Friday, June 05, 2009


So I spent a good part of May on a starship.

No, I was not shot into space, unlike the cooler game design legends. Instead, I was in another city on long-term business and living out of a modern American hotel. And after a few days, I realized that I was living on the Enterprise-D.

Now this is the Enterprise of the Next Generation. The original Enterprise of the Kirk/Spock era was a military cruiser operating in cold war era space, much like America of the era, facing hostile rivals (Klingons serving as Russians) and more highly advanced but flawed entities (Organians, Talosians, the Squire of Gothos, the Olympic gods, all filling in for old Europe). No, this was the Enterprise of Picard and Riker, which stressed more of the floating community of families on a long-term voyage than military men on a combination exploration/patrol mission.

The Enterprise hotel, then, was filled with a large multi-cultural staff of knowledgeable specialists (front desk, chefs, hotel personnel, security). My role was that of one of those visiting scientists who showed up every other week with some personal mission that may/may not endanger the ship. I and my away team (the other members of my company) would take a shuttlecraft (rental car with keyless ignition) down to the planet (to the job at hand) and return in the evening to find the starship still parked in orbit and running smoothly.

And like the Enterprise-D, the starship hotel is broken down into private quarters (that can be accessed if need be) and communal areas (bar, pool, restaurant, holodeck – hang on – that could be cable TV). There was a replicator with illusions of endless plenty (the breakfast buffet). While on the planet surface, mysterious individuals arrived and cleaned up the place, leaving it in pristine condition afterwards.

And like the Enterprise-D, there is an amateur/enthusiast approach to art and culture. Exporting culture was a big thing in Next Generation, and so too here. The lobby was filled with copies of famous bronzes (a lot of Remington), and the evenings in the bar had a blonde pianist rolling through classical numbers and showtunes. Nothing too deep, but enough to declare that culture is here (They did not need a pianist – there was a robo-piano (Data?) in the restaurant, and I started changing when I hit the breakfast buffet/replicator because if I heard Windham Hill’s Winter into Spring one more time, I would surely go mad).

Oh, and there were other teams on board, all working on their own missions. Country musicians. Brides. The President of Taiwan. I was used to being the scruffiest person in the room until the game design nerds started showing up for E3.

For my part, as a member of the visiting science team , and did nothing to engage with any of the mysterious folk RUNNING this starship. Had to rescue something from the lost and found another team member left behind (security), and get a new electronic keycard (front desk). Had to deal with alien technology (keyless remotes, strange wake-up call systems), alien foods (a set of springrolls that nuked both myself and another member of the team) and strange cultures (what is this thing about greeting you by name, anyway?)

Yet the mission ends, the data is gathered, and we are beamed back (via Alaska Air) to the home port, but the starship exists out there, for the next time we need it.

More later.