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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