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Submitted by ChaosKnight 463d ago | opinion piece

The Five Worst Speculative Fiction Tropes in Gaming

Hardcore Gamer: Your favorite science fiction game is flawed. It may introduce you to alien worlds, ask you to make difficult decisions, and understand cultures you never thought you'd fraternize with, but it's recycling the same science fiction of mass media we've seen over the last few centuries. You think you're experiencing new things because they simply feel foreign to you. But if you take a step back and examine the themes and events of the acclaimed science fiction games you enjoy, you'll see an amalgam of the same tropes employed since the genre became popular, and little of the rarer “road less traveled” scenarios explored in books, film, and television. Though gaming has grown decidedly more mature and diverse, it's still in its relative infancy when compared to other mediums in the realm of science fiction. (3DS, BioShock: Infinite, Mass Effect 3, PC, PS Vita, PS3, Resistance: Fall of Man, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, Wii U, Xbox 360)

Wni0  +   463d ago
Videogames stories suck and borrow from superior literature and film, got it.

"Whhha? Mass effect is way better than 2001 and tarkofskys solaris!!!! "
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NumOnePS3FanBoy  +   462d ago
Way better than star wars for sure
linkenski  +   462d ago
2001 is much better in execution than any of the Mass Effect games. I did enjoy them more, for sure, but from an artistic standpoint they don't even come close.

And ME3 was nothing more than a michael bay flick. What a dissapointing game from start to finish.
Pintheshadows  +   463d ago
The isssue is that those 'roads less travelled' are incredibly difficult to fold into a game.

They don't allow for it due to their pace, subject, and complexity. Games can be complex but they are always complex from a gaming standpoint. Not a literature standpoint.

The more traditional, action orientated, set piece driven science fiction is always going to be the obvious route.

If you wanted to do the complex stories you'd have to go down the traditional adventure game route (Bladerunner for example) but sadly that genre is just not as popular as it once was. Although it does still pump out wonderful games. Most recently, Memoria.

Hell, they have struggled to turn Iain M Bank's genre defining Culture series into TV, let alone a game. Some concepts are just not meant to be done.

It runs parallel to games not transitioning into movies well.

To be fair originality has been lacking in any form of media for a couple of decades now. Innovation of what already exists seems to be the way forward with the occasional original idea thrown into the mix.
-Gespenst-  +   463d ago
Well this is the thing. So much fetishised stuff gets in the way of games reaching the heights film and literature have. Obsessions with graphics, performance and tech- these things aren't conducive to a good story or narrative or piece of art, or they aren't necessarily. The SNES proved that for chrissakes- Chrono Trigger is still easily one of the best games ever.

These juvenile fascinations that pervade gaming culture are pretty much owing to how games have been industrialised. Knowing about and owning a powerful piece of technology works kind of like a form of power fantasy, fetishising and self-compensation; while flashy graphics distract and mesmerise. These are the tools of the triple-A industry, and the games are always broad with lowest common denominator appeal. The monetary risk associated with new ideas is a big hindrance too, especially since money is regarded with a much greater esteem in the triple-A industry.

It's annoyint because while games grow in the tech and graphics department, they still have the "minds", so to speak, of two year olds. I'm just worried that people will start to think that these extraordinarily real graphical representations of reality are somehow real in other more important, non-surface based ways just because those graphics are so real looking. The logic would be, "well, the graphics look like reality, so I suppose everything happening to these people in this game is also an accurate representation of reality", which of course is fallacious not to mention dangerous. Games need to grow up big time, they can't be judged purely on their surfaces when what's underneath is desperately underdeveloped.
-Gespenst-  +   463d ago
Yeah, it's so ridiculous how so many other aliens are anthropomorphic. Anthropocentrism or what?

Also why are endeavors into space in big sci-fis like Mass Effect always imperial in nature? Why can't people conceive of any other way for us to relate to space?
Hicken  +   462d ago
Anthropomorphism has its advantages. It may not be the only way intelligent species evolve, but it certainly does seem to be most advantageous when developing tools.

As for how we expand into "deep" space, that probably has something to do with our nature when faced with ANY frontier we haven't yet "conquered." We, as humans, have a tendency to look at any new area as something we must claim, particularly before others do. Therefore, it adds some sense of believability, an extra layer of familiarity, to the story or setting.
-Gespenst-  +   462d ago
I don't think that's got anything to do with our "nature" tbh, whatever that might be (I'd argue our "nature" is actually our lack of a "nature", or at least or ability to mould our nature into whatever we want.) All it has to do with is what our history books have taught us, which isn't necessarily the right way to go about doing things- and also our culture. I also don't think we should take comfort in the "familiarity" of imperialism, not least because it's pretty detrimental to fiction (much like the tropes discussed in this article are).

I think fiction, having the impact upon culture that it does, should work towards reconfiguring how we culturally understand our relations to things, and space operas are not exempt from this. Gazing into the future and making it look like much like the current status quo isn't very progressive, and people tend to believe such prognostications all too easily, which could contribute to making such a future a reality.
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Blacklash93  +   463d ago
I'm not one of those "Tropes = Bane of Storytelling" people. Heck, you could distill real life into tropes that would probably be even narrower than all the crazy stuff we imagine.

The thing is, both reality and human imagination have limits. We can only configure ideas in so many different ways. You can only reach in so many places before you start creating categories and everything begins to blend together.

I'd say the rise of Sci-Fi may even be the last defined genre. Even Sci-Fi wasn't even completely original in the 20th Century and was explored in a few mythology and ficitons thousands of years prior. For example, some earlier mythos coming out of Asia had stories of galactic wars and futuristic vehicles. Much of what we see in Sci-Fi is also just old tropes refitted into a Sci-Fi context to give it the illusion of seeming completely original.

Today, we live in a world where entertainment is something to take for granted on a day-to-day basis and not a special pleasure. Entertainment is a giant today and we see new stories being published more than ever in history. We now have people who make their entire living by being critics of entertainment and exposure of the common person has never been greater. Thus, we begin to notice the limits of storytelling, as we've noticed the limits of everything else around us. Unique premises are going to continue to become more and more rare and subersions of tropes are going to get ever more subtle. If diversity in stories is really going to increase, human perception and knowledge will have to radically increase with it. It's no coincidence that Sci-Fi became a massive trend when real science was on an extended streak of making many big, fascinating discoveries and theories around the world. Right now, something like that occuring again seems very unlikely.

But that's not the point. The very point of entertainment is to enjoy it. Overexposure and overanalyzing is going to make anything look bland and mundane. But that's why you shouldn't do it. Today people are more concerned with if the new Avengers movie is going to be good than the crisis in Syria. We're spoiled, and spoiling yourself with these things is going to ruin them for you as it does with any activity. We need to spend our time on a wide variety of things to get the most out of all of them throughout our lifetime. There's a good reason we should only live around 100 years.

You can pretty much reduce storytelling to a formula, but why? I take the wonder and magic of it all without bogging it down by mustering anything I can concieve against from my own exposures and a redundant analysis. It's a waste of my time. I don't care if thousands of other stories did it before, and rather I'll enjoy it on its own merits.
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mhunterjr  +   461d ago
I LOVED all three, but I hope that me4 is a hybrid of the first to. I do wish that people would stop staying choices didn't matter in me3. Sure the finale was canned, but the entire game was a series of endings... endings to the sub-stories dictated by the gamer.

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