Posts Tagged 'Ready Player One'

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Perspective has been the occasional plaything of Sci-Fi since the birth of the genre but, of late, malleable realities have become much more prevalent. Take Blade Runner and Under the Skin as easy points of reference with both having a single eye staring out of the cinema screen in their opening scenes. In the former, it appears to represent a window into an undefined soul – not necessarily that of a human being. In the latter, a definition of sexual objectification that should have been targeted towards the male victims of Scarlet Johansson’s alien entity but, instead, lingers far too often on her own nakedness throughout. In both, though, perceived realities examined and interrogated. Le Congress (2014), Inception (2010), Paprika (2006), The Matrix (1999)… The list of perception bending titles is vast and stretches back beyond film to the novel in its earliest form.

Against such a fertile backdrop, you’d think that the current shift towards digital virtual realities (VR) would have an easy ride of it with consumers. Not the case. The voices of caution and dissent are becoming more vocal in opposition to technology companies desperate to see expansion and growth into this latest market. While Mark Zuckerberg may be proposing that, “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.” In contrast, the detractors can’t get beyond the multifarious platforms or the sheer cost of each device.

There is hope for technophiles, though, as the zeitgeist promises to tip in their favour. Steven Spielberg has just announced that he’ll be casting the relatively unknown Tye Sheridan as the lead in the screen adaptation of Ernest Clien’s Ready Player One. Whether the actor will be chunking out to represent Wade Owen Watts in his pre-haptic suit days is yet to been seen but, as this is Hollywood, we’re reckoning probably not. Hopefully the sanitisation of the story won’t steer too far away from the difficult topic of the hikikomori and the social isolation that our currently fully connected lives can produce.

As ever, and as we’ve said numerous times here on this site, Sci-Fi isn’t a road map. It’s more a laboratory, a space for thought experiments that look at both the wildly optimistic and the cautionary in any postulated future. While we may well have increasing opportunities to see “things you people wouldn’t believe”, it’s essential that we be aware these new vistas could well come at a price.

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Damien Walter, at the tail end of last year, published a piece in The Guardian saying that good sci-fi writing had the chance to hold its own against the spectacle of modern videogames. While he was right that most sci-fi games are terribly written, the scope of imagination currently being unleashed within this space is worrying to any scribbler.

Take Inner Space, which reached its Kickstarter goal last year. It’s a game that I personally invested in simply because of its premise and the beautiful execution crafted by Tyler Tomaseski’s team. As the pilot of a glider within a Dyson sphere world, it’s up to the player to unearth artefacts that upgrade your craft and enable deeper exploration. The developer’s promotional video projects a real, alien sense of place, even if the underlying narrative
remains untested.

British developer Hello Games also brings No Man’s Sky to this new wave of sci-fi themed experiences. An entirely procedurally generated universe, if offers one of the most opulent and diverse environs of any space shooter to date. Again, though, is there a good and strong narrative thread holding the player’s attention across this kaleidoscopic galaxy? We shall see.

Around a year ago, the film Gravity featured on the site with the cautious consideration as to whether the opening scene of The Stars My Destination could sustain a feature length level of attention. The answer, in hindsight, was it absolutely could. So no surprise then that Three One Zero have decided there’s millage in generating a game around the same premise (see Adrift trailer above).

Of the three games, the immediacy of a survival story seems the most potent. But it’s still not enough to address the deficit caused by so many bad game plots. Interestingly though, as the discipline of gaming and generating virtual worlds spills out, cross-over projects from the wider artistic community seem to be on the increase.

The Nether is just such an example of this breakout. Making its West End transfer from the Royal Court Theatre, the play deals with issues around what is and isn’t morally acceptable within a virtual world. While not as overtly sci-fi as the games above, it does describe an increasing acceptance of genre tropes as a way of questioning issues within our technically saturated world.

So the written/performed word amplifying its message through VR. Which brings everything nicely back to the title of the post and Ernie Cline, who has already created a beautiful game culture/scifi amalgamation with Ready Player One. News is he’s working on a sequel to his 2011 bestseller. Now all we need is for someone to persuade him to script a game.

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