Followup: Video games? Anime?

The live chat of the O’Reilly webinar that Christopher delivered on 27 February 2013 had some great questions, but not all of them made it out of the chat room and onto the air. I’m slowly answering those questions as I continue to release the sci-fi interface survey.


Q: Dario Fuentes asks: You seem to be completely ignoring video games and anime. Some of the best examples of interface both beautiful and innovative come from these spaces. Any reason why you left them out? [later] …not the game interface itself, the interfaces featured in cut scenes…as well as the game UI… (and what about anime…?)

A: Well, writing a book about the life cycle of tigers doesn’t mean you’re ignoring bears, does it? Video game interfaces serve different masters for many reasons, not the least of which is that non-diegetic interfaces must be used by players where sci-fi interfaces are used by actors faking it. Cut scene, or diegetic video game interfaces might be includable, but they’re tied up in looking or feeling like the non-diegetic ones, and so can’t be considered in isolation. Sure, video games probably have a lot of influence for gamers’ expectations. I’m a gamer myself, and am inspired by some of the awesome interfaces I find there. I’d be happy to investigate and write that other book, that’s not what Make It So is about. (Maybe I should call for clever names for the video game book in the comments.)


As for the second part of the question, anime is indeed awesome. But when choosing how to narrow down the vast scope of science fiction, we wanted to first focus on those things that were…

  • most influential to the broadest public
  • analyzable

Anime is wildly popular with a particular subset of fan, but sources like boxofficemojo tell us that genres like “sci-fi/adventure” and “alien invasion” outrank “anime” by nearly an order of magnitude.


Additionally, some of our favorite anime is hand-drawn, and that makes it difficult to study. It is harder for the interfaces to stay the same over time, in a way that’s similar to comic books. When you want to talk about an interface that changes from depiction to depiction, you have to then talk about which version you mean, and worry about whether these changes are meant to be diegetic or just a mistake, and then you have to try and suss out which one is the “real” one, and…it’s just risky. We’re aware that much hand-drawn animation tries to minimize the number of screens it redraws and so reuses as much as it can, but even a change in camera angle requires a redrawing, and that’s less reliable than interfaces that are made in the world or that are 3D modeled.

Believe us that we intend to get to some of the most seminal anime. Ghost in the Shell, Redline, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Vexille, Cowboy Bebop, to name a few. But if we wanted to get a book out, we had to prioritize the stack of sci-fi, and anime ended up being lower priority. I’ll get to it in time, but also don’t forget that if you’re really eager to get some anime in there and you think you’re up to it, I accept contributions (though no one has taken me up on it yet.)

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