We are delighted to welcome Tony Gonzales to the Gollancz Blog for a special guest post about the influence and inspiration video games had on his new book The Tabit Genesis.
In the gaming world, I guess I’m considered an old man.
My first gaming system was an Intellivision, which my parents regretted immediately because of their inability to detach me from Space Battle. That was 1980, the same year they subscribed to cable television for $15 a month. I did not see Star Wars in theaters, but I watched it at least 40 times from home. I was thinking about spaceships all the time after that. Legos were a thing even back then, and I only played with the space-themed sets. The toys in my room were arranged such that they resembled the bridge of the Millennium Falcon, or if I was in a bad mood, a Star Destroyer. I was completely institutionalized.
Then my parents introduced me to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. I was, even at the age of seven, completely awestruck by the words and profound wisdom of Carl Sagan. He brought perspective to the lasers and light sabers, building a bridge connecting fantasy with the achievable, and inspiring an endless wonder for what’s next for us.
These are some of the origins of the Tabit Genesis. There isn’t one single moment of inspiration that can take credit for the entire novel. There are too many to count. Here are some examples, many of which are decades old:
I remember the satisfaction of putting my disk through the eye of a Recognizer in Intellivision’s TRON Deadly Discs. The panic of hearing the sonar ping of an enemy Alfa in 688 Attack Sub. I remember the sound of shotguns in Doom and the watery grunt of imps as they died. I remember joining my first clan in Mechwarrior 2 and playing multiplayer over a 9600 baud modem on a Pentium x286. I remember going to a friend’s house to be his co-pilot in F-117A Stealth Fighter on the Amiga. I remember skimming the treetops in a Comanche looking for targets. I remember thinking the gravity gun in Half Life 2 was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And I remember the hallucinations in Batman: Arkham Asylum helped me understand the comic book hero I knew—and relishing the savage empowerment of pummeling 20 thugs at once.
As a younger man, I had my MMO days. I was very addicted to Jumpgate, World of Warcraft, and then EVE Online. I have fond memories of those games, but they are very different from my single player experience. To be clear, I don’t consider them better experiences. Just different.
The MMO moments are memorable because of the human, peripheral real-life elements driving the gameplay experience. There are personalities and group social dynamics, agendas and grievances. Participating in these experiential highs takes an enormous amount of time and commitment. The formula for success is generally thus: Take a bunch of humans who don’t know each other and give them the means to interact in a positive or harmful way. Then just sit back and let them be human. The players are the story, and this type of emergent gameplay absolutely forges memories that can last a lifetime.
Still, the memories that stick with me the most are the ones from my younger, more impressionable days. This is not about comparing the merit of single versus multiplayers games. The means may be different, but the goal is the same in games and all other creative endeavors: Always create memorable moments. Whether they are crafted in a single player experience or enabled with the right game design in an MMO, find a way to make memorable experiences happen and the success will come.
For me, immersion is what drives my interest in a world. I want to be taken to someplace I’ve never been and remove every trace of the world I’m from behind. The intangible desire to be part of something unreal is the heart of fantasy and sci-fi. EVE certainly left its mark on me, though I think more for what the world could have been than what it actually was. While the players brought the realism and the fun to the game, it’s also precisely what broke immersion for me.
My generation—we who understand what ‘Please insert Disk 2’ means—finds itself burdened with more real life responsibility than we ever imagined. We seek an escape from it. We love games but can only squeeze them in the moments that lie precariously on the fulcrum of work-life balance. Those moments have to count.
For the longest time, words alone could put you in the minds of villains and heroes and live unimaginable experiences. With games, the possibilities are limitless. I recently played through Wolfenstein: The New Order. The story, writing and characters in that game were brilliant. I truly admired how they balanced the “over the top” setting of the game’s alternative history with the vivid conveyance that you were part of an underground resistance. Without giving anything away, I will remember the word “Clear” for a long time. The same is true with The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I played over 400 hours of that game, sometimes just to sit on the deck of my mountain lodge and listen to the wind.
Those precious moments add up. Even a virtual memory can change you. And in my case, they led to the Tabit Genesis.
Five Reasons to Read the Tabit Genesis
- You want to be immersed in a science fiction world that balances the achievable with the unknown.
- You want to read about characters that you’re ashamed to admit you love.
- You want to experience a vision for space combat that is brutally real and more imaginative than World War II dogfights in space
- You want a world where it actually makes sense for human pilots to be in fighter-class ships.
- You want to read about the human condition; of loyalty and bloodlines and the transhumanistic politics of mankind’s future