The Future has arrived!

The future has arrived today!

The future’s alive!

The future is alive today!

The future’s alive, alive as can be.

Just open your eyes; it’s plain to see.

Don’t be afraid, just keep going on,

One step at a time and you can’t go wrong.

(The Future Has Arrived from Walt Disney’s Meet the Robinsons (2007))

When Doctor Arkanoid was just a tiny tot, the year 2010 was an imaginary time far far away. Growing up, the future was the stuff of books, movies, and television shows. I dreamed of all the amazing things that would happen one day!  I dreamed of spaceships, robots, flying cars, moonbases, giant submarines, underwater cities, computers, and time travel! I can’t believe it. I’m actually here, right now, writing about living in the year 2010!

What did I think the future would be like? Allow me to share some early visions from my childhood. One of my favourite television shows back in the early 1960’s was the British program Stingray (1964), which was the early precursor to the classic show The Thunderbirds (1965). Because my father was an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy,  I adored this show. I was also a big fan of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1963).

Another television program that I fell in love with as a child was The Time Tunnel (1966). The idea of travelling through time and visiting the past and the future was totally cool, not to mention the vast underground secret city where the tunnel was located!

If there was one film in my childhood that made a large impression on me, it was that fateful November evening in 1968 when my father decided to take my mother and I to see Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I didn’t know anything about the film, other than being told it was about going to the moon. I was hugely interested in NASA’s space program and the competition between the USA and Russia to land on the moon. From the moment the movie started, there were moments I was totally enthralled and other times I burrowed into my mother’s arms because I was scared stiff by that dratted monolith, the shrieking music that went with it, the strange ten minute multicoloured light show, and that drifting fetus. For days afterwards the image of that unborn space baby with those huge eyes scared me. But I have to say that I developed a lifelong interest in astronomy, cosmology, and space travel from watching that movie when I was very young.

In the 1970’s, it seemed that all the best science fiction television was coming from the United Kingdom. It’s interesting to see how the portrayals of life in the 1980’s and beyond looked from that time. My two favourite series were UFO (1970) and Space 1999 (1975). Of course, their depiction of the future wasn’t anything like what I remembered. Humanity didn’t even manage to build a moonbase for Gawd’s sake!

If you asked the good Doctor to name one more film that presented a plausible vision of the 21st century, I would have to say it was Blade Runner (1982). Its vision of large corporate influence, genetic engineering, replicants, climate change, and massive urbanization seems to me to be a bit disconcertingly close to some of our modern circumstances today. True, we don’t have flying cars or replicants…yet.  But advances in animal genetic engineering and understanding the human genome are the stuff of science fiction. In 1997, Westwood Studios produced a PC version of the movie – the only company that the Blade Runner Partnership allowed to develop the license. Here is the opening cinematic from that game. Considering when the game was released, it was definitely ‘avant garde’ as an adventure action title.

Of course you’re probably wondering by now what any of this discussion has to do with video games. Well, when you look back at where we were when the millennium rolled around in 2000, there have been innovations and trends we couldn’t have imagined. That’s the subject for another article, so stay tuned!

Doctor Arkanoid