Out There

Dear J-

What is actually out there?  If you accept that of all the stars in the universe, surely some have planets and of those planets, there must be a few that have Earth-like conditions, then there must be someone else out there wondering aloud what’s out there too.  Distance and relativistic limitations mean that we’re unlikely to ever meet, barring some kind of Star Trek warp drive and the acceptance of unacceptable risks (unless you assume that successful extrasolar exploration is predicated on society being peaceful/united enough to support it).

I used to play a lot of Spaceward Ho! when I was in college; it’s a game with some strategy, but it ends up being closer to Risk in space, with some minor resource management issues.  When you start the game you pick the number of planets (I’m assuming planetary systems), the size of the universe, and the number of players; my winning strategy invariably revolved around creating colony ships with long range, no weapons, and slow speed; fighters swift and well-armed; scouts lightly armed but as swift; and ringing all colonies with layers of satellites with state-of-the-art weaponry in case of accidental discovery.  Scouts were expendable to figure out whether a planet was worth going to (or to feel out the other player), with whole fleets of fighters along the front lines until satellites could be established, and colony ships bringing up the rear, ready to pounce on new discoveries as needed.

I would count the number of players I’d run out of existence, and sometimes it was less than we’d started with, meaning that the computer had exterminated itself in internecine warfare.  For some reason it would make me obscurely sad:  though I realize that the goal of the game was being the sole player standing it felt a little like electronic genocide — rather than seeing them as separate players, they always seemed like separate species, unreasoning and uncommunicative, rapacious and just like the player in front of the screen.  I haven’t played Spaceward Ho! in a long time, now.



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2 Responses to “Out There”

  1. Junior Says:

    Well THAT’S just a weird coincidence; I used to play a game in which I was prosecuting a murderous computer for unspeakable crimes of interstellar genocide. I got so tired of the “I was only following conditional branch instructions” defence.

    What a strange, possibly untrue, bit of synchronicity…

  2. dearJ Says:

    We accept a lot of strange premises in the name of electronic entertainment; from the so-hard-you’ll-never-win of Chris Crawford (he’s worth an entry in and of himself — the game, Balance of Power) to the kleptomaniacal searching of the typical jRPG/cRPG where no one seems to mind you coming into their house and smashing their pots or searching through their closets for useful items. They are an escape, but even so, sometimes ones that we wouldn’t normally choose.

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