Science fiction and video games have gone hand in hand from the start. A nuclear scientist named William Higinbotham made Tennis for Two as head of the Brookhaven Lab’s Instrumentation Division back in 1958. While it was only a primitive tennis simulator, his creation must have seemed like science fiction to the hundreds of visitors that lined up to play. Remember, it was 1958, eight years before Star Trek would change TV and science fiction forever. Controlling objects on a small oscilloscope must have blown the minds of all who got a chance to play.
In many ways, video games are science fiction come to life – a virtual reality we control. Games have reflected this romance with science fiction since the very beginning; the first commercially released video game, the arcade unit Computer Space, was a sci-fi space shooter. Since then, games have evolved from small blips to giant multi-user worlds where just about anything can happen.
The second video games came to life, they were used to fulfill our dreams. With its fantastic technology and strange alien races, science fiction was at the core of those dreams. We would ask ourselves what other universes could exist; video games gave us a way to go there. Someone who played Tennis for Two in 1958 could never imagine opening up a portal to another world on a giant screen in your living room or a virtual-reality unit on your head, yet that is the world we live in today.
We dream of a world where robots roam the Earth (or perhaps rule it?), worlds where thousands of light years are traveled in an instant, and planets both far and near where we either coexist or battle with alien life. Science fiction is a broad term, but it is most certainly one that resonates with gamers everywhere.
Some of the greatest games in game history were inspired by science fiction; in fact, the entire video game industry owes the genre a bit of thanks.