I know… Mass Effect is an ancient game (2007). But I’m playing it and loving the detail on these planets.
I wanted to mention this video game in relation to Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience that was running a while back.
First, a tiny bit about the game. This game world surprised me. The Hubs has been playing these games (there are three in the series) since they’ve been released. But they’ve just been one of “Duncan’s video games”. My video game background is obviously a lot slower, and I thought there would be a few folks more my speed who might appreciate a quick intro to the Mass Effect universe.
If he’d have said to me ages ago, oh, this game is much like the 1986 StarFlight for the Radio Shack Tandy, I’d have been all over Mass Effect in a much more timely manner.
There’s a first person shooter aspect to the game, but “casual” level renders that down to a minor inconvenience, allowing me to get to the good bits, namely, the story, the aliens, the planets.
So, on to the planets and the Science Fiction experience.
In the story, you are tasked with duties that take you to other planets. Your character, Shepard, and his/her team must explore these planets in order to uncover sinister truths, deep galactic past, and cool stuff like crashed probes.
The art of the game stunned me. They’ve gone and mapped all these worlds, given every one of them unique astrophysical characteristics. Paula, I’m thinking you’d have fun reading these descriptions. Heh!
And the aliens rock. They’re ugly, weird, short, huge, gas-breathers, or maybe even possess ethereal beauty.
As if the extensively mapped, fully explorable planets plus the detailed background and interactions of the alien races weren’t enough, the story is immersive, asking me to make decisions that will affect the outcome of the rest of the game. The story is *expansive* and just doesn’t quit.
Anyway, I found myself totally immersed in the experience of the fiction of science, something I haven’t really found outside a select few space opera books. I guess we kind of become numbed to the sense of awe that science fiction can bring when we fixate on it, but playing this game, and especially playing with the beautiful galaxy maps, looking at the stars twinkling behind these fictional planetary systems, triggered for me that science fiction wonder: …what if…? …what’s out there? …how would life develop under those planetary and ecological conditions?
In 1986, we were holding down the arrow keys to maneuver an 8-bit space rover against a 16-color backdrop, knowing, dreaming, that there must be extra-solar planets out there. In 2007, the graphics and sound are exponentially better, and we had identified a few exoplanets, the first confirmed 12 years prior in 1995.
Now, we’ve been able to determine that there are more than 100 billion planets in the Milky Way.
And at least one is earth-like and a candidate for extra-solar life. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/KOI-172.02