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Will Games Make Sci-Fi Novels Obsolete (or have they already?)


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I thought this was a pretty interesting piece:

 

 

Excerpt:

The megastructure is one of science fiction’s most enjoyable guilty pleasures. There is no other genre of literature that takes quite such glee in describing buildings, whether made by the hand of man or alien. Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama is little more than a guided tour of the titular spacecraft through the eyes of its human explorers. Only in science fiction can an entire novel be dedicated, in immense descriptive detail, to conveying the spectacle of an imaginary structure to the reader.

SFs most famous megastructure is the ringworld, a stripe of artificially-constructed land encircling a star, first envisioned by author Larry Niven in his 1970 novel Ringworld. The idea made Niven one of the most famous SF authors of his day, at a time when the novel was still the most powerful way of casting the full spectacle of sci-fi into the imaginations of the audience. Movies and television reached a far larger audience, but too often fell short of the spectacle sci-fi readers created for themselves.

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal,” said TS Eliot and given his inarguable greatness, we have to assume Scottish SF author Iain M Banks stole the ringworld from Larry Niven. His Culture novels return frequently to Orbital habitats much like Nivens ringworld. It was a Banksian orbital that presumably inspired the makers of 2001’s Halo, among the most successful video games of all time. The question now is whether detailed description and cover illustrations – however brilliant – can truly rival the computer-generated experience of plunging into a ringworld provided by Halo.

Epic fantasy novels and role-playing games were as much a part of my childhood as video games. But it was only in 2002 that a video game managed to equal the immersive experience of entering a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings or The Belgaraid. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was the first truly successful “first person” fantasy RPG. Such games allow players lose hundreds and even thousands of hours lost in the worlds they create, worlds that do not end when the last page of the book is turned.

It’s often said that books open a portal to other worlds. and that’s nowhere more true than in sci-fi novels, which describe worlds quite unlike our own. But the ability of computers, and hence of video games, films and TV shows, to model and project those worlds onto our screens in all their splendour, has long since outstripped books. Destiny, the new game from the creators of Halo, and one of 2014’s biggest releases, is so visually stupefying that it’s hard to imagine any kid being satisfied with a bunch of words on a page after playing it.

The whole thing is here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/nov/28/science-fiction-writers-must-battle-video-games-with-words

 

I thought this was a pretty interesting take and I know it's an idea we've batted around before. Now that "video games" (for want of a better term) have become mainstream entertainment rather than a fringe thing is there a danger that the written novel gets shuffled off to the side?  

 

This really should be the golden age for written fiction. With the proliferation of e-books and places like Amazon that have made it easier than ever to self publish. In terms of choice it has never been easier to find something good to read. Of course that also means sales of individual titles may never be as strong. If a sci-fi novel sold half as many copies as Destiny did on just it's first day of release it would be a huge best seller.

 

If increased competition makes sci-fi writing better that would be a good thing though. My biggest problem with the genera is that most of it isn't that good. There are some pearls to be had but you have to shuck a lot of oysters to find them. Yeah I'm talking about you John Scalzi.  

 

Do you guys think computer/console game could (or have) supplant the literary work as an entertainment form?

 

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"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men"

- St. Francis of Assisi

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The written word has endured as a medium for centuries, is a bit shortsighted to think that games will shuffle that to the side. I agree that most Sci Fi is trite but when you get the good stuff you realize why it has to be on book form. I don't think Slaughterhouse Five made a good movie and it wouldn't make a good game but it is a terrific book.

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I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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The problem with saying this should be the golden age is that distribution ease doesn't contribute to that most of the time in practice. It's only going to take longer to sift through crap to find a gem which makes reading a more frustrating commitment. There's going to be more great books but it's a lot harder to find them.

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As a connoisseur of both games and books, a resounding no to answer the topic title.

 

While some segments of society and culture may not read in favor of playing a game, there will always be people who will write and there will always be people to read their writings.

 

The imagination and brain in general isn't flexed anywhere near as much by watching or participating in videos (be they games, TV, or movies) as by a good book. There are good reasons it's called the idiot box.

 

Now, that fewer people are reading books and more are playing games is something I will not dispute. But that's a problem, a big one, and one that reflects society and transcends Sci-Fi. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't read enough good books that flexed their minds to the point they'd see this. Some of those books being of the Sci-Fi genre. ;)

Edited by Valsuelm
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Another question is whether games will make films obsolete. Well probably not, but I do think they are going to start chipping away at the film business. Your conventional, mindless action film with car chases and shoot outs can easily be supplanted by a game. Movies have become quite pricey, making decently designed games very competitive.

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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Another question is whether games will make films obsolete. Well probably not, but I do think they are going to start chipping away at the film business. Your conventional, mindless action film with car chases and shoot outs can easily be supplanted by a game. Movies have become quite pricey, making decently designed games very competitive.

So more cinematic bull****, now coming to you via your Occulus...a game by James Cameron sounds nice though.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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I personally hope that there is room for more forms of entertainment, both linear crafted experiences like films and novels, and interactive ones such as computer games.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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I personally hope that there is room for more forms of entertainment, both linear crafted experiences like films and novels, and interactive ones such as computer games.

I think that cinematic games are a ridiculous notion, they are as bad as narrative movies except nobody thinks the latter is a good idea. It is not using the medium to its full potential; I'm okay with games that focus on narrative but gameplay should be a feature that enhances that not a problem to be solved.

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I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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I agree entirely, cinematics in games should serve interactivity, perhaps reward and affirm a players choices, not dictate flow and gameplay. I want to do, not watch, as i'm not a voyeur. Haha.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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When games start doing science fiction that's not military space opera, I'll see this as a possibility.

 

Nobody's going for the high ideas of science fiction in the game space. We're getting dogfights and shooting evil aliens. Games still have a way to mature and diversify.

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"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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Sci-fi went out of fashion and publishers reinforce that opinion by choosing what comes out on the market. A friend of mine who is a writer by trade told me that getting a sci-fi novel published with a real publisher is next to impossible, while you can toss in any fantasy story you want and they'll go along with it.

 

The popular imagination isn't in sci-fi anymore and the writer talent pool is much smaller than it used to be. Same with sci-fi movies. While there are quite a few sci fi movies, most are set in the present day and aren't really sci-fi (superhero movies lean towards fantasy rather than science fiction). I haven't seen a landmark sci-fi film since the Matrix and even that was a serious step down from the Solaris, Stalker, Odyssey 2001, Blade Runner etc. films. 

 

Its normal, these things come and go. Sci-fi was the fantasy of the space age generation. Plus, to be honest, a good sci fi book requires some education and mental effort to read and the masses are worse than ever in that respect. Sword waving fantasy is far more approachable.

 

*cough* the dragons are coming *cough* 

Edited by Drowsy Emperor
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И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

 

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^I'd argue that Sci-Fi is harder to write (as to not fall into "science fantasy" one must be up on current science theories and able to make good extrapolations).

 

I'd also imagine editors find fantasy of all types easier to deal with because not understanding some scientific theory isn't going to get their publishing house ridiculed by scientists on the internet with fantasy but will with sci-fi.

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Genres tend to fall in and out of favor, having a big hit is a factor in this. It wasn't long ago that you couldn't get a horror novel published unless you were Stephen King.

 

You don't want to know what novel broke that trend and got publishers to start buying again.

 

That's why it's important to keep an eye on the market and have a diverse portfolio. You can't afford to bank on being the one to break the trend, but once it does break, if it's in your wheelhouse, you need to be ready.

"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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When games start doing science fiction that's not military space opera, I'll see this as a possibility.

 

Nobody's going for the high ideas of science fiction in the game space. We're getting dogfights and shooting evil aliens. Games still have a way to mature and diversify.

It is hard to keep people engaged in things that are not action packed, I think that the indies are the ones that have embraced the genre in a way that isn't violent.

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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When games start doing science fiction that's not military space opera, I'll see this as a possibility.

 

Nobody's going for the high ideas of science fiction in the game space. We're getting dogfights and shooting evil aliens. Games still have a way to mature and diversify.

It is hard to keep people engaged in things that are not action packed, I think that the indies are the ones that have embraced the genre in a way that isn't violent.

 

I think we can have action packed and still at least try. Zone of the Enders 2 tried a bit. Metal Gear Solid 2 could be argued to as well. Deus Ex. I think what Deus Ex 2 tried with the ending is worth appreciating.

 

So I've kind of proven my "nobody" wrong. Let's modify that to "nobody right now" and certainly "not enough."

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"Show me a man who "plays fair" and I'll show you a very talented cheater."
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It is hard to keep people engaged in things that are not action packed,

I'd change that to : "It is hard to keep people engaged in eyeball visual things that are not action packed" :)

 

Media tech and easy access has made a lot of people (dare I say the "masses") bored of the visually mundane. It's not like the old days where ppl could only see films in a theater or on tiny, crap TV's. Scrumptious color-saturated vistas or fast CGI action, either way, our visual ent. world is getting to the point where what's on screen is visually more enthralling than what's in real-life, if you're talking about visuals and visual attention span alone. It's like what digital tech and manipulation has done to photography, imo. I mean, there's more to it than that, of course, but it's a big part of things.

 

I'm sure studio heads have all kinds of psych and sales texts to prove visuals must be ever better and more exciting and plots be ever more simplified with fast cut editing to keep attention, and point to them when approving AAA scripts. :lol:

 

Books/novels however are different because they require the visuals to come from within your own mind. So I think, as long as people still have the imagination for that process, that novels, including sci-fi, will exist for a long time yet. Sci-fi was never a hugely popular mass-market thing (Asimov and others wrote a lot about the early days of sci-fi publishing), although it did have a surge of popularity for a while, since .... the late 60's maybe?

 

The thing with fantasy/sci-fi at the moment is it feels like whether the novel would make a good film is becoming some kind of criteria in the publishing cycle, which may also influence writers in what they choose to write. Not saying that's actually true/widespread, but sometimes it sure feels that way. :disguise:

 

Anyhoo...I'm sure at some point someone will write some indie sci-fi novel/series that will become a hit and then turned into a movie and you'll have another cycle of sci-fi popularity....

 

Edit: oops I kept talking movies when the topic was re: games ... brainfart! well, the same largely still applies, games vs. books or film vs. books.

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“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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You don't want to know what novel broke that trend and got publishers to start buying again.

 

uh, Fifty Shades of Twilight ... 

 

Also, I'm waiting for the irony of a super-fast virtual-reality headset, where you hold a real book, turning real pages, but what you see is any story you choose, in any location you want. Don't like reading Chaucer on the beach ... say a few words to the voice-activated Jarvis librarian system protocol ... boom! you're reading Faulkner in a mountain cabin, or Asimov in orbit around the Earth. I'm gonna start with reading a dictionary in the Library of Congress, just for fun.    

All Stop. On Screen.

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Just my opinion here but I've found games to be a poor medium for story telling. I'd imagine it's difficult in the extreme to strike a balance between all the elements that have to work in a game from the visuals, gameplay mechanics, and plot (if it has one). It seems so few have ever really "hit" on all of them at once. And the ones that do we end up talking about for years after they have disappeared from the shelves. Like Torment for example.

 

Someone once said, it was here but I forgot who, the biggest problem with Sci-Fi writers is they decide to write a Sci-Fi story first. Then they try to decide what that story will be. A better approach would be to plot out a story THEN see if it needs to be sci-fi to be plausible.

 

One of the best Sci-Fi stories I've ever read was a short story called The Cold Equations. It's short, around 15k to 20k words I'd guess but it packs a lot into that space. It's an example of a story that required a specific setting to work, rather than the other way around. 

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men"

- St. Francis of Assisi

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Ya know. This is worth starting here:

 

I've played a lot of great games, but the only game I've ever played on any platform that had a really great story that even game close to the quality of a good book of any genre was Planescape Torment. Really, nothing else came close, not even remotely.

 

The idea that video games will replace books, let alone have, is laughable at best.

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It is hard to keep people engaged in things that are not action packed,

I'd change that to : "It is hard to keep people engaged in eyeball visual things that are not action packed" :)

 

Media tech and easy access has made a lot of people (dare I say the "masses") bored of the visually mundane. It's not like the old days where ppl could only see films in a theater or on tiny, crap TV's. Scrumptious color-saturated vistas or fast CGI action, either way, our visual ent. world is getting to the point where what's on screen is visually more enthralling than what's in real-life, if you're talking about visuals and visual attention span alone. It's like what digital tech and manipulation has done to photography, imo. I mean, there's more to it than that, of course, but it's a big part of things.

 

I'm sure studio heads have all kinds of psych and sales texts to prove visuals must be ever better and more exciting and plots be ever more simplified with fast cut editing to keep attention, and point to them when approving AAA scripts. :lol:

 

They don't even approve AAA based on scripts anymore. They just look at how many sequences a script has that has possibility for set-pieces and send it straight to a streamlined pre-production process so they can hammer out some preliminary storyboards. That way they can actually tell whether it's eyeball pleasing visual action. If they're not satisfied with the storyboards that come out? They don't buy the script.

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The last sci-fi books I read (I don't consider Warhammer 40k books sci-fi) were written by a game designer. Oh man did it show... very interesting setting and excellent build up during the first and second book in the trilogy. Then the third book, lets just say Mass Effect 3 was an epic masterpiece in well crafted story endings by comparison wink.png

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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.... the only game I've ever played on any platform that had a really great story that even game close to the quality of a good book

I always figured the main reason why story in games has rarely been my main point of interest in games is the constant story-interruptus. Even if the basic elements of a good tale are there, they generally can't maintain a good narrative flow, since it's constantly being interrupted/delayed etc. by ... me. It'd be like trying to get through film/book when every 3 minutes I'm being distracted by something shiny on the floor or being interrupted by someone asking if I want fries with that and if I do, please go fetch the potatoes needed. Pretty tough to stay within/keep involved in a narrative, for me, then.

 

Sure, the choices one has to make in a game create a sense of emotional connection/empathy, sometimes strong, and I enjoy games that do that, but that's not the same thing as narrative story telling. That's momentary relatable-character empathy. The two are not equal.

 

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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The last sci-fi books I read (I don't consider Warhammer 40k books sci-fi) were written by a game designer. Oh man did it show... very interesting setting and excellent build up during the first and second book in the trilogy. Then the third book, lets just say Mass Effect 3 was an epic masterpiece in well crafted story endings by comparison wink.png

 

All it was missing was small digitally distributed chapters for purchase to help flesh out the main plot.

Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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