Saturday, 23 February 2013

1up Blog #51: Six Ways Sci-Fi Novels Influence Games (12/11/2009)

Games are too frequently attributed as movie-wannabes. This classification of gaming may be very true, but like all those immersed in nerd culture, we indulge in all sorts of things nerd. The many geeks who created games did not only draw inspiration from movies but science fiction novels as well.
1. Sandworm Boss
Dune is without a doubt the most influential sci-fi novel ever. With such a rich, multi-layered universe created, Dune brought upon the idea of "Bible’s" of fictionally created universes. Not to mention the basis for Star Wars and many other sci-fi franchises. Many individual elements of Dune can be spotted in games. Most notably however: the Shai' Hulud or the Sandworm, a fearsome beast which emerges from the sand. Everyone knows of the Sandworm boss from Zelda, but this worm also appears in other forms in Panzer Dragoon, Shadow of the Colossus, and many RPG’s.
Left: Typical depiction of the sandworm in Dune. Right: Sandworm in FFX.
2. Battle School
In a way, Battle School from Ender’s Game was inspired by video games. Video games seem to feel more than welcome to take this idea from blatantly rip-off the novel. The brightest children on the planet are snatched from their home and raised to be the deadliest warriors. Yes, Bungie got their idea for Spartan’s right from here. Battle School also appears in other games in different ways such as FFVIII’s Garden Academies.
3. Ass-Kicking Female Companion
While Dune is the most influential, Neuromancer is perhaps the most prophetic sci-fi novel. Predicting the rise of the internet back before it was even made available to the public and creating the concept of AI, there are so many ways this novel can be tied to games I would never stop. However, the Ass-Kicking Female Companion (as I’ve termed it) is the simplest. Molly from Neuromancer is the guide to the protagonist. She can clear through the enemies as well as you can, except with more style. She doesn’t complain over a broken nail and is pretty much ready to die for the hero for some unexplained reason. Alyx from Half-Life 2 and Alex (heh) from Breakdown say hi.
Trinity may seem to be the reasonable inspiration for these other two characters, but it was Molly who was Trinity’s origin.
4. Anti-hero
It’s very debateable where the origin of the anti-hero came from, but I would put my money on Watchmen’s Rorchach for bringing the swathe of anti-heroes into the media. Now it seems few games can even go without an anti-hero. Characters like Vincent Valentine, Kratos, and Delita Heiral are anti-heroes. Valentine even has Rorchach’s anti-hero look down to the long coat and possible psychosis.
Note: I realize Watchmen is a comic, but it includes numerous elements and themes of sci-fi which makes me classify it thusly.
5. Currency
In Dune the spice (or the melange) is considered the lifeblood of the world and, generally traded in measurement to buy things like one would with money today. Most game-created worlds seem to have taken this same approach. Meseta are used in Phantasy Star, Gil in Final Fantasy, Rupees in Zelda ... the latter of which is usually found in the ground like the spice. Now if only games had as creative uses for it’s currency as Dune – the spice is a drug that enhances one’s life.
6. Video Game Sci-Fi Novels
It’s reached that point now that game franchises don’t want to be just game versions of the novels that helped make them; they want to be sci-fi novels as well. Most likely motivated by the success of the Halo sci-fi novels, numerous games now see alternate stories through publication on paperback. Want to read Gears of War or World of Warcraft science fiction? Apparently, readers of these books compose a larger portion of the sci-fi audience than most would expect.

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