How Sci-fi Games are Getting Old

Recently Mojang’s developer tweeted about a surplus of space games in the indie and major games market—and while it was mostly sarcasm referring to his own space game, 0x10c, it still stands as a problem in the current games industry. Browsing through Kickstarter, nearly all of the upcoming games are based in space, and a significant portion of those games are RTS-based mining simulators. It’s disappointing that the major genre of this generation of gaming is being explored in the same manner in every game. Although I am a huge fan of the sci-fi genre, the huge amount of games that get released with different faces but the same underlying mechanics and plot are just frustrating. The science-fiction genre, unfortunately, has passed its prime.

Many of the games currently in the market and in development off of the market all have the same features: obviously zero-gravity is an expected mechanic, along with space travel and improved weaponry. Aliens abound, although most of them are distinctly bipedal, binocular vision, carbon-based, and bearing opposable thumbs—in other words, humanoid. There are some series that do explore alien anatomy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find something that doesn’t include humanoids (excluding humans themselves, of course). Talking and politics are a major focus of the games that focus on plot, while resource management and mining are starting to become the norm for FPS and RTS-style games. When there’s all of space to explore, why are these games mostly rip offs of Star Trek? Admittedly the series was long-running and covered many points, but the game world has many other ways to interact with an audience and there’s plenty of scientific discoveries in the recent years left unexplored.

In example, how often do you find exploration within our same Solar System? That seems much more believable and much closer in the future, but no one’s explored it. Speaking of exploration, the majority of sci-fi games focus on either scientific investigations, the strange disappearance of a crew, or galaxy-wide warfare when they travel across the stars. Are there no other occupations in the whole wide universe available to writers? It’s always high space fantasy that makes it through publishers, which results in the same product reaching shelves with a different name and set of main characters slapped across the box.

This has resulted in a genre over-saturated with games that are all-too-similar. It’s clear that the science fiction genre is a very successful one, and there’s many different elements left to explore—but unfortunately, very few developers are trying to explore it, and even fewer publishers are interested in making it. Hopefully future developers will find something new to glean out of the genre—instead of the basic approach of ‘oh god, aliens and viruses and politics in space!’ There’s plenty there for creative concepts to work with, but unfortunately nobody has been given the opportunity or time to make one, resulting in a genre over-saturated with the same games over and over again. The last frontier is getting old, and it’s starting to show.