What makes a game a true sci-fi experience?
As part of a GDC Europe postmortem for his game MirrorMoon EP, Santa Ragione's Pietro Righi Riva reasoned that not many games which label themselves as "sci-fi" actually fall into that genre.
When movies or books tackle the sci-fi genre, much of the entertainment is focused around the characters' quest for knowledge, and presenting abstract, futuristic settings where viewers are left to fill in the blanks.
But in many video games, these core ideas are not replicated properly. Games like Mass Effect, Halo and Dead Space bill themselves as science fiction experiences, but Riva says that these games do not focus on the core principles that sci-fi revolves around.
"The gameplay itself must be a device for telling the sci-fi," he reasons. "It's not so much a matter of context, as it is a matter for interaction."
Thus, games like The Dig, Rama and Captain Blood Damocles are truly sci-fi games in his eyes, as their whole point is the quest for knowledge, while a game like Mass Effect is really more of a role-playing shooter set in a futuristic world.
"Portal and Bioshock's beginnings are very sci-fi," he adds, "but they quickly stop being central to their games." Thus, these games cannot be truly sci-fi experiences.
"Sci-fi offers the perfect setting to put in relation human beings as explorers," Riva says, "and the human being as the ultimate territory to explore."