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.

7 thoughts on “What Genre is Our Post-Apocalyptic Future?

  1. Graktar

    I think a low-tech post-apocalyptic setting would technically simply be fiction, not science fiction. If it has laser weapons, robots, and other things (ala Fallout) it is science fiction. If it’s a modern-day technology level coupled with a blasted landscape, that’s just fiction.

    I haven’t played the FE beta, so I couldn’t say which it is.

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  2. Jason

    “…or a season of American Idol so compelling that society falls due to neglect?”

    Dude. I have that nightmare every night. Get out of my miiiind!

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

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  3. Reatu Krentor

    I don’t see how post apocalyptic fiction can be defined as a subgenre of sci-fi. I’d define it as a subgenre “modifier”. Just look at Outland in Wow, that’s post apocalyptic fantasy =)
    That first definition is the best definition for sci-fi I’ve seen in a while, improbable -> possible.
    Communicators in ST:TOS is an example. Improbable technology back in the day but absolutely possible today.
    Anyway, in short if it contains improbable tech then you could prolly define it as post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

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  4. KJP

    I guess the current view is “maybe it’s technically not sci-fi, but we classify it as that anyway”. Consider the TV show Jericho, really not at all sci-fi, yet it gets re-run on that channel.

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  5. syncaine

    No, it gets re-run on the SyFy channel, TOTALLY different (sorry could not resist).

    TAGN, have you ever played or read about Necromunda from Games Workshop? Now that would make for a rather amazing Sci-Fi MMO (or even Turn based strategy game similar to what Blood Bowl does now)

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  6. Pete

    I grew up in the 80s. ‘Post-Apocolyptic’ evokes for me scenes from many B-Rate films. Guys and Gals in leather roaming around desolate Arizona type Badlands.

    Verges on the Western genre in many respects. Well Maybe a Western with wild cars decked out with spikes, and crazed mutants with mohawks :)

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  7. Pingback: Fallen Earth: The Sleeper MMO You’ve Been Waiting For? « Bio Break

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