Do humans dream of digital wastelands?

Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -

Kipple... so much kipple.
It's not often (read: it never happens) that a video game makes me want to read a book, but that's exactly what's happened with Fallout 3. Although I'm late to the apocalypse, I've totally fallen head over heels in love with the game. 114 hours, 145 saves, 3 DLC diversions and 9 bobbleheads later and I still can't wait to leave work of an evening, eager to get some wasteland wandering in before my lass gets home. With all those stats in mind, with all the trekking through the radioactive badlands, I'm surprised that it took my brain so long to make the connection between Fallout 3 and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As I'm sure many other people have, I became aware of Philip K Dick's writing through the movie Blade Runner. For those not in the know, Blade Runner was based (with varying faithfulness) on Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Like the movie, the novel tells the story of Rick Deckard hunting some crafty androids who are almost indistinguishable from real humans. Where Ridley Scott's cinematic masterpiece diverged, however, is in the backdrop upon which the events take place. Blade Runner is set in an overcrowded megalopolis, chock full of neon signs, flying cars and billions of agendas; Dick's original story unfolds within the crumbling post-apocalyptic remains of a mostly abandoned Earth.

In a giant, empty, decaying building which had once housed thousands, a single TV set hawked its wares to an uninhabited room.
  This ownerless ruin had, before World War Terminus, been tended and maintained. Here had been the suburbs of San Francisco, a short ride by monorail rapid transit; the entire peninsula had chattered like a bird tree with life and opinions and complaints, and now the watchful owners had either died or migrated to a colony world. Mostly the former; it had been a costly war despite the valiant predictions of the Pentagon and its smug scientific vassel, the Rand Corporation - which had, in fact, existed not far from this spot. Like the apartment owners, the corporation had departed, evidently for good. No one missed it.

 
The sole occupant of the dilapidated apartment complex is J.R. Isidore, delivery truck driver for a company that repairs artificial animals. Isidore is stuck on Earth, in this wrecked building, with nothing but his thoughts for company:

Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from the floor, up out of the tattered gray wall-to-wall carpeting. It unleashed itself from the broken and semi-broken appliances in the kitchen, the dead machines which hadn’t worked in all the time Isidore had lived here. From the useless pole lamp in the living room it oozed out, meshing with the empty and wordless descent of itself from the fly-specked ceiling. It managed in fact to emerge from every object within his range of vision, as if it – the silence – meant to supplant all things tangible.

 
It's not long before Pris, one of the females from the group of rogue androids that Deckard is chasing, takes up residence in Isidore's building:

  'Listen,' he said earnestly. 'If we go all over the building looking we can probably find you things that aren't so tattered. A lamp from one apartment, a table from another.'
  'I'll do it,' the girl said. 'Myself, thanks.'
  'You'd go into those apartments alone?' He could not believe it.
  'Why not?' Again she shuddered nervously, grimacing in awareness of saying something wrong.
  Isidore said, 'I've tried it. Once. After that I just come home and go in my own place and I don't think about the rest. The apartments in which no one lives – hundreds of them and all full of the possessions people had, like family photographs and clothes. Those that died couldn't take anything and those who emigrated didn't want to. This building, except for my apartment, is completely kipple-ized'
  '"Kipple-ized"?' She did not comprehend.
  'Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.'
  'I see.' The girl regarded him uncertainly, not knowing whether to believe him. Not sure if he meant it seriously.
  'There's the First Law of Kipple,' he said. '"Kipple drives out nonkipple." Like Gresham's law about bad money. And in these apartments there's been nobody there to fight the kipple.'
  'So it has taken over completely,' the girl finished. She nodded. 'Now I understand.'
  'Your place, here,' he said, 'this apartment you've picked – it's too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But –' He broke off.
  'But what?'
  Isidore said, 'We can't win.'
  'Why not?' The girl stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind her; arms folded self-consciously before her small high breasts she faced him, eager to understand. Or so it appeared to him, anyhow. She was at least listening.
  'No one can win against kipple,' he said,'except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.'

 
(Side note: Kipple is one of my favourite Dick terms, and I still use it during internal conversations with myself. I don't think I'd ever dare drop it into casual conversation, though)

J.R. Isidore is also what is known as a special – a chickenhead in common vernacular – meaning he couldn't pass the minimum mental faculties test. Chickenheads are a marginalised group of people in what's left of Earth society, seen as lesser citizens. Looking at the world of Fallout, I'm reminded of the ghouls, another group of humans who are considered by many to be beneath regular people. Obviously there are some ghouls who are quite intelligent, but there are those who have diminished thought capability due to the post-war fallout. Although it's not completely analogous, I can't help but draw the comparison.

I used to read books all the time. Now, in a world full of podcasts and handheld gaming, I find that the pastime I used to love so much has pretty much disappeared from my daily life. It's a shame, and every now and then I'll see my girlfriend with a book and kick myself for letting the habit slide. But the beautiful irony is that a video game – a very intelligent and well-crafted digital experience – may be what brings me back to the joy of reading. When was the last time you could say that about something you played?
Moderator
#1 Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -

Kipple... so much kipple.
It's not often (read: it never happens) that a video game makes me want to read a book, but that's exactly what's happened with Fallout 3. Although I'm late to the apocalypse, I've totally fallen head over heels in love with the game. 114 hours, 145 saves, 3 DLC diversions and 9 bobbleheads later and I still can't wait to leave work of an evening, eager to get some wasteland wandering in before my lass gets home. With all those stats in mind, with all the trekking through the radioactive badlands, I'm surprised that it took my brain so long to make the connection between Fallout 3 and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As I'm sure many other people have, I became aware of Philip K Dick's writing through the movie Blade Runner. For those not in the know, Blade Runner was based (with varying faithfulness) on Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Like the movie, the novel tells the story of Rick Deckard hunting some crafty androids who are almost indistinguishable from real humans. Where Ridley Scott's cinematic masterpiece diverged, however, is in the backdrop upon which the events take place. Blade Runner is set in an overcrowded megalopolis, chock full of neon signs, flying cars and billions of agendas; Dick's original story unfolds within the crumbling post-apocalyptic remains of a mostly abandoned Earth.

In a giant, empty, decaying building which had once housed thousands, a single TV set hawked its wares to an uninhabited room.
  This ownerless ruin had, before World War Terminus, been tended and maintained. Here had been the suburbs of San Francisco, a short ride by monorail rapid transit; the entire peninsula had chattered like a bird tree with life and opinions and complaints, and now the watchful owners had either died or migrated to a colony world. Mostly the former; it had been a costly war despite the valiant predictions of the Pentagon and its smug scientific vassel, the Rand Corporation - which had, in fact, existed not far from this spot. Like the apartment owners, the corporation had departed, evidently for good. No one missed it.

 
The sole occupant of the dilapidated apartment complex is J.R. Isidore, delivery truck driver for a company that repairs artificial animals. Isidore is stuck on Earth, in this wrecked building, with nothing but his thoughts for company:

Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from the floor, up out of the tattered gray wall-to-wall carpeting. It unleashed itself from the broken and semi-broken appliances in the kitchen, the dead machines which hadn’t worked in all the time Isidore had lived here. From the useless pole lamp in the living room it oozed out, meshing with the empty and wordless descent of itself from the fly-specked ceiling. It managed in fact to emerge from every object within his range of vision, as if it – the silence – meant to supplant all things tangible.

 
It's not long before Pris, one of the females from the group of rogue androids that Deckard is chasing, takes up residence in Isidore's building:

  'Listen,' he said earnestly. 'If we go all over the building looking we can probably find you things that aren't so tattered. A lamp from one apartment, a table from another.'
  'I'll do it,' the girl said. 'Myself, thanks.'
  'You'd go into those apartments alone?' He could not believe it.
  'Why not?' Again she shuddered nervously, grimacing in awareness of saying something wrong.
  Isidore said, 'I've tried it. Once. After that I just come home and go in my own place and I don't think about the rest. The apartments in which no one lives – hundreds of them and all full of the possessions people had, like family photographs and clothes. Those that died couldn't take anything and those who emigrated didn't want to. This building, except for my apartment, is completely kipple-ized'
  '"Kipple-ized"?' She did not comprehend.
  'Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.'
  'I see.' The girl regarded him uncertainly, not knowing whether to believe him. Not sure if he meant it seriously.
  'There's the First Law of Kipple,' he said. '"Kipple drives out nonkipple." Like Gresham's law about bad money. And in these apartments there's been nobody there to fight the kipple.'
  'So it has taken over completely,' the girl finished. She nodded. 'Now I understand.'
  'Your place, here,' he said, 'this apartment you've picked – it's too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But –' He broke off.
  'But what?'
  Isidore said, 'We can't win.'
  'Why not?' The girl stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind her; arms folded self-consciously before her small high breasts she faced him, eager to understand. Or so it appeared to him, anyhow. She was at least listening.
  'No one can win against kipple,' he said,'except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.'

 
(Side note: Kipple is one of my favourite Dick terms, and I still use it during internal conversations with myself. I don't think I'd ever dare drop it into casual conversation, though)

J.R. Isidore is also what is known as a special – a chickenhead in common vernacular – meaning he couldn't pass the minimum mental faculties test. Chickenheads are a marginalised group of people in what's left of Earth society, seen as lesser citizens. Looking at the world of Fallout, I'm reminded of the ghouls, another group of humans who are considered by many to be beneath regular people. Obviously there are some ghouls who are quite intelligent, but there are those who have diminished thought capability due to the post-war fallout. Although it's not completely analogous, I can't help but draw the comparison.

I used to read books all the time. Now, in a world full of podcasts and handheld gaming, I find that the pastime I used to love so much has pretty much disappeared from my daily life. It's a shame, and every now and then I'll see my girlfriend with a book and kick myself for letting the habit slide. But the beautiful irony is that a video game – a very intelligent and well-crafted digital experience – may be what brings me back to the joy of reading. When was the last time you could say that about something you played?
Moderator
#2 Edited by Claude (16254 posts) -

Sometimes, Bioshock made me look up a few things and read. Not a novel mind you, but I read some things. 
 
Endless Ocean: Blue World had me looking up more animals or fish that I found. I have a book, sure enough, there they were.
 


I know more about Narwhals because of Endless Ocean: Blue World.
#3 Posted by TheGreatGuero (9130 posts) -

Man, I love Fallout 3. I think it's cool you've found it interesting enough to check out similar stories. I need to get back to Fallout 3. It's one of my all-time favorites. 
 
@Claude:
That thing looks pretty terrifying.

#4 Posted by Phished0ne (2477 posts) -

It happens fairly often to me,  I am an avid reader, its often that seeing something online or playing a game inspired me to read.  A news post on Screened about a possible upcoming biopic of Jerry Garcia inspired me to break out a few biographies. The original bioshock inspired me to read some Ann Rand.

#5 Posted by InfamousBIG (3200 posts) -

Fallout 3 made me read The Road.

#6 Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -
@TheGreatGuero: I just can't believe it took me so long to realise the parallels. But yeah, I was pretty chuffed that Fallout 3 has had such an effect on me. It's a game that's really made me think.
 
@Phished0ne: Nice. I really hope I get my mojo back with the whole reading thing after this! Also, your avatar always gets The Humpty Dance burbling through my mind.
Moderator
#7 Posted by rjayb89 (7716 posts) -
Mass Effect 2 made me read the books based on the franchise.  I'm currently reading the newest one, Mass Effect Retribution
 
I'll admit that I wish the books were more detailed in describing female aliens we haven't seen yet (the books mentioned Captain Anderson gaining intel from a female salarian), but whatever, I read the first book with Keith David's voice in mind and that made the book awesome.
#8 Posted by Tebbit (4447 posts) -

Dune 2000 made me read Dune. 
 
Turns out that the novel is better than the game.

#9 Posted by armaan8014 (5317 posts) -

Awesome! I'm playing Fallout 3 in this dry period of game releases as well! In fact, this is the 4th time I started the game. The 3 times before that I had tried to like the game, but just couldn't get into it. But now I'm goddamn crazy and obsessed with it!! Nice to know someone is playing that game other than me.

#10 Posted by 2Thumbs (87 posts) -
@armaan8014 said:
" Awesome! I'm playing Fallout 3 in this dry period of game releases as well! In fact, this is the 4th time I started the game. The 3 times before that I had tried to like the game, but just couldn't get into it. But now I'm goddamn crazy and obsessed with it!! Nice to know someone is playing that game other than me. "
I'm playing it too. Not right now as I'm having a break due to 40 hours in around a week burned me out a bit. Currently getting in to Batman: AA, but I'm sure I'll go back.
#11 Posted by armaan8014 (5317 posts) -
@2Thumbs said:
" @armaan8014 said:
" Awesome! I'm playing Fallout 3 in this dry period of game releases as well! In fact, this is the 4th time I started the game. The 3 times before that I had tried to like the game, but just couldn't get into it. But now I'm goddamn crazy and obsessed with it!! Nice to know someone is playing that game other than me. "
I'm playing it too. Not right now as I'm having a break due to 40 hours in around a week burned me out a bit. Currently getting in to Batman: AA, but I'm sure I'll go back. "
I've not played it from about two days either as I've been busy with assignments, but with the weekend coming around, I plan to get some good hours into it. Boy, the wasteland sure is beautiful. Not literally, but you know what I mean. Great game, I've finally realized.
#12 Posted by buzz_killington (3532 posts) -

I read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and then "The Fountainhead" because I wanted to do an essay on Bioshock. Also, Uncharted 2 put me back in the mood for "reading" some Tintin comics. I think that's about it.

#13 Posted by armaan8014 (5317 posts) -
@buzz_killington: I love Tintin! And is the fountainhead the old movie about the architect?
#14 Posted by buzz_killington (3532 posts) -
@armaan8014: I haven't seen the movie, but the book is in fact about an architect.
#15 Posted by armaan8014 (5317 posts) -
@buzz_killington:  Where he tries to be original and not like the rest of the successful architects? Yes, we were shown the movie in our architecture college on the first day.
#16 Posted by RipTheVeins (1544 posts) -

That is exactly why I stopped playing Fallout 3, since I knew I would become to drawn to the world and it would take over my thoughts and free time and I couldn't afford to let that happen with my schedule.  However, I have had the experience of being fully encompassed into a game's world and mythology by The Witcher and the subsequent reading of The Last Wish which remains to be one of my favorite novels I've read based on the fact that... well, I actually read through all of it. 

#17 Posted by hedfone (1749 posts) -

dude books suck

#18 Posted by TekZero (2659 posts) -

Whenever I played Fallout 3, I couldn't help but compare it to Fallout 2 and be dissappointed.  It's not fair since it is still a good game, but my memories of Fallout 2 prevented me from enjoying Fallout 3 as much as I could have. 

#19 Posted by Jais (78 posts) -

Well, Metro 2033 made me read Metro 2033. 

#20 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10373 posts) -

Playing Halo almost made me want to read Reach, but now they're making it into a game, so now I don't have to. 

#21 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

Fantastic blog, buzz_clik. One of the best and most thought-provoking contributions I've read in a long time. 
 
I myself experienced a similar thing with Final Fantasy VII around ten years ago. I was ten at the time, and was going through a prolonged patch of refusing to read anything. In my mind, playing Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon was more rewarding than anything I could get out of a book. Then I bought Final Fantasy VII. That game was like an interactive novel to me - the plot was epic and labyrinthine, the characters were compelling and relatable, and the world was one that enveloped me in its lore and refused to let me go. It was unputdownable, in the way a good book is. It really reminded me of everything that great books can offer, and got me back into reading in a really big way. It also steered me towards the fantasy genre, which has provided me with several incredible reads over the last decade.

#22 Posted by FunExplosions (5407 posts) -

Well, my sense of not knowing whether I hate or love Fallout 3 remains. I love playing the game, but can't ever do anything but point out its flaws. You have, though, made me very much-so want to read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Maybe after that I'll watch Blade Runner again.

#23 Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -
@FunExplosions said:
" You have, though, made me very much-so want to read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Maybe after that I'll watch Blade Runner again. "
If you haven't already got it, I recommend getting the Final Cut of Blade Runner that was released in 2007. It's got a lot of tweaks, some obvious and others more subtle. The only thing I didn't like about the Final Cut version is the fact they used an alternate take in Batty's chat with Tyrell - Batty now says "father" instead of "fucker." I get why they changed it, but I still like the sudden stab of menace that came with Batty spitting the F-word out.
Moderator
#24 Posted by GunslingerPanda (4608 posts) -

Hmmm, gotta say, I don't see the connection. Not once did Fallout 3 make me question the nature of reality. They're so thematically different.
 
The Man In The High Castle > *

#25 Posted by thedj93 (1237 posts) -

Now if this was just a PKD thread, I would recommend seeing Minority Report, the adaptation of the book. That movie is easily one of Stephen Spielberg's best, and it still stands up today as it did 8 years ago. And then of course reading the book.
 
As for games moving me to read a thing. Well Assassin's Creed 2 got me interested in renaissance catholic intrigue. And that shit is crazy. CRAZY.

#26 Posted by FunExplosions (5407 posts) -
@buzz_clik said:
" @FunExplosions said:
" You have, though, made me very much-so want to read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Maybe after that I'll watch Blade Runner again. "
If you haven't already got it, I recommend getting the Final Cut of Blade Runner that was released in 2007. It's got a lot of tweaks, some obvious and others more subtle. The only thing I didn't like about the Final Cut version is the fact they used an alternate take in Batty's chat with Tyrell - Batty now says "father" instead of "fucker." I get why they changed it, but I still like the sudden stab of menace that came with Batty spitting the F-word out. "
Hmm... I can probably find both versions relatively cheap. None of the "tweaks" are George Lucas-esque "improvements" are they? I'm referencing the horrible additions to the old Star Wars movies.
And hey, since we're talking about Harrison Ford (we are, right?), here's a picture I snapped of him early last week, as he cut me off in traffic:

#27 Posted by Jimi (1126 posts) -

Technically not a book, but the watchmen movie convinced me to read the graphic novel. It was pretty damn good!

#28 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -
@MooseyMcMan said:
" Playing Halo almost made me want to read Reach, but now they're making it into a game, so now I don't have to.  "
Not at all the same stories.
 
Fall of Reach only has about 50 pages or so dealing with the fall of Reach. Worth reading if you're interested in the world.
#29 Posted by TheJohn (553 posts) -

Great blog post!
 It's been such a long time since I read "Do Androids..." so I never saw the connections. Thanks for making me think about Dick again :-)

Fallout 3 got me reading as well. Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" is a wonderful story that I had to check out after running into the robot serving the empty house at 2026 Bradley Place.

#30 Posted by HedinnWeis (117 posts) -

Interesting. My character in fallout was named after Rick Deckard. 

#31 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11422 posts) -

I like Fallout 3, but it's not my favorite Bethesda game. Maybe it didn't grab me the right way, but in any case it's interesting to see what you think and what it reminds you of. No video game has ever really inspired me to read a book, even Bioshock hasn't convinced me to read Ayn Rand. I don't know.  In any case I have never seen Blade Runner. Does that make me a bad person? If so, what version should I watch? (because there are like 4).  

#32 Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -
@GunslingerPanda said:
" Hmmm, gotta say, I don't see the connection. Not once did Fallout 3 make me question the nature of reality. They're so thematically different.  The Man In The High Castle > * "
I'm not saying they're the same story, nor based on exactly the same themes; I'm just drawing comparisons between worlds the stories take place in, and the tone that pervades them. While playing Fallout 3, it really feels like I'm wandering around the desolate, dusty remnants of human civilisation as they are described in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Man, I've never seen as much cruddy kipple buildup in a game as I have with Fallout 3.
 
@FunExplosions said:
" @buzz_clik said:
" If you haven't already got it, I recommend getting the Final Cut of Blade Runner that was released in 2007. It's got a lot of tweaks, some obvious and others more subtle. The only thing I didn't like about the Final Cut version is the fact they used an alternate take in Batty's chat with Tyrell - Batty now says "father" instead of "fucker." I get why they changed it, but I still like the sudden stab of menace that came with Batty spitting the F-word out. "
Hmm... I can probably find both versions relatively cheap. None of the "tweaks" are George Lucas-esque "improvements" are they? I'm referencing the horrible additions to the old Star Wars movies.  "
They're all really good additions to the movie, and none of them are really intrusive - they're more fixes to long-recognised flaws in the original. It's things like Joanna Cassidy's face being digitally superimposed onto stunt-Zhora when she's crashing through the plate glass, and Harrison Ford's son being brought in to replace Deckard's mouth movements when correcting some lip flub. There's a full list of the amendments here.
 
If you get the boxed set, it has some pretty good behind-the-scenes stuff on bringing the movie up to date. It also contains the Work Print, which I had wanted to watch ever since reading (and rereading, and re-rereading...) Paul M. Sammon's excellent and comprehensive Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.
Moderator
#33 Posted by buzz_clik (6892 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater said:
" In any case I have never seen Blade Runner. Does that make me a bad person? If so, what version should I watch? (because there are like 4).   "
I guess I'd say skip straight to the Final Cut - it's the most well-realised and polished version of the experience, with the digital tweaks being well implemented and justified.
Moderator
#34 Posted by ken4242 (24 posts) -

im not a big reader but i did read some books about star war the series of 6 movies just still isnt enough and the game it is such a good story. not that games like fallout aren/t they are good stories but some stories i would say are just epic....star wars, the Dune series, The original King Arthur story not these new bs ones, robin hood.. and others

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