GB: Now that you’re back on earth, did the flight change you in a particular way?
RG: Well, there’s no question that space travel, and especially looking out the window back at the earth, is a very moving, life-changing event. Before the flight I definitely would have said that… I would have described myself as an environmentalist. In fact, most of my charitable activities are in environmental areas. However, my personal lifestyle was not exactly environmentally-minded, in the sense of… I’m a horrible abuser of electricity, I have exotic sports cars that guzzle gas, etc., etc. I generate huge amounts of trash. But if you look at my life since then, I’ve decreased my footprint dramatically. I’ve added I don’t know how many square meters of photovoltaic power collection to bring myself to virtually neutral energy consumption. I’ve changed out all my vehicles to cars that are now much more fuel-efficient. I’m building my own electric car as well. So now I would say that I walk the walk a lot better than I did before.
GB: How about on the game side? Are you interested in making certain kinds of games as a result?
Garriott: My motivations in gaming I don’t think have changed much. I think that I have some new experiences that will hopefully allow me to layer in new levels of experience into the games, orthogonally… What I mean by that is, I’m not going to go make a space simulation game by any means. But to me I think if anything it’s redoubled something that I already knew I believed in.
I’m a devout believer that role-playing is a very powerful experience, and innately has what I’ll call teaching layers inside of it. And I also believe that the very best stories to be told in any medium, whether it’s paper or movies or interactive, are stories that reflect to the reader or to the player something about themselves. They’re enriching to you as a participant. Your time that you’ve spent, that you’ve invested in participating with a game or a book is time that, when you’ve finished, you feel that… “I have grown through my participation.”
That you’ll see me do even more than I have before, although as you know that’s one of the hallmarks of my game creations anyway. I like to put ethical parables, reflect to the player their behavior or their beliefs and challenge aspects of how they play and how they think. If anything, I feel even more strongly in that area.
GB: What’s your view of the future of commercial space travel?
Garriott: I think it’s going to be very robust. I think that commercial competition in space travel is going to bring the price down. It’s already brought it down tenfold. I believe it’ll bring it down a hundredfold. Once it’s down a hundredfold, even the little bit of commercial work I did in space would pay for my space flight. As soon as the price drops a hundredfold, which all the commercial guys think they can do, I’ll be going to space a lot more often.
GB: So you plan to go up some more still?
Garriott: I might just sit up in my window in orbit and write the next game.
GB: This was probably your first extensive contact with the Russian folks, too. What did you think of that whole experience? That side of the experience.
Garriott: It’s really funny, because I think most Westerners, including myself, or myself prior, have a very shallow and inaccurate impression of Russian technology, Russian social customs, things of that nature. I was very pleasantly surprised to get over there and find… I’ll give you a little taste of it. When I was young, when the astronauts would get together to celebrate each other and their space flights, to toast the ones going up or hurrah the ones who just returned, the parents and especially the men, the astronauts, would go off on their own and do their activities. The families weren’t nearly as big a part of it, you might say.
One of the things I was very, very pleasantly surprised by is that as soon as I arrived over there in Russia, you’d be walking around in Star City, other groups would be gathering to have a meal, and when they would see you walking down the street they would open their doors and invite you in. They’d say, “Look, this is a community, whether it’s grandparents, astronauts, or their children, socially we’re all in the same fold.” They’d talk about their friends and family and colleagues in orbit in a way that shares it across the generations. I never saw that done here in the United States. That was just a small taste, there were all kinds of other things about Russian society and Russian scientific and engineering process that I’ve become a really big fan of.
GB: It’s wonderful to watch that whole experience on film, I’m glad you guys made a movie out of it.
Garriott: Me too. Again, if it wasn’t for Brady and Mike I wouldn’t have done it at all. But as you can imagine, the quality of what we’ve ended up with is so good that I believe… I’m really pleased and proud that they brought it up and that I was fortunate enough to have them participate.
GB: Are you getting some interesting reactions from people who’ve watched it as well?
Garriott: Yeah, it is interesting. There seem to be two kinds of people. And I would actually break them out into… I’m speaking to you personally when I say that they are “our” kind of people, meaning technology-oriented people, gamers, nerds, technocrats. Anybody who has any kind of science and technology bent has really been enjoying the movie. The only people we’ve ever seen so far that have not really been inspired by it are people who are not “technocrats,” we’ll call them broadly. But so far, that is the target audience, if you know what I mean. That’s our core audience, that’s the gaming audience, and so I think especially for the gaming audience, this movie is particularly good.
GB: There are lots of interesting moments in there. I liked the part where they were making the mold of your body.
Garriott: Yeah. Let the plaster become semi-hard before they *shloop* drag you out of it with a big suction crane.
GB: Anything else you would like to add here? Do you have any sense yet of how well the movie has done?
Garriott: Well, so far it’s doing very well. I think I mentioned at the very beginning, we’ve broken the top 10 on most of the digital distribution methods for documentaries. Considering this is something that… At least for me, having conceived it just a couple of years ago, the fact that we now have a top-10 documentary out there I think is phenomenal.
Photos courtesy First Run Features and Richard Garriott.