Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 21, 2007
Why Fantasy?

On Terra Nova Richard Bartle asks Why Fantasy? and the Ancient Gaming Noob lists blogs with responses. My personal answer is that it is a freak accident. It isn't that people wouldn't play a good SciFi game, it just happened that the best games of the MMORPG type were of the fantasy genre, while the people who made SciFi games produced less good games (my apologies to Raph). EVE Online isn't doing so bad, but with its bad tutorial and hardcore PvP it remains niche and inaccessible for the average WoW player.

That doesn't mean that all future successful games have to be fantasy. The hypothetical World of Starcraft game would probably get millions of players. And while the future of Star Trek Online is uncertain, Stargate: Worlds looks quite interesting. If we just wait a few years we'll be able to see people discussing "Why SciFi?" or "Is Fantasy Dead?".
The specifics of the game probably play the bigger role here as you mention. Games that are successful are more often better games than the ones that don't make it, regardless of genre. But I think other smaller factors come into play as well, such as being based on an existing concept like WoW or LOTRO affects the player base of existing games.

But I believe there are factors completely unrelated to the games themselves as well, when it comes to genre. When we look at films that hit big over the last 5-6 years, there are much more fantasy films over science fiction. It doesn't necessarily indicate that science fiction, or any other genre is necessarily dead, whether in films or games, but I think it does signify that it's at a down point. There's something cyclical about genres in general. Eventually people will tire of fantasy themes, and genres come into play.

It's just a theory. I'm more involved in films than video games, and haven't even tried most of the games that are out there, so I don't know if it actually applies here. But both being part of a broader entertainment spectrum, I can't help but feel that there's at least a little bit of a tie.
Hi, I'm not with you on this one: I, for example, wouldn't play an SF MMOg - simply because I'm a fantasy buff. I read fantasy books, I played p&p fantasy games, I like f. movies and so on. So, for me it's now WoW, in the future probably Warhammer Onl. but no SF MMOG.
This track of questions has been going on in the literary and movies for sometime already. Somehow the fantasy as a genre appeals to people easier than the sci-fi. Why? Beats me.

I agree with anon that with games its more to do with the quality of the game, than of the genre: in fact I think that scifi-games have been at least as successfull and awaited for as the fantasy ones, if not even more.

However, because fantasy is more readily accepted by the people, it's makes more sense to the gaming companies to aim for the market of fantasy games: the recent boom of Lord of the Rings movies is still making it easier to try the fantasy game because of the direct comparison.

I don't remember when I have seen a good scifi movie: somehow the ideas tend to involve around some techno babble instead of the world, people/creatures and living. The fantasy, though it contains the magic (which is more readily accepted than technologic advancements), usually concentrates between good and evil, creating the retrospective background.

Fantasy feels more familiar than scifi...

For me it's the overall entertainment value: I'm not genre tied, though I would love to see a horror based MMO (along the lines of Hellboy, H.P.Lovecraft et al), which would bind all together...

the thing i think is that magic seems easy and sci-fi is ¨techie¨

i have another question

why in wow most players choose alliance and in SwG most ones liked empire?¿
Game quality matters of course and I think from an environment perspective, fantasy is a bit easier to manage comapre to SciFi.

People's notion of what is fantasy is probably a bit more narrow than what would fit into the SciFi genre. Fantasy in many cases does not stray too far of the Tolkien main line and have many familiar elements from fairy tales etc. SciFi can encompass many different areas, from Starship Troopers pew-pew themes, to dystopian future societies like Neuromancer, Blade Runner etc, to alternate realities, time travel and lots more.

If one wants to play on some familiar elements to get people interested, fantasy is probably easier. Not that making a fantasy game would be easy through...

I think most people are fine with many different themes and would play a game as long as it looks interesting and fun to play.
I agree with most posters here - that, 1) game quality and 2) fantasy genre being more culturally accessible, are the prime deciding factors, when it comes to popularity.

One more important aspect: We all want to be one hero (of some adventure) who stands out and does a difference.

For cultural-historic reasons this seems more plausible in classical 'fairy tale' scenarios.
In modern and future settings the world gets too complex, too gritty, too real. The modern world are seldom moved by the heroic, glorified actions of one person (or so we seem to perceive it).

...oh, and Star Wars is NOT sci-fi. It's a fairy tale with gadgets in space.
¨...oh, and Star Wars is NOT sci-fi. It's a fairy tale with gadgets in space.¨

the term you are trying to write is space-opera
Most MMORPGs revolve around combat in some form.

In Fantasy, most combat involves melee. Unless you have a tank, sooner or later that MOB is going to be in your face.

In Sci-Fi there IS melee combat, but it's mostly ranged combat with people or ships firing projectiles at each other.

Eventually all combat becomes Melee, especially when dealing with boss monters, and melee in Fantasy is just way cooler.

But then again, perhaps Fantasy is more popular because the MMORPs who 'got it right' are fantasy based.

You have to add content for the casual gamer. I really liked SWG when it came out, but became bored quickly because all the quests where basically the same. I never got to the point where I was raiding and I got sick of kicking animal mounds around. After WoW came out they started to make changes, but we all know how that worked out!

Happy Holidays.
@ Ed. Castillo

"the term you are trying to write is space-opera"

Star Wars has indeed been labeled 'space-opera'... but I think I was trying to refer to the nature of the narrative :)
We can't imagine anything besides Fantasy and Sci-Fi because the terrorists have attacked imagination land. Shucks
Well personally, I really can't stand WoW. But I was always more of a Starcraft fan than a Warcraft fan, the game just appealed to me more (which doesn't make sense since I do enjoy fantasy over sci-fi).

However, if they make a WoS MMO, I'm all over it.
I think one of the major things is that we all grew up as kids hearing fantasy stories. King Arthur, Charlemagne, Elves,etc. Fantasy stories are familiar. Regardless of your place of birth they all share the same elements. Thus you get a unversal appeal.

Sci Fi is all about the new "Weird" stuff and it's genetically wired it that New and strange is to be avoided till you have quantified it and figured out how to deal with it.

As a really big sci fi fan it's been my experience most sci fi fans are fantasy fans but the reverse is not true.

A perfect example of this is my wife. She'll sit down and watch a war movie with me, but if I plug in something like space above and beyond which is just a sci fi war movie about marines in space fighing an alien enemy, she is turned off and walks away.

I'm not saying there can't be a big successful Sci Fi game but the grade to hit it is really hard. You make it have a broad appeal and be more "familier and friendly" and less weird and new and you lose your hard core sci fi fans. You make them happy by giving them all the cool futuristic "new" stuff and you lose a huge chunk of the fantasy crowd that wants the familiar.

That and it just seems more heroic to face down the evil Ogre with your own strength of arms than to blow him up with a Laser rifle from a distance.
"That and it just seems more heroic to face down the evil Ogre with your own strength of arms than to blow him up with a Laser rifle from a distance."

i dont find heroic running ogres in circles where you keep cursing and cursing with a warlock

The thing is that most players choose ranged characters, most played character in census is hunter (well im sure a pretty number of they are goldfarmers sure)

"Star Wars has indeed been labeled 'space-opera'... but I think I was trying to refer to the nature of the narrative :)"

if we compare the stories, sci-fi is not so new, aliens is from 1979, 28 years ago, lotr was published in 1955, 52 years ago, but jules verne created a lot of pre sci-fi in the 1800s

if we keep over analyzing all we will get greek tragedy

then i think i must change my example form SWG to eve online ^^
@ Ed. Castillo

"if we keep over analyzing all we will get greek tragedy"

I'm not sure I understand your point.

All I'm claiming is that the lure of fantasy/mythology as a MMORPG genre is partially founded in its narrative structure - an narrative based on legendary heroes (or villains) of a culture. It's about individuals that are bigger than 'life' - i.e. destiny... environment... forces of nature, politics, gods... and so on.

The narrative structure of (classical) sci-fi is centered around individuals IN a milieu, coping with a milieu, being alien to a milieu - that be technology, political systems, and so on. Individuals are just a small part of it all.... with the 'surroundings' playing the real lead of the story.

I recon the majority of average people would rather delve in a gameworld where they feel special... and that the same majority find sci-fi 'cold' and slightly dehumanizing .
coprolit actually hit the nail far better than I did.

Scifi is about the known quantity. Even the "Alien" Stuff can be quantified, analyzed and dealt with.

Fantasy is all about the Unquantifiable,Magic, gods, the mystical forces of the universe.

The fact is more people want to escape the known quantifiable universe they live in to a fantasy world where heroes can do the unimaginable and no one asks why.

And just to clarify my position. I love sci fi. I'd rather play a sci fi game. But for 40 years I've seen every sci fi game except starcraft overshadowed by fantasy stuff. Even the role playing games like traveller and Gamma World some of my favorite were never ever as popular as D&D.
So why are there so many more SciFi series on TV than fantasy?
"So why are there so many more SciFi series on TV than fantasy?"

Because sci-fi environments are captivating, limitless backdrops of pure escapism...
When you're a passive spectator of the screen, the static environment of fantasy quickly gets old.
Tobold I think the question is how many really mainstream Sci fi shows are on. Star Trek was one.
Stargate SG1 is one but most of the shows on TV that have mass appeal are Drama's and reality shows.

I think the few sci Fi shows that became mainstream adopted huge elements of other Genres.
For Instance Gene Roddenberry regularly described star trek as his space western. And the show was more about the characters than the Alien stuff. The Alien stuff was just the backdrop.

Most of the other shows I think of that were popular like Babylon5,Doctor Who,Space above and beyond, firefly and dozens of others never became what I'd call mainstream. They all had good solid followings but not universal appeal.

And it took star trek 20 years to become mainstream. And that didn't really happen till after Star Wars took the stage.
Why fantasy? I think it all comes down to fashion. This decade fantasy is in, it just so happens that computers have got to a certain level that makes massively multiplayer games possible. So it is simply coincidence that most MMORPGs are fantasy based.

If computers started their incredible exponential development 20 years earlier maybe we would be saying, why sci-fi?

I have a feeling that sci-fi is the next big thing and if I'm correct we will find out if it really is just down to fashion. Come on World of Starcraft!
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