#RRSciFiMonth: Getting Our SciFi Game on With Brianna Shrum and Kristi Charish
Sci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.
As you all know, we at BiblioSanctum are avid gamers. We love gaming as much as we do reading, and we love it even more when our hobbies intersect. Whether through books about gaming, expansions on gaming lore, or books inspired by gaming, we love it — and we love authors who share our passions. Both Kristi Charish, author of Owl and the Japanese Circus, and Brianna Shrum, author of Never Never, have written about how gaming has influenced their writing:
“I play games, I write books, because I want to live someone else’s incredible life for a while.”
“Video games, particularly some of the RPGs […] are fast becoming one of the most emotionally engaging interactive experiences on the planet.”
Kristi and Brianna are also hopelessly obsessed with Bioware games too and, while we could all spend hours talking about any or all of those games, for the sake of #RRSciFiMonth, we’ll do our best to keep our flailing focused on science fiction gaming.
What is your favourite science fiction video game and why?
Wendy: I’ve played a few scifi games, but Mass Effect stands out for so many reasons. First of all, it was the first game I truly played on the PC, and I’ve never looked back. I will still play games on the console, but I’m definitely addicted to the PC now. As a game, Mass Effect also introduced me to the wonderful world of games that are rich with characters to care about and choices to make that affect relationships with those characters, as well as the entire story. I had played other games with beloved characters and great stories, but being able to truly play a part in that story beyond just pushing the buttons was something entirely new.
Mogsy: I’m definitely more of a Fantasy kinda girl at heart, so this question is hard for me. All my absolute faves tend to be games in the fantasy genre, so I don’t know if there’s any one sci-fi game I can single out but rather a whole bunch vying for top spot. Mass Effect’s definitely up there though! And it’ll keep Wendy from strangling me… 😉
Brianna: I’m actually more of a fantasy gamer too, so this is tough! I’m taking a writing break pretty soon to focus on gaming and this is my DEEPEST DARKEST SECRET, but I’ve never played Mass Effect. (WHAT??? I know) During the Great Gaming Catchup of 2015/16, the entire Mass Effect series is on my list, because basically everyone says it’s incredible. At this moment, my favorite game of ALL TIME is Knights of the Old Republic. I am such a massive Star Wars fangirl, and I remember just not being able to stop thinking about it. KotoR’s story, the environment, the characters (except Carth. Eh. Team Canderous) blew. Me. Away. *stops so I don’t spoil anything* BUT KOTOR, GUYS.
Kristi: Ohhhhh….seriously? We’re doing this?? Ok, well at least we stuck with Sci-Fi. The Mass Effect Trilogy is one of the best out there.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I think this is hands down one of the best pieces of Science Fiction written in the last twenty years. Why? Video games takes the sci-fi genre to an entirely new level. Science fiction is all about imagining the possibilities based on the science and technology we have before us and how our future could be affected. It requires immersion to convince your audience that the world is real. Man, oh man are video games ever brilliant for that. Mass Effect doesn’t tell you a story like a book or movie, it let’s you live the story — and more importantly interact with it. The Bioware team has a stable of amazing writers. These guys aren’t leading you through a quest to get the next item (there is a lot of that- it is a video game) but they’re developing characters and weaving their emotional and personal journey’s into the game. If you are a fan of sci-fi, or writing sci-fi, this game is a must, must, must play. It didn’t set the benchmark for where sci-fi is going. It is the benchmark.
Tiara: Good question. I love Mass Effect, but before I loved Mass Effect, I loved Gears of War. (Side note: Ask me about my Dom feelings and I’ll be crying all over the place.) It took me a while to actually play Mass Effect, even though I’d played every other Bioware game ever. For some reason, I thought it was about something totally different than what I got when I actually played it. It took a couple of friends teaming up on me and saying, “If you liked Gears of Wars, you’re going to love Mass Effect.” I played the Mass Effect 2 demo on PS3 (because it had recently come out) to test it out and decided that I definitely had to play the series from the beginning after being wrapped up in that short session. The problem was I didn’t have an Xbox at the time, and the only other way I could play the first game was on PC. I wasn’t much of a PC gamer, but Mass Effect definitely changed that. I’m such a fan that I got a Mass Effect Spectre tattoo and plan to get a renegon (a character who’s renegade and paragon, but probably more renegade… See also: Paragade) tattoo soon. I’m a big fan of Knights of the Old Republic. I’m actually replaying that right now along with Mass Effect.
What other scifi games have grabbed your attention?
Wendy: Remember Me is a stunning game. It’s the first game from DONTNOD and I will love this game developer forever for the way they stood up to big executives who felt this game would not work well with a female lead protagonist. The game itself, though beautiful and innovative in ways, is still obviously a first work, but as DONTNOD has shown with their latest game, Life is Strange, they aren’t afraid to push buttons as well as envelopes in an industry in desperate need of a mainstream shake up. I also love the Borderlands games, which seem like mindless shoot’em up violence on the surface, but are actually an intricately detailed series of stories and characters. My husband plays Starcraft, and I’ve become invested in the Queen of Blades. Oh and Final Fantasy 7 was probably my first scifi game — and my first epic RPG. I love the way the series so smoothly combines fantasy (which actually is my preference too) and science fiction. Oh oh and then there’s the Knights of the Old Republic series and the The Old Republic MMO which feeds into both my Star Wars love, as well as my obsession with all things Bioware.
Mogsy: Okay, here we go. *takes a deep breath* Starcraft. Bioshock. Half-Life. Portal. (AMAZING!) Deus Ex. Gears of War. Star Fox 64. Doom. (I know I’m going back in time with some of these, but I have a lot of fantastic childhood memories associated with them.) And would Dishonored count? Because OMG, Dishonored.
Wendy also mentioned Star Wars games and of course being a big fan of Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic also gets a mention from me, along with Dark Forces, Rogue Squadron (“Rogue Squadron, where’s our cover?!?!”), Jedi Academy, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, you name it. I’m also super excited about Star Wars: Battlefront.
I’m big on MMOs these days too, so SWTOR, Star Trek: Online, EVE Online.
Brianna: Did I mention I’m obsessed with Star Wars? Because SWTOR is fantastic. I’m doing a playthrough with a bounty hunter, which I’m loooving. But I’m super ready to run through it as a Sith Inquisitor. I love the combination of traditional RPG with MMO and think that’s super innovative. Another sci-fi (zombies are sci-fi, right? Let’s go with that) I just started is LAST OF US, and wowwwwwwww is it incredible.
Kristi: Hehe. You expected us to all say Mass Effect :-). I’m definitely more of an RPG gamer — I like my stories. I actually just finished playing TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS a couple nights ago. We marathoned through the first season over the weekend. It’s from Telltale Games and is a cross between a video game and an interactive story. I’ve been watching what games they’ve got coming out and they’re good, but The Borderlands edition blew me away. Bonus: the soundtrack is pretty fantastic too — get Shazam ready.
Another one not on this list yet is WOLFENSTEIN — Alternate history sci-fi where the Nazi’s win. Considering it is a first person shooter the story is AMAZING.
I will also second THE LAST OF US, except it is TOTALLY not zombies. It is a parasitic fungi that invades its hosts and takes over the nervous system etc. It’s like Cordyceps! Seriously look it up- talk about awesome use of real life parasites!
Tiara: I’m a huge fan of Borderlands. I absolutely adore Tales from the Borderlands, which I worried would be a weird addition to the series, but Telltale nailed it. I pretty much started giggling just seeing Kristi mention it. I like Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls and Fahrenheit, which play more like interactive movies than games. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is high on my list even though I wasn’t a big fan of the first games. Beyond Good & Evil is another great game. I’m an undercover Crysis player, but don’t tell anyone I told you that. Christine Love’s Analogue: A Hate Story and its sequel Hate Plus tore me apart, too. Same for Transistor and Bastion by Supergiant Games.
I can’t leave without mentioning Thomas Was Alone, which is the craziest puzzler about blocks, but there’s a story that I got invested in. Why does a game about bouncing blocks have a story that I care about? LOL. If it’s science fiction, I’ve probably tried it.
What makes a great game for you? What makes for a great science fiction game, specifically?
Wendy: A great game, like a great book or show, needs to take me away. I want to get lost in the story and become BFFs with all the characters so that I can spend every day thereafter talking about them obsessively with anyone who will listen. When it comes to great science fiction, I’m not too hung up on there being actual science involved, though I certainly respect the stories that do make an effort to make the science believable. I’m fine with accepting giant space dragons as long as you make me feel for them.
Mogsy: As you can see from my list of sci-fi games that have caught my attention, I don’t think there’s any one element or even several that I can narrow down when it comes to what makes a great game for me. Honestly, it just has to be fun.
Brianna: I’m all about the characters, baby. I want companions I totally fall in love with, and more than anything, I just really want a story that I can get obsessed with. Twists that I’m talking about for ages, and characters I can’t stop thinking about. That’s across the board with games for me, and for scifi specifically, I can really get swept away by a great atmosphere.
Kristi: I’m seconding Brianna on this one. The characters. More Garrus!! But it’s just not the awesome character prototypes, for me it’s also how they change through the story. I also think the real power of video games is the immersion experience. No other storytelling medium can do that — or allow you to influence the characters or game. Take Dragon Age for example. Your cohorts can love or hate you, and it will influence some of the outcomes. That leads to the second thing for me — I play video games for the story, and sci-fi is no exception. I love a good story so pair that with a great immersible sci-fi world with characters that have some depth and you have me hooked. Oh yeah, and the romance options are always fun…I just described Mass Effect, didn’t I? …Maybe we should rename this chat to ME and other games 😉
Tiara: It’s usually a combination of things for me. Typically characters and story. Honestly, I think it’s going to really boil down to what I perceive happening. What I mean is? You have people who call a game’s story or characters shallow, and I play the game and I see a world filled with background, characterization, and story based on how I interact with the game. Likewise, people can say that a game is simply amazing storywise, and after I’m done playing, I’m left asking, “What is this filth you recommended me?” I’m a peculiar person like that. Look, I got attached to bouncing blocks.
Do you partake of science fiction within other mediums?
Wendy: For sure. I’ll scifi wherever I can find it. I’m really pleased to see so much science fiction on mainstream television these days, and I do love that real scientists like Neil de rasse Tyson are becoming such prominent figures in circles well outside the scientific community, and I’m particularly fond of all the Canadian scifi that is going on lately on television.
Mogsy: Yes. Books, movies, shows. Probably not as much as I should though. Like I said, I’m more into Fantasy; my husband’s the one who’s more into scifi at our house. He’s gotten me to appreciate a lot of the classics, while I introduce the newer stuff to him.
Brianna: Of course! Mostly in movies (i could list the ones I love foreverrrr) and TV (STILLLLLL weeping over the early cancellation of Firefly. Holla.) but I’ve read some YA sci-fi I’ve really loved. I especially adore space opera in basically *any* medium.
Kristi: Oh yeah. Definitely TV and movies — give me space cowboys! (Dark Matter and Killjoys atm). I also write and read scifi — I tend to keep to the space cowboy genres as opposed to space opera. Gimme a spaceship and a couple blasters any day!
Tiara: Books. Games. Television shows. Podcasts. Music. ALL SCIFI EVERYTHING!
Roleplaying is a big part of many of the games we play and that’s certainly a major part of Bioware games where you can design your own main character and make decisions that affect everything from romance to the fate of the galaxy. Let’s conveniently bring this back to Mass Effect and talk about our Commander Shepards. Tell us who they are and how they handle what life throws at them.
Wendy: My legacy Shepard is Molly, a ruthless space cadet. She’s truly her father’s daughter, and Admiral Hackett knows that he can always count on her to get the job done and make the tough decisions. She’s known as the Butcher of Torfan, but the moniker and her more renegade actions does not mean she is heartless. She remembers the names and faces of everyone who has died under her command. Her greatest regret is that she could not die for them, but she knows that their deaths were all a part of the greater battle and that people like her are needed to stop the galaxy’s ultimate threat: the Council. I mean, the reapers.
Mogsy: In the RPGs I play, I’m almost always the warrior with the big sword, or the soldier with the huge guns. In sci-fi games like Mass Effect, I typically subscribe to the “run in, shoot first and ask questions” later style of gameplay (this is why I suck so hard at stealthy games…I am like the world’s unstealthiest gamer) so my Commander Shepard was a bit of livewire!
Brianna: Ah, my great shame once again. I plan on playing a female Commander Shepard when I play in a few months for sure, and I really love to play somewhat darker, conflicted characters. Thinking spectre, maybe? And she’ll be all…edgy and stuff. And sneaky. Hi this was a wildly unspecific answer. *confetti*
Kristi: Oh I wish I had a photo. Ok, so my Commander Shepard is a redhead who keeps her head shaved. She’s the lone survivor or a colony that was wiped out. She is definitely more on the grey area of the lawful scale, more inclined to go with what she thinks is right versus what everyone else thinks is right (I mean, survival instincts, right?).
On her first mission out she accidentally ended up in a romantic relationship with Kaidan (it happens — particularly in Bioware games…I mean, in her defense, Shepard didn’t know he was serious about showing up in her cabin, and then he was there…it seemed like a good idea at the time…). That worked out fine though since Kaidan had a bit of a stick up his rear and couldn’t handle the whole resurrected by Cerberus thing…that’s ok, Shepard found a soul mate in Garrus who had gone rogue and totally became cool after the first installment…
I should probably mention that Commander Shepard (all of them) has a minor sexual harassment problem when it comes to dealing with crew. She/he has a bad habit of hitting on her crew and phrasing otherwise innocuous sentences into sexually loaded ones…No one ever complains about this… ever…which is odd…But then again, it works for her, so…
Ok, have I fanned out enough? 😉
Tiara: I have so many Shepards, but a holy trinity of Shepards–Jane, Chance, and Natalia–are my main three. Jane was my first Shepard. I customized her, but left her name the same because I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into at the time. She was my true blue paragon. An infiltrator turned soldier. Chance was my Jane Shepard gone wild renegade (okay, more like a renegade for two games and then, renegon for ME3). She’d like to think she was more of a consequentialist.She went from being a soldier to an infiltrator to a vanguard. (In fact, I figured out I liked vanguarding so much that I changed her class in ME2 in a second playthrough with her. CHARGE!) Natalia was an experiment of sorts, but then she grew on me because I had this intricate backstory that made her sort of this nature-loving woman from Mindoir who scared everyone when she joined the military, but here she is this bad ass engineer who happens to want to save the trees. She also might have decided that reciting Shakespeare was the only way to get to the love hiding in the Krogan heart.. “But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” It wasn’t very effective.