"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move."
— Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. But I'm not talking about the most terribly successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor, which sold better than Fifty-three More Things to Do In Zero Gravity and was more controversial than Oolon Coluphid's philosophical trilogy, Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes, and Who Is This God Person Anyway? I am, in fact, talking about Douglas Adams' masterpiece of science fiction satire, which has entertained geeks and gamers for some thirty odd years.
The works of Douglas Adams are certainly no stranger to the world of video games. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was the source material for a classic text adventure in the 1980's (which can still be found online for free), and in 1998 he worked on Starship Titanic, a Myst-like adventure game which was a spin-off of a single throwaway paragraph from the Hitchhiker's series. If one were to search through the code of virtually any video game ever made, one would probably find more than a few variables initialized as 42. Comedy and satire have had a place in RPGs for years, and the Hitchhiker's universe is rife with potential ideas for such a game.
Satirical video games are not particularly uncommon anymore. The Bard's Tale series has been around for ages, and in the past few years, games like DeathSpank, Costume Quest, and Cthulhu Saves the World have relit the satirical spark in the RPG community. Humor is often taking a front seat in new, smaller RPGs rather than being treated as a secondary consideration, and this makes it a perfect time for a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy RPG to come into being.
One of the great things about Douglas Adams's beloved series is that, even according to the author himself, it's incredibly self-contradictory. The story has seen an enormous number of different incarnations — the original radio plays, the abridged radio plays, the novels, the text adventure, the BBC mini-series, and most recently, the major motion picture. Each one of these changes, distorts, or contradicts the story in various ways, and in some cases they even contradict themselves, which is an impressive feat for any author. The practical upshot of this is that any adaptation of the story does not have to be 100% faithful to the books. In fact, it would probably be doing Douglas Adams a disservice to even attempt such a thing.
The best way to go about it might even be to latch onto a single concept and expand upon it, similar to what was done with Starship Titanic. The books are filled with ancillary stories and asides, most of which aren't expanded on for more than a few paragraphs. There are even major segments of the novels that would make for terrific RPG settings — the Krikkit Wars of Life, the Universe, and Everything come to mind. As the books say, only on Earth is Krikkit considered a fit subject for a game — might as well continue that fine tradition.
The books even provide a handful of potential game devices to make use of. Marvin the Paranoid Android, towards the end of the series, admits to being several times older than the universe itself, so he would be a fitting character to act as a guide and narrator to the various systems. The many deaths of Agrajag (a tragic character who has been reincarnated and murdered by Arthur Dent over a hundred times) would make for a unique and disturbing collection quest. There are so many disparate and interesting ideas to draw from that creating content would be incredibly easy.
With Douglas Adams now deceased, the chances of such a game being created might seem slim, but the truth is that such a thing might not actually be that far off. Hothead Games, the creators of DeathSpank and the first two Penny Arcade Adventures, announced in 2011 that they were working on something with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy license. Since that time, we haven't heard a damn thing about the project, which puts it pretty much on track with other adaptations in the past. Given the studio's penchant for RPGs, it's not impossible that this project might be an RPG as well. And as Douglas Adams taught us, if it's not an impossibility, it must be an improbability. Someone fetch a finite improbability drive and a piping hot cup of tea! We've got some numbers to crunch.
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