Californium: New Video Game Lets You Experience the Surreal World of Philip K. Dick

Did Philip K. Dick fore­see the future, or did he help invent it? While many of his visions belong more to the realm of the para­nor­mal than the sci­ence-fic­tion­al, it’s cer­tain­ly the case that the world we inhab­it increas­ing­ly resem­bles a pas­tiche of Dick­’s hyper­re­al, post­mod­ern tech­no-dystopias.

Dick wrote about how the shiny, pop-art sur­faces of moder­ni­ty con­ceal worlds with­in worlds, none of them more—or less—real than any oth­er, and it’s easy to imag­ine why his char­ac­ters come unhinged when con­front­ed with one vir­tu­al trap­door after anoth­er, their sense of self and object per­ma­nence dis­in­te­grat­ing. But for Dick, this expe­ri­ence was not sim­ply a fic­tion­al device, but a part of his lived psy­cho­log­i­cal real­i­ty: from his drug use, to his many failed mar­riages, to his para­noid anti-author­i­tar­i­an­ism, to his life-alter­ing mys­ti­cal encounter….

And now, thanks to the very Dick­ian phe­nom­e­non of first-per­son com­put­er games, you too can expe­ri­ence the hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry life of a down-and-out sci-fi scribe in 1960s Berke­ley whose mind gets invad­ed by an alien intel­li­gence. The new game, Cal­i­forni­um—devel­oped by Dar­jeel­ing and Nova Productions—puts you inside the world of writer Elvin Green, whose life, writes Moth­er­board, “is an amal­gam of real ele­ments from Dick­’s life… and numer­ous events and themes that run through his work.”

For legal rea­sons, the devel­op­ers could not use Dick­’s name nor the titles of his nov­els, but “nev­er­the­less,” the game “is shap­ing up to be one of the most fit­ting trib­utes to the 20th cen­tu­ry’s infa­mous tech­no-prophet.” At the top of the post, watch a trail­er for the game, and just above, Youtu­ber Many a True Nerd walks through a com­pre­hen­sive tour of the game’s archi­tec­ture, with some live­ly com­men­tary. If you’re con­vinced you’d like to spend some time in this col­or­ful­ly addled alter­nate dimen­sion, head on over to the game’s web­site to down­load it for your­self.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Philip K. Dick Takes You Inside His Life-Chang­ing Mys­ti­cal Expe­ri­ence

Hear 6 Clas­sic Philip K. Dick Sto­ries Adapt­ed as Vin­tage Radio Plays

Philip K. Dick Makes Off-the-Wall Pre­dic­tions for the Future: Mars Colonies, Alien Virus­es & More (1981)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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