When I was about 7 or 8 I used to build spaceships out of Plasticine and Lego. Back then, in the late ’50’s, the promise of flying cars in the year 2000 was very real – my comics were very clear on that point. They were equally clear that there would be spaceships and green aliens. As I got older and ‘graduated’ to sci-fi books it became clear that perhaps the flying cars would be a bit later than 2000, but they would still come. Spaceships however were real. By 1969 humans had reached the Moon and I was still on course to be an astronaut. I’d done all the reading, I could distinguish an alien from a cabbage (despite them both being green), and all that remained was the problem of where in the garden to put the launch pad.
It’s never quite that simple though. Twenty years passed, I had the sci-fi road map, I had got my hands on a computer by ’72 and could program it by ’77. I knew what AI was and why FLT drives were probably not possible. Aliens were a fact, on the basis of probability alone, even though we may never meet them, but most importantly the spaceships were still real. Very real. I however would never fly one and that was a disappointment.
At least it was, up to about 8 years ago.
I still have the Lego and Plasticine models in my head, and the Sci-Fi roadmap, the Alien ID chart, but now I also have access to machines that were undreamed of in 1959 and software that appears almost sentient even today. It’s all connected by an electronic mesh that puts me in contact with people all over the world. And guess what. It lets me actually FLY SPACESHIPS!! I have waited a long time to be able to do that. I’m not very good at it, I keep stalling the warp drive and I’ve lost count of the times I have undocked from the space station without the right ammo for my guns or the cargo I was supposed to deliver, but its fun in a way that I suspect that kids who can’t remember a time before TV, mobile phones and the internet will never really understand.
And the best bit is that as a pensioner I can spend all day doing it if I want to.
I am aware that the idea of ‘Old People’ (that is people over 50) playing online games is odd to some people, and its true that I am in the less than 1% of players by age playing Eve-Online (source), but what I lack in reaction time I make up for in patience and sheer bloody-mindedness. Its not everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the 8 year-old inside me this is a zillion times better than that spaceship I imagined in Plasticine all those years ago. What’s not to like?
The shots above are ships/structures from Eve Online. The images are not ‘doctored’ to look good, just cropped to fit in this post. They actually look like this, you can fly them (and blow them up). If you want to give it a try go here. To see a video take a look at this – This is EVE – Do it full screen.
It really looks like this. Its a ‘sandbox’ game, there are no rules apart from the physics of the EVE universe, it does not stop when you are not there. To date record breaking spaceship battles between upwards of 6000 individuals at one time, lasting for days, and costing over $300,000+ (equivalent real money) in ships and resources have made real-world headlines. The video is from 2014! and the game looks and behaves even better now (2020). I’m still playing it.