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Cinema provides strong kernals around which wargame and role-playing campaigns can be based. The problems inherent in the medium, however, often creates logical contradictions that do not (or did not in the original) exist in written form. When applied to a game they loom large and can destroy the necessary suspension of disbelief in order to take the whole exercise seriously.

The simplest and clearest example of this was with the film version of Starship Troopers. Many voices were raised declaring it to be a travesty because there was no ‘powered armour’. But this fails to understand how film stories are made to work. Cinema is all about the actor. If you can’t see the actor’s face; can’t see what he is feeling; can’t judge his mood, then you don’t have a story. Therefore the sealed technological marvel of powered armour had to go in order to focus on the political and personal elements of the story – arguably the most important parts anyway.

Other movies suffer from similar problems. The ‘science’ is made to take a back seat so that the people loom large. This means that to effectively base a campaign on a science fiction movie (fantasy is a little more forgiving), you need to do as the script-writer did: make changes to the peripheral things in order to focus on the important things. This might be called, to retcon.

Here are a few howlers and some ideas about what can be done to retcon these for game use:

The Matrix. The basic idea violates the laws of thermodynamics. You cannot get more out of a system than you put in. Therefore, if ‘the machines’ have enough energy to sustain human life then they certainly already have enough to sustain themselves without the ludicrous battery idea.

This was done to provide a hostile VR environment, which works fine as film and argues the philosophical idea that ‘life is an illusion or even a prison, from which one can wake through self-study’.

To make this work as a game a better reason must be found for creating the VR islands where humans are imprisoned.

Star Trek’s The Borg. While technologically advanced and living in a hive-mind VR, and composed of countless species, the Borg continue to maintain organic bodies. Why should they when configurable constructions can be better, stronger, more reliable, and discardable because the consciousness can be re-uploaded? The character, Data, proves that this approach is technologically viable in this setting.

Clearly it is because the story would look dreadfullly impersonal if the enemy did not have a face, and a creepy one at that. It also allows the perversely sexy scenes that should disturb the stable mind.

To make this idea work the notion of organics must be at least partially abandonned, and when used must be rigorously explained. Machines of all sorts must be more evident.

Terminator. This starts on strong ground, with Skynet using nukes in an attempt to exterminate humanity. When this fails to do the job completely, the vision of anthropomorphic robots walking around pointing guns comes up. Why not rat-like creatures that burrow and blow up? Why not air-dispensed Sarin?

The answer, of course, is that again it makes the action personal and explicable. This is a horror story.

To make this into a logical game we need to allow for these other weapon systems apart from H-wagons. And we need to find a stronger motivation for why Skynet does not use many other types of WMD when one type has already been used.