[Philippine Genres] Sci-Fi

Posted: November 3, 2014 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Local Scene, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , , , ,

Today we’re kicking off a new series of posts talking about the various genres available to RPGs, and how they reflect to the cultural context of the Philippines. In many ways it’s an interesting experiment to see just how the Filipino culture lends its own twist to various genres.

With that, let’s take a look at Science Fiction. It’s a broad genre and one that we can further break down into subgenres that we can pick through.

Hard Sci-Fi

This is probably the one variant of sci-fi that won’t get a lot of interest. The lack of popularity of hard science fiction in Filipino RPGs lies with the fact that many of us simply haven’t reached the point where we’re ready to dream of the stars.

As a third world country, the cultural mindset is focused heavily on survival or the acquisition of wealth and security. This makes us largely incompatible with the lofty ideals of space travel through technological means designed by humans and built by spending vast resources.

If your country is still focused on the concept of modernization of basic things, space is the last thing on your list of priorities.

Obviously, this isn’t to say that it’s not without fans. I know several people who are big on science, but many of those have difficulty putting together a group.

Space Opera

This is perhaps the one that is more compatible with the local mindset. Star Trek, Star Wars and other forms of spacey entertainment such as the phenomenal Guardians of the Galaxy presents a sci-fi world that is full of wonder and excitement. Filipinos love this stuff and I will admit that this is perhaps the easiest genre to sell to them.

Handwavium and rubber physics are perfect for this genre and most Filipino gamers are more than willing to accept the lack of in-depth detail and just roll with it. These games tend to cleave towards classical storytelling structures and tropes, with evil galactic empires and space princesses which are all perfectly compatible with standard fantasy.

This is helped along by the popularity of anime in the Philippines. From ultra-electromagnetic giant combining robots to modern giant-drill weilding super robots that fight on top of galaxies, anime is a huge part of popular culture in the country.

The success of local work such as Mythspace, for example, is indicative of the kind of acceptance the vast majority have for this take on sci-fi.

Cyberpunk

Here’s an interesting genre for me. In many ways, Cyberpunk’s built-in cynicism, distrust for authority, and inherent corruption makes it incredibly well suited for the Philippine mindset. I’ve written about this before, but we practically LIVE in a Cyberpunk world.

Filipino gamers already know how to act in this kind of setting, and many play characters with the flexible morals necessary to make it work. There’s no need to explain the nuances of the setting beyond how cybernetics work, as the realities of the blurred lines between crime and justice is something that Filipinos live with every day.

Perhaps this is why dystopian settings work so well in local games. We’re wary of optimism, but are willing to accept the harsher reality of dystopian settings. After seeing so much corruption in our politics, and the lack of real justice in society, it’s no surprise that we’re much more suited to darker themes and stories.

In the next installment, we’ll take a peek at Fantasy, and see if there’s any difference in terms of how Filipino mindset treats those genres.

This series is meant to be open to discussion. If you want to weigh in with your thoughts or just tell me that I’m outright wrong, feel free to do so in the comments and we’ll talk about it.

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Comments
  1. From my experience, Hard SF is a tough sell to any group. Space Opera or Cyberpunk are the one that people can grasp easily and “look fun”.

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