Chances are in your life you’ve had some kind of interaction with the works of Philip K. Dick, whether it’s through his books like VALIS or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, or on-screen adaptions of his work like Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly and, the most recent, The Man in the High Castle. Whether these experiences left you feeling love or loathing for the author, it’s undeniable that his visions of the future have had a profound effect on our own.
Now, there’s a videogame coming that isn’t just inspired by one particular piece of work from Philip K. Dick, rather it’s inspired by his own life and the wider concepts found in his writing.
The game, called Californium, is being developed by Darjeeling and Nova Productions. It’s a first person exploration game that will be released on Steam in which you play an out-of-luck writer called Elvin Green. The game is set in Berkeley, California in 1967, and from the very start of the game your professional and personal lives aren’t in the best shape. Your wife leaves you, your editor dumps your work, and everything seems to be crumbling around you. With your mental state deteriorating you become increasingly aware of a signal called “the Theta” which offers a way out through another reality.
Reality is a very fragile concept in the works of Philip K. Dick, being open to interpretation, interference, and existing in multiplicity, so it’s appropriate that the game’s main question is “will you find what’s behind the simulacra?”
In an interview with Ars Technica, the game’s digital producer Noam Roubah, said “When you read Philip K. Dick, you realize the dystopia is not in the aesthetic, but its portrayal of human beings. His books were very fun and we wanted to keep this aesthetic.” From the videos and images released you can really see this. The imagery is the work of French illustrator Olivier Bonhomme whose use of colour and style really brings out the boldness and sometimes silliness of Dick’s work. It’s much more reminiscent of the rotoscoping used in the film adaption of A Scanner Darkly rather than the grim dark visions we see in adaptions like Blade Runner.
The game intended to be a tribute to the life and works of the sci-fi author will be released in early 2016. What would be really interesting would be to see a game like this applied to virtual reality, that would take the ideas of shifting realities and fracturing personal identities to a whole new level.
Main Image: Californium