Built to Play focuses on four space-themed stories all about exploration and self-discovery

Space is a weird place to go. It's wondrous, potentially beautiful, but it's not quite worth the price of omission. Send astronauts up to the moon, fly a rover to Mars, speculate about a colony on Venus, and you'll still have the problem that it's mostly empty and extraordinarily expensive. Yet, we still want to go there, as science fiction authors will tell you along with everyone who signed up for the Mars One reality show.  Video games have been a part of that fantasy since the medium's inception, and our collective fascination seems to be resurging. That desire for some great voyage beyond our current horizons speak to our innate curiosity as a species. 

Games focused around space travel seem to tell us more about ourselves than they can about their setting. It's rare that we'll learn something new about space travel from games. Thanks to Star Wars, most games represent space warfare like a World War II dogfight. Plus, if you're looking for a realistic simulation of a spacecraft, even the most technical games won't show you the extreme scarcity up there. Dogfights are fun, and worrying about supplies isn't, so that's fine, though it does tell you that we aren't truly looking to explore the "final frontier." 

We want spaces to delve into fantasies and potential futures. Elegy for a Dead World drives you to explore through creative writing. Star Citizen provides the ultimate libertarian dreamscape. Spacewar! would have been impossible without examining the limitations of computing itself. And sometimes games surprise us in where they go and what they remind us. 

In this episode you will hear the following stories:

  • Ziba Scott talks about how to get people to start writing and why he's ecstatic about Alf fanfiction. (00:00 - 11:25)
  • Travis Day explains economy and fantasy when building an open world space simulator. (11:25 - 21:20)
  • John Sharp revisits the history of video games, and how its relationship with space travel began. (21:25 - 34:40)
  • Dave Shayler and Tristan Donovan tell us how Tetris visited the stars and why even odd space voyages are worth it. (34:45 - 51:30)

Notes: We say Ziba Scott's name wrong, constantly. Sorry about that! It's ZAI-BA not ZEE-BA. Also the astronaut audio in the final segment is from the Soyuz-TM 15 trip, not TM-17. We couldn't find any for TM-17 so we stuck a bit of the earlier trip before we get into the story. Hope that didn't cause any confusion. 


THANKS TO THE FREE MUSIC ARCHIVE FOR "Raro Bueno" by Chuzausen, "Waltz of the Stars valse des toiles" by Lee Rosevere, "little cloud (johnny_ripper remix)" by 水中,  "Goosedance" by Paperclip Galaxy, "Dark Matter" by Podington Bear, and "Enough of our Machines (johnny_ripper remix)" by son lux, "rush loop" by Adam Wrong.

WE ALSO USED "Unanswered Questions" BY Kevin MacLeod, clips from Sven's Space Place, a Movietome Sputnik newsreel, launch of the Soyuz FG, and the Tetris Theme. 

BUILT TO PLAY IS A PRODUCT OF THE SCOPE AT RYERSON RADIO STATION IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN TORONTO. IT WAS PRODUCED AND EDITED BY ARMAN AGHBALI AND DANIEL ROSEN.

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