the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Gaspar (Ratchet & Clank)

Gaspar (Ratchet & Clank)

Interstellar travel is a wondrous thing.  Granted, you have to have some method of traveling at unfathomable speeds in order for it to be practical – it’s not much of an adventure if it takes several lifetimes to reach a single planet – but it opens the doors countless new worlds.  You’ll often find that many planets follow some kind of ecological archetype, but each and every one is still unique.  Some have unique natural features, and some are made unique by the architecture of their sentient inhabitants, but whatever the reason, no two planets are the same.  So, while traveling the stars is a far less intimate approach to adventuring, by no means are those that take this route sacrificing diversity.

I cannot remember the name of the galaxy I was exploring, but the planets within it had very high technology; I don’t think that I saw a single one that didn’t have some sort of artificial intelligence readily available.  Interstellar ships even small enough for personal transport were common, as well.  There were even high-tech sports, such as hoverboard racing.  Being the way that I am, I was, of course, drawn more to the natural features of the planets than to the opulence of their worldly pleasures.

The planet to which I was most attracted was a volcanic world known as Gaspar.  I’d seen volcanic areas before, but this one was almost completely covered in lava.  Most of the places to stand were artificial; manmade structures comprised of some manner of incredibly heat resistant metal.  There were a few sandy beaches here and there, but much of the natural land was along high mountains.  The greatest spectacle of all was the sky; it was yellow and orange with patches of any color from maroon to brown with a slightly greenish hue to it; these volcanic gasses created a beautiful spectrum the likes of which I’d never seen.

Upon landing, I took a look around.  I wasn’t too surprised to see active volcanoes with lava flowing from their craters, but I hadn’t expected such diverse and beautiful flora.  There were what resembled palm trees with magenta trunks and leaves of dark purple with a hint of blue to them.  I also saw what resembled our world’s own agave plant, but in colors I’d never seen, like an indescribable blue-green and magenta with red-orange tips.  There were also short, round cacti that were the same color as the sands, speckled with orange, with red stripes and large horns protruding from them.  I saw some small flowers that had not yet bloomed, so they sported hot pink buds with pale yellow bases.  There were small trees with what resembled sunflowers, but were red in their centers and a lot more spiky.  What attracted me the most, though, was the type of plant that resembled cabbages, except that their insides were deep magenta with yellow spirals; they almost resembled some unusual rocks I’d encountered in a jungle hunt I’d had many years prior.

There were all sorts of mechanical structures everywhere I looked.  Usually, such things are eyesores amongst a beautiful natural backdrop, but some of them – while aesthetically inconsistent – were quite pleasing to behold.  There was one metal tower that came to a long point a the top.  It had green windows near the top, vaguely reminiscent of a lighthouse or flight control tower, and a big golden hoop up at the top.  It appeared to be some sort of gigantic crane mechanism, but it wasn’t operating at the time.  There was another big building that looked like some sort of futuristic wharf.  It had the same green glass, and its doorways were perfect circles, leading into its similarly blue-green interior.  There were great numbers of other intriguing structures spotting this interesting dichotomy, but they were far into the distance, and, as you might imagine, lava is a bit difficult to safely traverse.

Gaspar was like some sort of horrific tropical paradise, replacing vast blue oceans with molten lava.  I’d decided to do what anyone would do in a tropical paradise: I went for a long walk on the beach, stopping to admire a sunset over the ocean, albeit one of burning liquid rock.  While I must admit that my view lacked the contrast of a typical beach, it wasn’t entirely without its charm.  I just gazed out over the sea, pretending that the sunset was upside-down.  It was a glorious vision that I could never see anywhere else.

Exploring other planets often makes me feel like a tourist.  Granted, I don’t wear sandals – which, on a planet like Gaspar, would be a terrible idea – or clad myself in any manner of floral print abomination, but I’m always quite taken by the things that the normal inhabitants would consider mundane.  I suppose it to always be like that for adventurers, though; what is mundane to those who see it often is a nigh-endless source of wonder to those who do not.  I suppose that the only real difference – if you wish to be particular about semantics – is that adventurers tend to stray from the beaten path; we’re something like rogue tourists, I suppose.  It just goes to show that it’s all really just a matter of perspective, and to the inhabitants of a particular world, the difference between these types of outsiders might be quite subtle.

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