Daily Archives: August 19, 2009

What Genre is Our Post-Apocalyptic Future?

Fantasy is the impossible made probable.  Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.

Rod Serling

I was looking at Fallen Earth last night.  It is a new, post-apocalyptic MMORPG that is currently in open beta.  If you have a FilePlanet subscription, you are eligible to get in and play as of this week.

As I was going through the tutorial, I was thinking that here at last I was going to get another shot at a science fiction MMORPG, the genre I bemoaned the lack of in a post a year and a half back that still attracts heated comments now and again.

Then I mentally had to step back.  Something was really bugging me about that thought.  Is a game science fiction just because it is post-apocalyptic?

I mean, it can be.  Wikipedia says apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction.  But I’ve had issues with how things get defined on Wikipedia before.  Whoever edits last and all that.

Certainly a future where SkyNet takes over and mankind is fighting a self-aware army of machines has all the hallmarks of science fiction.

But what if the apocalypse arrives by more mundane means?  What if it isn’t technology gone awry or aliens or anything that would fill the “science” bill for science fiction?  What if it is a pandemic or running out of oil or a season of American Idol so compelling that society falls due to neglect?  Is it still really science fiction then?

Of course, this then goes in the direction of defining science fiction, something many people a lot smarter or more creative than myself have taken a crack at.  A futile direction for me to travel.

So I stepped back one more pace.

Why was I trying to exclude Fallen Earth from the category of science fiction?

I think why my bias was driving me in that direction is that Fallen Earth isn’t the science fiction MMORPG I am looking for.  It is not the genre shaking beacon that will lead science fiction away from the fantasy MMORPG paradigm.  It isn’t that hope for the genre that I seek.

Not that it is necessarily a bad game.  I haven’t played it enough to judge the long term game play.  And it does seem reasonably polished and such.  But I’ll post about the game itself at some future date.

But it does wholeheartedly embrace the fantasy MMORPG paradigm.  The game certainly isn’t just Mad Max or Tank Girl pasted over WoW.  But anybody who had played WoW will recognize interface and draw almost all the correct conclusions about how to play.

And since it does not deviate from the fantasy MMORPG norms, something within me wants to deny it is science fiction at all, as irrational as that might sound.

I’ll keep playing Fallen Earth for now, but it isn’t that science fiction MMORPG messiah that will lead us to the gaming promised land.