The already wide range of video game possibilities become limitless in the fictional worlds of books, comics, and movies. Games are then no longer confined to physical, technological, or even moral boundaries.
But is this always a good thing? I mean, these books, comics, and movies wouldn't have much of a plot if it was. Here are some examples of fictitious games that are fun to think about, but not really something we want in the real world.
In the (poorly reviewed) world of the 2009 thriller Gamer, Ken Castle has designed ultra fancy nanobots to allow gamers to take control of an actual person instead of an avatar. His most popular game, Society, is meant to simulate real experiences.
It's like the Sims! If actual real life could be as simple as fulfilling your bodily needs to feel emotionally stable, we'd all be set! Everything is easier for a Sim. Did you go to work today? Promotion! Oh, you've had a long conversation with someone? Now you're in a committed relationship! And that's just from the perspective of the playable character. As the gamer, you could be the ultimate puppeteer. That kind of control is very appealing to some people.
It's like the Sims. You know, that simulation game where you'd accidentally burn down the house or let your Sims starve to death. Except now it's real. If that doesn't scare you, consider how Society's true purpose isn't anywhere close to being that domestic. In Gamer, people pay a lot of money to play Society. People like that don't empty their bank accounts to watch their avatars learn how to cook or tell a joke in Simlish. They want a little more bang for their buck. And that is terrifying.
Castle's second big release is Slayers, a first-person shooter with actual people who can, like, die and stuff. For real. Oh, and the playable characters (called "I-Cons") are all inmates on death row or facing life in prison.
It would not be cool. It would be very uncool. Oh, I should mention that if the I-Con "wins" 30 matches, then they're set free! Of course, no one can seems to make it through 10, and if you start to get close to 30, the game is rigged to make you lose anyway. So yeah, still not cool. And what kind of judicial system let this fly? A very, very uncool one.
Oh, um, probably because ACTUAL PEOPLE DIE. And it's built around manipulating incarcerated citizens. Just want to point out that inmates are still citizens. They are real people. With names and rights and everything.
We all know this feeling. When you casually hack into a military supercomputer and start a fun 'ole game of Global Thermonuclear War. Just another relaxing Tuesday night.
Are you addicted to conquest games? Maybe you're getting bored with repetitive war simulations? Meet your match, the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response). Screw Risk. It's ancient now. And Boom Beach? That was a cute game for waiting rooms or extended bathroom breaks. Global Thermonuclear War even makes games like Civilization look like a rousing match of capture the flag.
No big deal, but Matthew Broderick almost started World War III with this sucker. And I don't think anyone's down with leaving thermonuclear power in the coded hands of a computer. Even a super one who takes us on a journey to learn a hard lesson about futility.
This one's not just a video game. It's a way of life. In 2044, people get away from the dystopian world by escaping into the Oasis, basically a sprawling massively multiplayer virtual haven that becomes the last frontier for everything: business, pleasure, education, and, of course, gaming.
The Oasis is virtual reality endgame. It's the ultimate immersive experience. You wouldn't just play as a character. You would be the character. Who'd say no to living out any and all of their fantasies? Besides gaming, the Oasis also lets you experience your favorite movies as if you were right there in the scene. And vacation possibilities are limitless. Who cares about going to Hawaii when you could kick back in Gallifrey? Or go to a spa in virtual Paris? You can look exactly how you want to look and do whatever you want to do. All without ever having to leave the comfort of your house.
The whole "never leaving your house" thing is (shockingly) kind of a problem. The main protagonist of Ready Player One slowly discovers how, by becoming so ingrained in society, the Oasis has become a substitute for all experiences. Your virtual life is now your only one. The real world is left to rot away.
The plot of Homestuck is launched by four Internet friends who decide to try Sburb, a sandbox-style action/adventure game in which a server player manipulate's the client player's environment, trying to get them into "the Medium," the interstellar setting of the game. Once in the Medium, the players must work together to complete personal quests, participate in an ancient chess match of good against evil, and eventually create an entirely new universe.
First of all, in the Medium, everyone gets their own planet! Plus playing Sburb is every Homestuck fan's dream. That's why there are so many quizzes out there to determine your aspect and class, mythological categories that tell you what kind of crazy sweet powers you get and what role you will play in your session. And you can reanimate a dead loved one with the "kernalsprite" feature, effectively resurrecting them as your own personal spirit guide.
Sburb also basically makes you a god. And if you succeed, you can reinvent the universe as you see fit. Pretty sweet deal.
To create a new universe, you have to get rid of the old one. By playing Sburb, you effectively trigger the apocalypse. So, I hope you weren't too attached to this Earth. Plus, winning seems nearly impossible. As far as we can gather by reading the webcomic, it's pretty easy to get killed in the Medium.
Granted, there are several ways to work around this, with a "dream self" serving as an extra life and "god tier" mode as a reincarnating level up. And if those methods don't pan out, there's a form of an afterlife. Too bad you can die there too. Like permanently. They call it "double death," in-universe. The fatality rate in Sburb is actually pretty alarming. So much so that the MS Paint Adventures wiki has a whole page just to list all of the Homestuck deaths.
Another virtual reality game, Heir Apparent follows you, the player character, as you discover that you are the illegitimate child of the late king, who named you heir to his throne before his death. Now you have to figure out how to survive the three days leading up to your coronation while navigating political unrest, dragons, and the current queen and her three sons who aren't too particularly happy about being passed over in line to the throne. There are endless ways to win. And endless ways to lose.
Video games have an edge over other forms of storytelling because they're interactive. It's kind of their main selling point. Heir Apparent takes this to the max. There's no set number of paths to take. You can do whatever you want! Poison the queen, flirt with a prince, burn the village to the ground, lead an army of sheep against the castle guard. I'm not saying that any of these strategies would work, but you could still try them anyway.
As we find out in the book, technical difficulties could potentially trap you in the game, risking permanent brain damage or even death if you don't find a way to win. But don't get discouraged. Every time you die in the game, you get to try again! And again. And again. And again. It's the medieval Groundhog Day from Hell. Oh, and virtual reality is crazy expensive in the future. $100 an hour? So much for my food budget.
For the sake of my sleep schedule, let's just agree that this is a fictional video game. I don't want to live in a world where this might be real. BEN Drowned is essentially a haunted/possessed/demonic copy of Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. In the original story, the narrator is tormented by "Ben," the previous player of the used cartridge, who attempts to use the narrator to "spread." The story is compelling because the "glitches" seem like they could be real. Not because they're actually real. Right? That would be crazy. This isn't real.
THIS WOULD NOT BE COOL.
Aside from facilitating a malevolent supernatural entity's desire to blur the lines of simulation and reality and consume the lives of its hosts? . . . Nothing I can think of.
What are your favorite (or least favorite) fictional games from movies, TV and books?