Author Topic: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?  (Read 21405 times)

HapexIndustries

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Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« on: November 03, 2015, 07:10:55 PM »
The Eclipse Phase APs on RPPR are some of my favorites, and the setting is the first since Planescape that really interests me.  I was introduced to the concepts of posthumans and transhumanism by Dan Simmons' Illium/Olympos cycle (which I do not recommend, btw) a decade ago but have largely been disappointed by the slow adoption of the genre, especially by videogames.

Last week, though, I came across a little game on Steam called Sundogs (actually it was recommended by whoever runs the Fail Better Games Facebook account, they're the guys that made the awesome Sunless Sea and are behind Fallen London, both of which I heartily recommend looking into) and I think it marks the first actual, no holds barred posthuman vidya game I have ever played.  Unfortunately, it is also a rather barebones, experimental 95% text only 'interactive experience.'  In other words, it's barely a game, and what game is there is mostly comprised of reading, random luck and choosing to go certain places after certain textual triggers.

Regardless, what is there is interesting and compelling (though I hesitate to call it 'fun' or 'good',. or necessarily worth the 10$ price tag), all the classic hallmarks of posthuman transhumanist scifi: cortical stacks, sleeving and upload facilities, Dyson cylinders and other various habitats, integrated data systems, fabricators, etc etc.  The prose is simple but suggestive, though it is probably a little light on description and explanation for those unfamiliar with the general tropes.  Personally I was disappointed by the lack of interpersonal interactions (and the far too random aspect of exploration 'gameplay,' but whatever).

I have a pretty wide ranging knowledge of videogames but I'm pretty sure this is the first I'd specifically call classically 'posthuman.'  The Deus Ex games could almost be considered 'early era' transhumanist but that would really really be stretching the definition, they are much more 'cyberpunk,' which is really where most vidya scifi seems stuck: the same can be said of System Shock 1 and 2, Shadowrun Returns, etc.  Some argue that Bioshock, Metal Gear and Halo have transhumanist elements as well but they do not take place in posthuman settings.

Perhaps the closest thing I have encountered (outside of Sundogs) is a weird little French FPS called EYE: Divine Cybermancy but honestly this might just be because the game story and background setting is nearly impenetrable due to what I can only assume is a rough translation.  EYE is so weird I can't even really talk about it, and I'll admit to never getting more than 2 or 3 hours into it as a result.

I was hoping that maybe some other fans of the genre were aware of more obscure titles, or ones I forgot to mention?

theyrcoming4me

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2015, 08:51:30 PM »
The big one that is going around on youtube is soma, its more of a survival horror with trans/post-human aspects. Its on steam btw.

As a side note, I always thought the mechanics of EP would be awesome if modded into Minecraft as a mod pack. They already have body switch mods and mods that add odd creatures as well as mods that take you to space and different planets. It's ambitious, but it would take a lot of modding to get those working together and im not a modder at all.

HapexIndustries

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2015, 09:36:22 PM »
Ah, I meant to mention SOMA but I haven't actually played it yet, I heard it wasn't as good as Frictional's first game (Amnesia) and I was way too disappointed by their second game (Machine for Pigs, which was made by Chinese Room but whatever).  I originally thought it was going to a be a haunted spaceship game but when I found out it was at the bottom of the ocean (and that the gameplay was getting panned by some critics) I decided to hold off a bit.

This actually reminds me of another posthuman game: Deadnaut (also on Steam).  Some gamers may know the developer from making the very interesting (if graphically unimpressive) Zafehouse Diaries, where the player attempts to lead a group of random, mismatched zombipocalypse survivors to safety in spite of themselves.  In Deadnaut the player plays as the commander of a team of expendable misfits that are tasked with investigating derelict space hulks left behind by extinct alien races.  On the one hand the game is decidedly UN-posthuman, in that some of the technology is painfully lowtech.  However, you are able to purchase blueprints for items and fabricate them on-site, and any casualties on your team can be replaced via cloning and memory upload. 

Nearly everything is randomly generated each time you play (team members, available technologies, the alien races that built the derelict craft and the threats that killed them off/will kill you off) so there's no narrative other than whatever one you come up with yourself; each campaign consists of four hulks of increasing size, though the alien race and threats are consistent across them.  I've been attacked by horrible things like little insect hoppers with claws that do heat damage, possessed alien corpses that blast out areas of extreme cold, alien ghosts summoned by artifacts I had to destroy, and alien crews that were taken over by some other organism and forced to kill each other (and me).

Unfortunately, the game relies on purely symbolic graphics, simple 3d shapes and sprites for everything.  Much of the action area is spent on the UI, which is intentionally obfuscated.  The gameplay itself is a bit like the original Syndicate (or Satellite Reign), and the lack of a pause button means fine tuning placement is hard and micromanagement nearly impossible.  It's hard to recommend without saying 'You should try it first though' but fortunately there is a demo, on Steam and the dev, Screwfly Studios, website, but
the gritty nature of the setting and the always changing challenges may be right up some RPPR listeners alley.  Regardless, it clearly does not have the classic tropes of posthuman fiction.

TRNSHMN

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2015, 10:05:14 PM »
I'd argue SOMA is more of a transhuman/posthuman story with survival horror elements, just based on how much of the game it takes up. Personally, I enjoyed SOMA, but if you're mostly into the gameplay elements of Frictional's games, you'll be disappointed. I'd also call the story Transhumanist 101 - not going to hear anything new or thought provoking if you play/read Eclipse Phase or enjoy fiction dealing with this stuff.

Apparently, EVE Online can be considered to be relevant, with the capsuleers (player characters) essentially doing backups and farcasting.

Crysis' later games have elements, oddly enough. The second game's hardest difficulty is even called Posthuman Warrior. The nanosuits aren't just exosuits that boost the wearer's physical abilities and grant cloaking etc., they have more...complex and interesting features. Don't know if there's a spoiler function active in this forum build, so, don't want to say more cause it's kind of an important part of the games' plot.

HapexIndustries

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2015, 11:39:04 PM »
I'd argue SOMA is more of a transhuman/posthuman story with survival horror elements, just based on how much of the game it takes up...

Apparently, EVE Online can be considered to be relevant, with the capsuleers (player characters) essentially doing backups and farcasting.

Crysis' later games have elements, oddly enough.

Ah, yes, EVE Online.  When I was first about to try the game I checked out the background fluff and was immediately enchanted by its quality and complexity... and then the game stopped downloading and I saw what it was and uninstalled it.  Nothing against EVE, just thought I'd be able to pilot my own ship, not click-to-move.  But you are definitely correct, EVE's lore is steeped in transhumanism.

As far as SOMA goes it is clear that I should play that next (or soon) but it is disappointing to hear that the gameplay is not too thrilling.  I can appreciate a game for its story but, well, I have a hard time justifying 30$ for story alone.  Winter Sale is coming, though...

Regarding Crysis, yeeeeeah, I checked wikipedia before posting to see if I'd forgotten an obvious one, saw that, and left it off my OP because I wasn't sure if that was accurate.  Interesting to hear that it is, at least to some extent.  Every time I tried to play Crysis 1 it ran like crap but its been like, what, 8 years since it came out?  Assuredly I can play it now... or soon, when I upgrade.  Anyway, thank you for throwing in on that series, I definitely need to check that out.  And thanks for not spoiling anything in any of the discussed game, ha.


And somehow this reminded me of another game, lol, though again this one does not come close to what I might consider a 'classic' posthuman/transhumanist setting: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, the cult classic point and click adventure game based on the famous short story of the same name.  Though it is really horror as opposed to scifi, it does hit upon some of the same themes: superintelligent (even godlike) AI, matter fabrication, practical immortality, body modification, etc.  The game is imperfect (and deviates significantly from the short story namesake), but it is quite good and Harlan Ellison (the short story's author) voices the evil supercomputer AM. 

On a personal note my parents got me this for Christmas when I was 15 and I will forever regret losing the reflective mousepad it came with. 

HapexIndustries

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2015, 02:30:45 AM »
Not to dominate this thread (I am really hoping there are some IF text adventures I'm not familiar with, or maybe some Japanese stuff, or late 80s DOS/Amiga titles), but for anyone interested there is also the colossal failure/letdown that was Too Human for the 360, though I believe it is nearly impossible to find as unsold copies were destroyed after a failed lawsuit with Epic Games.  Conceptually, Too Human is Norse mythology with posthumans in place of the demigods and robuts substituting for, uh Loki's minions I guess?  It is alluded to that the Ice Giants (Ymir) were AI that the Aesir posthumans defeated, and if this all sounds pretty awesome it is, at least in theory, but the game itself was painfully repetitive, I think there are only two enemy types in the whole game, which isn't even very long.  The suggestion of greatness was there, and this was intended to be the first of a trilogy (and the cliffhanger ending would have gotten me to buy the sequel had it ever been released, despite my disappointment), but the game sold very poorly, the developer sadly went out of business (Silicon Knights, some might know them as the dev of Eternal Darkness, one of the best non-Lovecraft Lovecraftian games, on Gamecube), and they lost a lawsuit against the 3d engine designer over claims of breach of contract.

Anyway, Too Human is probably the closest I've ever seen a game come to that traditional transhuman setting, even if it was a kind of insane re-imagining of Norse mythology.

TRNSHMN

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2015, 02:49:52 AM »
Definitely recommend getting SOMA on sale if you're worried about replayability. Very much enjoyed my time with it, but I won't be revisiting anytime soon.

For Crysis, I'd recommend the second one. To me, it has the perfect marriage of mechanics, and managed the rare feat of actually feeling like I'm playing an action movie instead of it just feeling like they want me to think that (like post-MW CoDs).

I suppose Remember Me might skirt close enough to count. Definitely more cyberpunk, but it's focus on memory and everpresent AR instead of implants makes it a better fit, I'd say.

It's generally not an abundant field for video games though, since it's so much easier and more recognizable to make something cyberpunk.

TRNSHMN

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2015, 06:09:46 PM »
Another game that occurred to me that might be close enough: The Fall, Episode One (Ep. Two coming sometime next year, probably first half). Kind of an odd point & click adventure game, with some simple Flashback style shooting segments.

The basic setup is, you are the on-board AI of a combat suit cum exoskeleton, and have crashed under unclear circumstances in a dark, dilapidated area. Your user is unresponsive and thus you've been booted up to get him medical attention ASAP. You need to find a way to do that and getting through various obstacles, the problem being, most of your advanced systems are locked away, requiring human authorization, and you need to figure out how to comply to the restrictions and your own core directives while making headway in saving him. Short game, only about 2-3 hours (4 if you suck at adventure games like I do) but quite fun and interesting. Good writing and voice acting as well.

Review Cultist

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2015, 06:29:37 PM »
Not to dominate this thread (I am really hoping there are some IF text adventures I'm not familiar with, or maybe some Japanese stuff, or late 80s DOS/Amiga titles), but for anyone interested there is also the colossal failure/letdown that was Too Human for the 360, though I believe it is nearly impossible to find as unsold copies were destroyed after a failed lawsuit with Epic Games.  Conceptually, Too Human is Norse mythology with posthumans in place of the demigods and robuts substituting for, uh Loki's minions I guess?  It is alluded to that the Ice Giants (Ymir) were AI that the Aesir posthumans defeated, and if this all sounds pretty awesome it is, at least in theory, but the game itself was painfully repetitive, I think there are only two enemy types in the whole game, which isn't even very long.  The suggestion of greatness was there, and this was intended to be the first of a trilogy (and the cliffhanger ending would have gotten me to buy the sequel had it ever been released, despite my disappointment), but the game sold very poorly, the developer sadly went out of business (Silicon Knights, some might know them as the dev of Eternal Darkness, one of the best non-Lovecraft Lovecraftian games, on Gamecube), and they lost a lawsuit against the 3d engine designer over claims of breach of contract.

Anyway, Too Human is probably the closest I've ever seen a game come to that traditional transhuman setting, even if it was a kind of insane re-imagining of Norse mythology.

Played/Slogged through this game a few years after it came out. Loved the ARG content surrounding it (Eg. Mockumentaries about "relics" recovered from the ice and display at the Ontario Expo... Woot! Go Canada!) And just the fact that it was made by a company so close to home. It had so much potential but as it was stated the gameplay faltered in execution. I remember getting to that ending after a few good...? hours cutting through and being cut down by hordes of robotic goblins and dark elves and then just dropping the controller at the cliffhanger... it could have been soo good!

Also would "Enslaved" be counted as Trans-human/Post-human? It had a very strong similar vibe as "Too Human" except using "Journey to the West" in place of Norse Myth.
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HapexIndustries

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2015, 08:02:41 PM »
Also would "Enslaved" be counted as Trans-human/Post-human? It had a very strong similar vibe as "Too Human" except using "Journey to the West" in place of Norse Myth.

I'll be honest, I blasted through Enslaved in a single evening, I barely remember the game other than that it had surprisingly competent voice acting(Andy Serkis!!!), was (as you said) Journey to the West, and had a somewhat disappointing ending that came rather quickly.  I'm pretty sure, though, that while there may be some transhumanist elements it was more of a traditional post-apocalyptic scifi scenario.

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2015, 08:27:50 PM »
Another game that occurred to me that might be close enough: The Fall, Episode One (Ep. Two coming sometime next year, probably first half).

That sounded really interesting. Have a link to it or pointers on how to find it? Thanks!
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TRNSHMN

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2015, 08:38:02 PM »
http://www.overthemoongames.com/

Scroll down a bit and there's icons for GOG, Steam and Humble. Currently 75% off on GOG, oddly enough, sooo if you don't mind throwing out three bucks for a game, this is a decent time.

Alethea

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2015, 08:46:48 PM »
Thanks!
Haven't played this, but it might be some of what you're looking for: Sun Dog - http://boingboing.net/2015/11/03/sun-dogs-game.html
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HapexIndustries

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2015, 10:39:07 PM »
Another game that occurred to me that might be close enough: The Fall, Episode One (Ep. Two coming sometime next year, probably first half). Kind of an odd point & click adventure game, with some simple Flashback style shooting segments.

Ah, I actually played this one through to completion when it launched a couple weeks (months?) ago.  It was pretty good, had mostly logical puzzles (though I had to look two things up I believe) and had a decent ending (even if I did see it coming).  I especially enjoyed the specific AI plot points which were handled surprisingly well.  A little short, unfortunately, and probably more cyberpunk than transhuman, but definitely a game I recommended to a couple friends. 

If you enjoyed that consider Stasis, on Steam and GOG.  Not transhuman in the least, pretty straight scifi in fact, but an enjoyable point n click from the isometric perspective (I picked it up because it reminded me of the old 1998 adventure game classic Sanitarium, which I would recommend to anyone looking for an awesome creepy game).  Stasis is a bit short (again) and wasn't quite bug free when I played it on launch day, but was a pretty good time and it did several things very well.

Thanks!
Haven't played this, but it might be some of what you're looking for: Sun Dog - http://boingboing.net/2015/11/03/sun-dogs-game.html

Haha, that's the game that made me start this discussion!  I list it in my OP but it's after a paragraph of unnecessary fluff so I don't blame you for missing it.  Thank you for the website link though, it's cool to read another player's interpretation.  Personally I would be reluctant to recommend it in its current state for its current price (10$ is a bit much for a hundred pages worth of mostly disjointed or barely related exposition) but I'm glad they didn't hate on it.

TRNSHMN

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Re: Posthuman and Transhumanist Vidya Games?
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2015, 03:22:17 AM »
I'd give caution as far as Stasis goes. I enjoyed my time with it because of the atmosphere and the puzzles being logical for the most part, but the last act goes bonkers in my opinion and lost much of my good faith. Plus, that stasis medicine puzzle was kind of infuriating.