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Space Adventures, Haunted Houses, Intergalactic Gaming: Richard Garriott Lives Large
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Space Adventures, Haunted Houses, Intergalactic Gaming: Richard Garriott Lives Large

October 15, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Back in high school, Richard focused on programming computer games and didn't bother learning a foreign language. Now, part of his training regimen is learning the Russian language (essential for the return trip on the Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian cosmonaut). "Other classes over the course of the week included more analysis of the ISS life-support systems," Richard said, "lectures about its water-recycling and storage systems, and a new self-imposed language tutoring session to help me get farther along in mastering Ruskie Yaziek!"

From the perspective of the gaming community, Richard's space voyage (where he will become only the sixth private individual to travel into space) offers another interesting twist. Operation Immortality ( will place into the space station an archival history of the human race and personalized messages from people around the world. And, as mentioned earlier, digitized DNA sequences from individuals selected from the Tabula Rasa gaming community will also be bundled into the archive. Whether designing an intricate intergalactic adventure game or training for a very real space trip to the boundaries of human experience, Richard Garriott lives a life that the rest of us can't help but admire.

Richard graciously took time out from his demanding spaceflight training schedule to answer a few questions for us. Our probing questions and his thoughtful responses follow.

Much of your life seems focused on finding ways to open and expand people's imaginations (your interest in magic, the online fantasy worlds you help develop, Britannia Manor, your planned trip into space). What influences in your early life moved you in this direction?

My main influences in my early life were definitely my parents. My mother is an artist, my father is a scientist and former NASA astronaut. My entire childhood was imbued with the artistic through my mother, and the fantastic and scientific through my father. I suppose it gave me a very different view of "reality."

In my adolescence I discovered the JRR Tolkien novels. I was so enamored with this type of story telling, that I suppose the combination of this and the house I grew up in, plus my interest in computers at an early age, propelled me to start making games.

Do you feel that Tabula Rasa captures some of the experience of space exploration? Is there any chance you'll be able to play the game from the space station or will the security issues make that impossible?

I do think Tabula Rasa does capture the feeling of space exploration in that players are taken to alien worlds and discover all the ways those worlds are different, and the same, as Earth.

I really wanted to be able to play the game from the ISS [International Space Station], but unfortunately the security issues were too problematic. However, I will be connecting with the Tabula Rasa players from the ISS by relaying messages to them that will be broadcast in game, and we'll have a dialogue going from space!

Additionally, I will be taking the game code with me, so Tabula Rasa will probably be the first video game launched into outer space. And I'm bringing the players with me, as a part of Operation Immortality.

I'm taking a digital time capsule into space called the Immortality Drive that will include a history of humankind's greatest achievements, personal messages from people all over the world, Tabula Rasa player character data and -- for a few -- digitized DNA sequences of select Tabula Rasa players.

So while I'm not able to play the game from space (which I really think would have worked if not for the security issues it brings!), we are finding ways to share this experience with our player base in a fun and meaningful way.

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