First, a serious overture about imagination and kids. Imagination doesn't have borders or rules. Yet in recent times, it is being pretty much repressed (especially in young minds) by this modern world of ours. In my early years I was mainly preoccupied and influenced by Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and (especially) dr. Seuss cartoons; somewhat later Nintendo (Mushroom Kingdom, Pokemon, Hyrule) came along. Kids nowadays are exposed to a different kind of information overload, as everything tries to be either a mindless parody or a corny tragedy (or both) full of pop-culture references. Kids aren't interested in a fairytale anymore if it isn't at least half horror (Tim Burton, I'm looking at you). Those few that are - don't really have a choice (they will probably end up seeing 9, Christmas Carol, Coraline). I would even say the whole (children) entertainment industry is going the wrong way. Children by they nature want (and need) adventurous stories which develop abstract thinking, healthy imagination and curiosity. Instead they get bombarded by entertainment adults find appealing - war, violence and betrayal.
For the past decade or so, I consumed much of the popular culture and immersed myself into numerous fictional worlds, and they all pretty much revolved around those three things. It is because we, as adults, are not interested in the simple morals of good and evil anymore. We'd rather like to see what happens when fairytales clash with real life and deal with real and familiar problems, which is normal and something we all share.
This will be a list of consistent fictional universes that got most of my attention: I dwelled on their philosophy, memorized the most trivial lore facts, learned their made up languages and customs... I was drawn into them to the extent that their geography, mythology, history and characters became as important and real to me as ancient or medieval facts of our Earth.
I divide them into fantasy universes and alternate universes.
So in this blog entry, fantasy! Some of these worlds are unbelievably well documented. If they ever make a real holodeck, I want these worlds realized. First three universes on the list were born and prospered in literature; the others are videogame based.
Seriously, do I even need to write anything here? I could start with saying Tolkien's saga of the rings was the first fantasy literature I read (not so interesting fact: the old BBC Narnia was the first fantasy movie I saw). I could then list all the books, Jackson movies (& animated movies he drew inspiration from), many videogames, comic books (if you like webcomics and DnD, check this out) and so on. I could end it with a paragraph in elvish. But I won't (not in this post anyway). I will simply use this occasion to adress all the scientists out there and say: I want. My holodeck simulation. Of Shire. Now. What say you??
* The Battle for Middle-Earth series
* LOTR Online
* LOTR Conquest
* Aragorn's quest
* War in the North
One of the three continents in a huge and very well developed medieval fantasy world brought to life by George R.R. Martin. Don't let the name fool you, he is not trying to sound cool and tolkienish. This guy knows how to write and really makes you care about what happens on the next page. The whole 'Song of Ice and Fire' book series is like a drug... too bad the dealer is a bit slow (five years since the last book). Think Sopranos in Middle-Earth - with enough characters on the first 30 pages to shame Dostoyevsky. Just like Terry Pratchett used ridiculous satyre of Discworld to turn the fantasy tropes upside down, Martin stirred up the stale state of affairs challenging every fantasy notion and rule ever established. After all, he did draw inspiration from the English & Chinese medieval histories. Even HBO saw the potential and produced a worthy TV series! The winter my friends, is coming. Or better yet - it already did. What will it take to melt all that snow?
* Game of Thrones
* A Game of Thrones: Genesis
From the pen of a polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski comes an unnamed dark fantasy world of wiedzmins (or witchers in english). Sapkowski asked himself, what would it look like if dwarves, elves and monsters really existed? The answer apparently is sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. The last part not so much, instead we feast our ears with superb traditional irish music that makes us want to drink ale and dance on tables. Great five books, absurd movie in the lines of Conan Barbarian, lame TV series and an excellent RPG series. Geralt of Rivia: "Power, sex. Sex, Power. They both come down to one thing - f***ing others".
* Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
* Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Ahhh, the world were war is a craft, and it never ends. Nevah. Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Northrend, Pandaria, faraway Outland, Argus... Its creators are some of the wealthiest game developers on Earth. Their gold mine, world of Azeroth, is a major ripoff of every fantasy universe out there (Warhammer and LOTR to say the least), but the fact is - it started a revolution in both RTS (besides core series, DOTA was crucial for popularizing MOBA games) and MMO genre (10 years later and new fantasy MMO's are still being called WoW clones); and it did so with st yle. It also caused a number of bad fantasy books. For teh horde! Leeeerooooy J-j-j-j-....
* Warcraft I-III
* World of Warcraft
Another creation of that developer...what was their name...something about severe storm condition with heavy snow...nevermind. Sanctuary is a world where Bhaal, Mephisto and their little red brother roam the lands and summon giant slugs with human faces (and other semi-living creatures, often with too few or too many legs). A lot of fire gets started in the process too. Consequences: nightmares of neverending Nilathak's dungeon, adrenaline rushes and left-clicking until your hand berserks and euthanizes the mouse. No rest for the warrior of light (you must cleanse the wildernesss)... The brothers of evil also spawned countless clones in the gaming world, none of which had the quality or appeal of the original Sanctuary (*cough* land of *cough* Ehb or *cough* Torchlight *cough*).
* Diablo + Hellfire
* Diablo II + Lord of Destruction
* Diablo III (huge meh)
Universe of Guild Wars was created through an instanced MMO that brings to life a truly beautiful (and dangerous) place. There are three main continents: colorful Tyria, asian-themed Cantha and african-themed Elona. This universe took me by surprise and didn't let me go for quite a while. Humans are in turmoil while they try to survive fighting each other, beastly Charrs, supernatural entities, even gods. Breathtaking lands, beautiful music, promising franchise. Thank you ArenaNet for the best online experience I had!
* Guild Wars
* Guild Wars: Factions
* Guild Wars: Nightfall
* Guild Wars: Eye of the North
* Guild Wars 2
A part of the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons and Dragons. It is described and featured in many fantasy books and often used in pen and paper RPGs. The world is huge and eventful, providing a fertile ground for many fantasy fans. I got to know it through the games made by Bioware and Black Isle. Without them I wouldn't know the shield of Balduran is the best way to scare an ugly beholder. I would never have met the only miniature giant space hamster in the realm, either.
But as awesome as it is, Faerun is just a small part of one truly epic setting. Two words (and a colon) - Planescape: Torment. All the sceptics (dwindling in number) yelling interactive entertainment can't be art should play this game. So weird and bizzare it's ridiculous - so familiar and loveable it's enthralling. Be warned, this adventure RPG really is very close to an interactive book. BUT. If you don't mind extensive reading and want a well thought-out universe with plenty of mental food, don't deprive yourself of this experience. Planescape is a universe with infinite doors to other universes, an intersection between dimensions and time itself. Singleplayer RPG at its best. Answer (but think twice), what can change the nature of a man?
* Baldur's Gate series
* Neverwinter Night series
* Icewind Dale series
* Planescape: Torment
A dark and complex world of Elder scrolls, with complicated politics and many possibilities. The landscapes of Tamriel continent are huge and inviting, full of secrets and quests to solve. High Rock (Bretons), Hamerfell (Redguards), Morrowind (Dunmers), Cyrodiil (Imperials),Skyrim (Norns),Black Marsh (Argonians), Elsweyr (Khajiit), Valenwood (Bosmers), Summerset Isle (Altmers)... Rich history is very well described in the many books scattered throughout the games, so if the player is interested in assuming the role of a digital bookworm, numerous old scripts filled with lore can be found while questing. The reality of the world is strenghtened with its simple yet logical mechanics, since you excell at skills by using them. Sometimes it can get too big though, leaving the player with a feeling of shallowness and repetitiveness. If you let it though, the world will pull you in and make you a part of it.
* The Elder Scrolls I : Arena
* The Elder Scrolls II : Daggerfall
* The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
* The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
* The Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind
* The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion
* The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim
* The Elder Scrolls Online
MIGHT & MAGIC
This universe is somewhat similar to DnD in terms of huge amount of names, places and events that have little real connection, sometimes even making it hard to believe they are a part of the same universe. Science fiction often overlaps with fantasy and the story often revolves around powerful race of space-travelers called the Ancients. Maybe not the best franchise in the world, but it occupied my mind long enough to get on this list. A similar and very close universe is the one of King's Bounty, which had me entertained for quite some time too.
* Might & Magic series
* Heroes of M&M series
* Crusaders of M&M
* Messiah of M&M
Last but not the least, universe with a little too much kawaii and generally a lot of very weird stuff (please stop with the emo protagonists?). Still, you gotta love it. The series really evolved and both the gameplay and lore vary so much now, it's almost impossible to connect all games and movies into one big universe. I tried though, and here is the result: my attempt at a Final Fantasy timeline.
* Final Fantasy I - XV
* loads and loads of spin-offs and FF inspired series by the same company