When you go to the website for Californium, the first words you see are “If you find this world bad, you should see some of the others,” which is the title of a talk Philip K. Dick gave in France in 1977.
Californium is a game produced by Darjeeling and Nova Production, and published by ARTE, the Strasbourg-based French-German TV channel dedicated to the arts. It seems exceedingly likely that this game will prove to be the most sustained tribute to the works of Philip K. Dick in the video game idiom.
Both movies and video games have proven fertile settings for Dick’s apocalyptic visions, even if the path from book to final product has often been treacherous. From Blade Runner and Total Recall to The Adjustment Bureau, there seems to be no Dick work that can’t have its title changed on the way to becoming a major motion picture (okay, okay, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly kept their original names, anyway). As for video games, John Saavedra argues that Eidos, makers of Deus Ex, might just be “Phillip K Dick’s greatest students.”
The tagline for the game is “Explore the worlds of Californium, a first person exploration game where you are a writer trapped into shifting realities. Will you find what’s behind the simulacra?” which puts us squarely in that familiar PKD “Got-here-30-years-before-The-Matrix” world in which every innocuous American surface is but cloak for a more terrifying reality.
For the position of as art director, the developers have chosen Olivier Bonhomme to help create the distinctive feel of a Philip K. Dick book.
Here’s the “synopsis” for the game:
Berkeley, 1967. You are Elvin Green, a writer whose career is not better than his sentimental life. Besides, the day starts badly : your wife Thea left you a break up letter. As for Eddy, your editor, he summons you : “you are a writer who does not write”—you should find yourself another editor. Your world is falling apart. Too much acid and cheap booze ? Too many sleepless nights stuck to your typewriter, powerless to tackle your first novel ? Your brain perceives a signal, the Theta—which seems connected to your collapsing emotional state—shows that there could be a way out: this world is unstable, you can extract yourself from it and thus access another reality! You have nothing to lose!
Californium is expected to be available for the PC in a few months.
Here’s a teaser video for the game followed by several mouth-watering screenshots: