Category: Special Topic

The Giant Hula Monster #2 – Romancing the Astro-Games

Last time I talked about science fiction as a game theme and listed some examples. There are A LOT of them. It is a oft use theme. Why? Because it sells, the IP space is open if you do something original (i.e. you can make more games in that universe), and most of the time these games look cool. All this got me thinking. As a game designer, why aren’t I designing a science fiction themed game? Well I was. It was called The Survivor and it was loosely based on Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a movie from 1964 starring Paul Mantee. He and Adam West are astronauts who crash on Mars. Mantee has to find food, water, and shelter until a rescue vessel can arrive. It’s a fun movie, very 1960’s feeling. I started on it several years ago. It started out as with mechanics using a standard deck of cards, charts, movement on a small board. It was complex and not fun. So I set it aside and went to the next design. Then I see Jason Glover’s Desolate and realized that this was the game I was trying to make. By the way this is an excellent solo game that you can hear more about right here – Flying Solo  . And you can buy your own copy here – Desolate on The Game Crafter 

The itch to make a science fiction themed game was revived when I discovered Monster Kid Radio podcast. Derek Koch’s wonderful show covers the movies that I LOVE – 1930’s through early 1960’s monster movies. This includes your classics like Dracula, The Mummy, and Creature From The Black Lagoon. He and his guests also talk about not as well known movies like Dan Curtis’ Dracula, Santo movies, Nosferatu, and The Beach Girls And The Monster.   It reawakened my monster kid and I’m very glad of it. Here’s a link to MKR. I give it my highest recommendation.

Anyway, Ryan and I got to talking and actually watching some of them ‘together’. He asked me that very question – why don’t I make a science fiction themed game based on one of these movies? That was a very excellent question and got my brain working. It would be great to do a Logan’s Run or This Island Earth. But licensing issues would surely arise. It would be best to find a movie without that particular roadblock. Therefore to the public domain I went. And that is where I will harvest my theme. There are numerous movies there to pick from. Movies such as Robot Monster, Killers From Space, Attack of The Giant Leeches, and any number of Flash Gordon or other serials. Surely I can dig a treasure from such fertile ground. So readers, that is one of my design goals for 2019. I am going to design, or at least start, a game based on some public domain science fiction (possibly horror) movie. I have a couple of ideas and invite you to tag along on this journey with me.

Next Time: A few movies I’m considering

The Giant Hula Monster #1 – The Science Fiction Theme in Games

I like science fiction. A lot. If I’m reading a book, most likely it’s science fiction of some sort. You should check out Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark series or anything by Robert Heinlein.  I enjoy pretty much all flavors in the genre – space opera, speculative, alternate history, hard science, sci-fi spy (James Bond). It’s all good. Greater than fifty percent of the movies I watch fall into this category. Most recently I was in a ‘70’s science fiction mood so I got The Omega Man, Soylent Green, and Logan’s Run watched (man, Charlton Heston liked to take his shirt off!).

So what about games? There are a lot of science fiction based games. You have the standard 4X games like Eclipse, pick up and deliver games like Terra Prime or Junk Orbit , worker placement ones like Alien Frontiers or Dinosaur Island. You can’t fall down in a game store without landing on a space themed game. I searched BGG on this theme and there are 50 pages of science fiction games! Why is this? Why are there SO many science fiction themed games?  I have some thoughts on this.

First, and probably most important, it sells. If it didn’t there would not be so many games with these themes. People like science fiction. Science fiction in general is popular. Why? There are many, many reasons. I’m not going into this as it will take 20 posts to cover. Go search the internet using “Why is science fiction popular?” and you will get plenty of good opinion and stats. I’m talking a small crumble of the science fiction pie.

Because it is popular, science fiction sells. Go to Barnes & Noble and go to the science fiction section. It’s huge. Then go to the DVD department there. Again lots of movies and TV shows. Science fiction makes money. Game publishers are in the business of making money from the games they publish. It is logical that they would jump into this genre. I would be interested to see sales numbers for science fiction games. I bet they would be in the top two themes. So there is money to be made with science fiction themed games.

Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games

Another reason, I believe, is for the publisher it gives them their own intellectual property (IP). Unless it is a licensed property, the publisher owns the ‘world’ created for the game. They can do whatever they wish with that property. If the initial game makes money, they are free to do sequels or other games in that world/universe. And they could use some of the same art or at least artists and creators that they already have relationships with. It is sustainable. They can continue to build off of the property for years. For example, Button Shy Games has created its Pocket Universe. There are seven or eight games set in this universe. They all have similar art and their stories are loosely linked. Locations, characters, and art are shared between the games to give the Pocket Universe cohesion and a unique identity.

That’s two or three good reasons why there are so many science fiction games. I will mention one more – escape. Ask people why they play games. It is very likely one of the reasons is it gives them a break from life, a little bit of time to think about something other than jobs, bills, etc.. Science fiction adds another layer on top of that. And I think an active layer. By that I mean that people can imagine science fiction themes better than say, medieval themes. Even though the latter theme is more factual I think people enjoy thinking about a science fiction theme. I know I would rather imagine myself zipping around in a spaceship delivering goods to planets rather than driving an ox cart between towns in Europe. Science fiction is snazzier. People like snazzy.

Those are just some of my thoughts on the science fiction genre in gaming. Next time I start my own journey into genre.