The characters of Star Trek play video games constantly. When seeking refuge from the day-to-day tedium of steering a ship through the stars to discover new places, people, and things, they hop into this thing called the Holodeck (or Holosuite, if you’re playing the arcade version at a bar) and do such exciting things as walk through a virtual arboretum, get a massage from a jacked guy, have sex, hang out with digital approximations of famous historical figures, recreate The Alamo, and simulate the nuclear family.
It’s weird, but it kind of makes sense. Star Trek, at least the first two generations of it, was written and produced by people whose professional lives often began before Pong and Atari consoles. Their idea of digital entertainment, introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s pilot episode, looks a lot like where the medium would have gone if games like The Amazon Trail dominated the likes of Doom. Newer Trek has largely eschewed the Holodeck for plain ol’ reality, but has introduced a new wrinkle to the future: collecting physical media from the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly records.
This is one of the most fascinating elements of this generation of shows, as what stands between now and the future is an escalating series of wars that culminates in World War Three, which kills a bunch of humans and causes the extinction of much flora and fauna and, one presumes, causes the destruction of much physical media, whether that’s original masters and prints, or things that were reproduced in their millions, like DVDs, records, comic books, and video games. But if records exist in the 24th century, it stands to reason that a copy of Pokémon Snap snuck past the apocalypse and, by some strange luck, ended up in a Starfleet officer’s hands. Here’s what I think some of them are playing when Quark isn’t trying to get them into a game of Vulcan Love Slave.
Jean-Luc Picard: Disco Elysium (2019)
If this seems odd, hear me out: Picard loves a good detective yarn. He’s also a master of working through moral quandaries. As Detective Harrier Du Bois, he’s confounded in unspooling either thread of Disco Elysium by Du Bois’ self-destructive streak and lack of commitment to solid policework. But, guided by a more than capable Number One in Lieutenant Kim Kitsurugi and enticed by the game’s reinterpretation of Ancient Earth’s violent geopolitical and economic history, he finds Du Bois a shaggy dog worth sticking with. Plus, the game is like a novel, and dude like’s books.
Elim Garak – Crusader Kings III (2020)
Struggling to maintain a kingdom for generation after generation using every dirty trick available to royalty would appeal to a homesick Elim Garak, who only has so many grand Cardassian novels with titles like The Never-ending Sacrifice to read when he’s not hemming dresses.
Kathryn Janeway: Nintendogs (2005)
If you gave Captain Janeway a choice between taking her boyfriend Mark to the Gamma Quadrant or her dog Mollie, she’s choosing the dog. Since she can’t make that choice, she racks up hours in this Nintendo DS classic.
Vic Fontaine: Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
When the Las Vegas lounge lizard isn’t shooting craps at the Sands, he’s in his suite playing Fallout: New Vegas, which allows him the fantasy of the future and the comfort of the one city he truly knows well. Frankie, Sammy, and Dean may be dead, along with everyone else he’s ever known and loved, but there’s a solemnity to the task at hand for the Courier. It’s like singing: sometimes you do it for you, and sometimes you do it for bottlecaps.
Q: The Sims (Every Game, Every Expansion)
It’s a game where you have utter control of the lives of the little people beneath you, right down to the ability to trap someone in a room lined with blazing ovens without a single door in sight. You can see the appeal.
Data: Neko Atsume (2014)
Data wanted to experiment with the concept of being a “cat person” without without making Spot jealous. He cannot say why he spends so much time in Neko Atsume, just that the experience is “pleasurable, if I was capable of experiencing pleasure.”
Lore: Kitten Cannon (2005)
Lore is not a cat person.
Benjamin Sisko: Old Time Baseball (1995)
When Ben Sisko isn’t watching old baseball in the holodeck, he’s simulating it on PC CD-ROM. It doesn’t have Buck Bokai in it, or the ability to make Buck Bokai, but whew, 12,000 ancient baseball players, in all their mediocrity. What more could one man want?
Harry Kim: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy: Starship Bridge Simulator (1994)
He’ll make captain someday.
William T. Riker: Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2003)