan) and craft a story that doesn't so much attempt to relate the more fantastical concepts of Sci-fi to the world that we know today, and instead looks to wildly speculate on what things might be like for us (if we're still around) some 3,000 years in the future.

I love Mass Effect, but something about playing a game set in that world with the freedom to explore and the subtleties (ME 1 was closer to this feeling — ME 2 seemed to ditch the RPG elements and go for the big-budget blockbuster feel) that you'll find in a game like Oblivion sounds really intriguing.

I point to a Sci-fi game chiefly because that's my favorite genre, but it could work in the form of some sort of government conspiracy storyline set in present day NY or Chicago with or without Sci-fi undertones (X-Files RPG?), or a story that begins here in the present day but ends some thousand years in the future on another planet. Or perhaps it shifts between the two...or many different planets (I suggest the gov't conspiracy angle mainly because I'd imagine that some developers might see it as a more palatable subject for audiences).

Personally, I've always found it to be an awesome idea but it wasn't until I played the Mothership Zeta DLC and Bioshock that I wondered what could come of a game that combined the depth of the former with the latter game's storytelling, but took things in a direction that would elicit the feelings of wonder that I'd imagine people got from watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time.

Lately I've found myself really admiring the retro Sci-fi book covers of guys like Dean Ellis and looking at something like the cover I've attached to this post always makes me wonder what the world depicted there (of which we only get a glimpse) would be like. It just seems like writers, directors, and illustrators were all capable of conveying a much stronger sense of wonder in their work than I've seen in recent years. And I say this as a 24 year-old so it's not like I was there to experience these things when they were new and fresh. It just so happens that those images seem to resonate more with me than a lot of what comes out today. And when I hear things like J.J. Abrams looking to pay tribute to Spielberg and emulate his Close Encounters of the Third Kind with his new film Super 8, that fact seems to be hammered home even more.

More importantly, why hasn't some ambitious developer looked to make this move? Surely there are fans of films like Fantastic Planet making games today? Or perhaps I'll have to get into the business and try and do it myself. :)

If you consider the likes of Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire, and the more spectacular set pieces from the CoD games (among others), the push towards more cinematic games is evident. It's also clear that remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings are all the rage nowadays, but why not take a look at the more obscure (relatively speaking) Sci-fi classics as something to draw inspiration from? Something to play on our inquisitive minds and fascination (and sometimes fear) of the unknown. Perhaps the question of whether or not video games really are art can be answered that way.

This medium affords artists, developers, writers, etc., near limitless possibilities in terms of what sorts of stories they want to tell. What sort of world they want to construct.

Let's go somewhere we've never been before.

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