Earlier today I read, with great interest, an article out at Ars Technica, in which they described some of the work going into the production of Wasteland 2, and the connection therein with a firm called Thwacke Consulting. What Thwacke Consulting does is they take games and they inject them full of thick steamy actual science, providing biologists and particle physicists
and the like to tell all those writers how the things they're writing might actually work in the real world.
Instead of just saying, for example, "I've got fifty foot tall flesh eating bugs in here because of nanotechnology
.", writers would get a nice little crash course that would elucidate on the nature of nanotechnology and carnivorous insects, providing something like this instead: "I've got fifty foot tall ambush bugs that grew to such preposterous heights fueled by nanotechnology that better uses the carbon ingested by their meat-focused diet to rebuild their skeletal structures and make them sufficient giant."
Now, don't get me wrong. There's something to be said for realism in any fiction. Horror backed with realism is extra scary because it might happen. Realistic romantic comedies are extra identifiable.
But sometimes...it's possible to go too far.
See, the thing about science fiction is that it's exactly that: fiction. A quote from actual scientist Robert H. Goddard
--you might know him better as "the father of modern rocketry"--explains the concept nicely: "It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow."
Science fiction needs to start somewhere, and where it starts is in the realm of the impossible. Sure, there's nothing wrong with inserting a note of plausibility into things. Plausibility makes most everything better to some degree, and being able to more clearly spell out concepts makes for the better chance of finding something new to work with in the future, like how the "genetic memory" concept worked out so well in the Assassin's Creed series.
But what games like Wasteland 2 need to remember is that we're not playing science class here. There has to be a limit; plausibility is like cracked pepper in clam chowder. Everyone wants a different amount, and it's so very easy to ruin a good idea by putting in too much. So indeed, let's make our science fiction with at least a note of plausibility.
It's exciting to find out that this--whatever "this" happens to be--could actually be happening tomorrow or in five years. But let's not forget Robert Goddard, and remember that it's the dreams of yesterday that become the realities of tomorrow.
Today's science fiction is tomorrow's science fact, and let's be sure to keep at least some of the implausible in the midst of our plausible.