Friday, July 15, 2011

Role-Playing in the Future: The Holo Deck

Netflix makes me want to smile so hard sometimes. I'm a die hard fan of the 'Flix, as the cool kids call it (no they don't), but I often fell like they out do themselves. The biggest thing that I'm addicted to right now is Star Trek: The Next Generation as all seven seasons are on instant watch and available at the press of my PS3 controller.

I grew up watching TNG and later Deep Space Nine, and haven't had a real chance to check it out again since I was a kid. I've never watched it from beginning to end and know that I've missed a ton of episodes in their original run. I know the first two seasons are supposed to be the rocky ones (and make no mistake, these uniforms are terrible!),
but so far I've been very amused throughout and only skipped
over one or two of the first 30 episodes.

Since being at least twice as old now as I was when I last watched an episode, a lot of things pop out at me as being much better than I remember. First of all, Data is awesome, and Data trying to learn about comedy is even awesomer. Riker is cooler, somehow, than I remember him being. Red Shirts, at least in TNG, are not nearly as cannon foddery as I seem to recall them being (of course I'm only a little more than two seasons in, and who knows what will come about).

The coolest trend I've picked up on out of all of them is that everyone role plays in the future. In fact, the main form of entertainment is not watching TV (there aren't any aboard the Enterprise) or surfing the inter-galactic-net (which I just made up) on their spiffy voice-activated laptops, and no one bothers to pull out a smart phone at all. Oh God, this is starting to sound boring... No! The crew and passengers of the Enterprise do one thing for fun - LARP! Well, they also play 3d chess or something and drink a lot. And some of them play musical instruments, but you get the picture!

They can LARP in any fictional setting or any historical time period. Picard, in an early episode, LARPs an event from his own personal history even! I loved the episode in season 2 where Data is Sherlock and Geordi is Dr. Watson. Geordi very explicitly states that the Holodeck is a game with rules and challenges, and if you (or an android who's downloaded the entire Sherlock library to his hard drive) know how the story/game ends, where's the challenge?

I can't think of a better future really than one where we get to play out our adventures in real time with fantastic costumes, amazing special effects, and hard-light objects with extremely powerful non-lethal protocols running 24/7. I don't have any interest to LARP as it stands in America, unless you count nerfin' around as a LARP, but just imagine a world where you have access to True Dungeon whenever you can schedule a session for the room. With the concepts of the Singularity as a backdrop, maybe it'll be quite the opposite of what TNG suggests. Instead of us going into the big room physically, our brains will be able to host the big room directly, and we'll be able to play out our Friday night games directly via thought and dreams. We live in exciting times, and it's really only going to get cooler!

As long as Riker's wearing a beard of course.



  1. I had the same reaction- love having a chance to go through these on the PS3. And your observation about the holodeck is one I hadn't thought of before. That makes sense.

    On a more ST than RPG track- I'd be curious about your thoughts on Enterprise. I never watched it when it actually aired- bouncing broadcast schedules meant I never knew when it was on and then it went on to a channel we didn't get. But I've been watching it- only the first half-dozen episodes or so and it feels like it comes out of the gate stronger than any of the other series. It also seems IMHO to be the one with the richest set of obstacles for playing out in a tabletop game (limitations on the transporter, speed, translation, etc but keeping the familiar universe...)

  2. With all that LARPing it's easier to stay on Earth than bother with what's out there (*points to the first chapter of Arthur C. Clarke's "The City and the Stars"*). :)

  3. Ha HA!


    Those Enterprise crew are so nerdy! Oh wait...

    Ok, I've never thought of the holodeck as larping, but it's so true. I've never really wanted to go larping, but I've always wanted to go holodecking!

    Oh wait, you said I could watch all 7 seasons on Netflix, streaming? Well, I know what I'm going to do for the next 200 hours!

  4. @Lowell - I've only watched the pilot episode of Enterprise, but I liked it. I have a hard time telling some of the crew apart at this point (the two very generic looking white officers kept confusing me through that episode). I like a lot where the Federation is and how they still wear some ties. I've only ever heard disappointing things about it, but I'm still looking forward to watching it and giving it a shot.


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