If you ever catch me staring into the distance, it’s likely because there is some great worry on my mind preventing me from properly focusing on whatever tasks may be at hand. It’s a position I find myself in all too frequently, although not quite as frequently as when I was a child.
The difference between the two blank stares is that the former is the result of worry and the latter was the product of hope. I often stared into the distance as a child not because of what was occurring in the present, but because I sincerely believed that somewhere in the distance was some great adventure that was just out of sight.
It was a belief inspired, in part, by the new 50 years old Star Trek: The Original Series. Having grown up on a steady diet of re-runs of the USS Enterprise, a much younger version of me had gotten it in their head that the next great adventure was somewhere out there. Not the kind of adventure life provides, but something truly fantastical. Something uniquely Star Trek.
Much as I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t the only young fan to hold to this belief, I’m also willing to bet that I wasn’t the only one to turn to video games in order to reenact my more outrageous Star Trek fantasies once I realized that life may contain many experiences, but few of them involve exploring the furthest reaches of space with a loyal crew in order to overcome unexplainable phenomena via the use of teamwork and lasers.
In that respect, early video games were something of a disappointment. Even the ones based on the Star Trek franchise often failed to recreate what I was looking for in a proper Star Trek experience. I didn’t want to step into the shoes of the Enterprise’s crew to relive their adventures; I wanted to be assigned my own ship and fill it with my own crew of highly talented (and slightly eccentric) specialists. I didn’t want to believe that the entirety of the universe had already been earmarked by the triumphs of the explorers I grew up watching; I wanted to experience discover everything unknown and wonderful still out there.
So, I kept looking. I kept looking for that perfect video game that would allow me to recreate the Star Trek adventures I and my friends had imagined having so many times in my younger days. While games like Artemis, EVE Online, Space Team, Mass Effect, and FTL had come close, none of them have quite managed to get the sensation I sought just right. Some were too complicated, some too simple, and some were more interested in telling me someone else’s fantasy rather than letting me recreate my own.
But you know, as I sit here recently having snapped out of a dazed and distant stare caused by the thought of whether or not the lack of that one perfect wish-fulfillment Star Trek game is a blight on the progress of the medium, I realize that it is not. The pursuit of such an experience has already contributed so much to the evolution of sci-fi gaming that you could never consider the absence of that definitive experience to be a detriment. After all, space is a frontier meant to be constantly explored and not conquered.
Still, there is a wishful, selfish part of me that turns now to look towards the sky in the hopes that somewhere in the distance, I will just be able to spot that one Star Trek game of my dreams.