written by Alastrom
From Malcolm Reynolds, to Jack Sparrow, Captain Kirk to Captain Nemo, the stories we tell of the captain are often one of challenge and demand made possible by their vessel. The ship, be it one that sails upon the sky, in the sea, across the stars or through the deep, is that immortal expression of both freedom and obligation. Popular culture has shown us the romance of the captain but will that be the reality that many gamers find in Star Citizen? Meeting at the intersection of science and fantasy, the answer may surprise you.
In popular titles such as Eve Online, Assassin’s Creed: Blackflag, as well as a number of various Star Wars and Star Trek titles, you the player take on the role of “The Captain.” However in order to deliver the experience that everyone is looking for, you are also typically the gunner, navigator, pilot and any other role the game wants to introduce. Star Citizen is offering a vast universe for players to take part in. Much of that universe will be explored by players in multi person ships. Roles in these ships are still being defined, but from the sounds of it players can expect a pilot, gunner, engineer and in some cases a co-pilot or navigator. This only just begins to scratch the surface, with things like electronic warfare and communication roles being hinted at by the community. With all of these positions, no one person can be expected to fill them all. In fact, modern science suggests that we cannot.
Research by cognitive neuroscientists being done at the University of Utah are measuring how the brain processes information in order to better understand how distracted driving is affecting the safety of our roads. Despite our belief that many of us are talented multi-taskers, the statistics are overwhelmingly against us. Those who “multitask” are not typically doing simultaneous actions at once. Instead, they are engaging and disengaging their brain to move from one action to the next. Imagine you are talking on your cell phone to a business client who just explained they sent you an email with today’s schedule. You’ve got a cup of coffee in one hand and you’re also trying to cross the street at a busy intersection. Most of our brains are wired to speak on the phone, then shift attention to incoming vehicles while crossing the street, then shift to sipping coffee before shifting again to retrieve the email and relaying information back to the client. We may see this as one fluid motion when in fact it’s a collection of many smaller actions. Trying to combine any of them often results in a failure across the board. You may spill your coffee, drop the phone or even get struck crossing the street. So what does that mean for players?
Well for starters, it suggests that everyone will have their role to play on a multi-person ship. The pilot will need to focus on flying, the gunners will need to be alert for incoming threats. Communication experts will need to focus on relaying other information to any other ship in the area and the captain… The captain will need to be the glue holding it all together. Simply put, the captain cannot be the pilot. Even though he may know exactly where he needs to go and how to avoid a collision, if he cannot communicate that information to the gunners then they have to shift their focus from incoming targets to the flight path. In the same way he isn’t able to fill any other role on the ship full time. The captain must be there to coordinate the direction of the entire ship. They will need to quite literally take on the role that popular culture has shown us time and time again. This brings us to our next point, the fantasy of it all.
We have always been storytellers, and video games are quickly becoming the evolution of that medium. When Star Wars first released back in 1977 it captured the minds of an entire generation. Top Gun was such a successful film that United States Navy and Air Force recruiters began setting up booths outside of the theater. Iron Man and the recent Star Trek films have given us a vision of the technology of tomorrow, and as an effect have driven people to begin creating that technology. The stories we tell are vital to the growth of our world culture. Cloud Imperium Games has laid out the groundwork to give players the tools to tell the most interesting story anyone can tell – their own. This journey into the fantasy of being either captain or crew member may be the inspiration someone needs to actually take us into the stars. While many will cry that this is an unhealthy form of escapism, others will see it as a milestone in the ever changing world of entertainment. Time will tell if they can deliver on that dream and many will choose to pass that time with stories that have been so crucial in shaping the fantasy.