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Game vaporware as design fictions

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In this research we examine games, and games hardware, that can be classed as ‘Vaporware’. More specifically software that was never written, or hardware that was never built, and consequently no one ever played. In particular we are considering such vaporware as examples of ‘Design Fiction’ as they once represented speculative visions of the future based on emerging technology. Vaporware is a term generally used to describe products that are announced to the general public but are never actually manufactured. Whereas design fiction is a term used to describe plausible ‘diegetic prototypes’ that are built, or suggested, to create an opportunity for discourse about possible technological futures. Whilst it could be argued vaporware games are simply failed products that were justifiably scrapped before joining the long lists of come-to-nothing games and consoles, by reviewing examples we offer an alternative view that they can serve as objects of discourse for exposing the potential futures of video games and thus could be considered in terms of design fiction. To add further weight to the argument that games can be useful as design fictions we then consider “Game of Drones”, an example of a design fiction that pivots around a game element, to illustrate how the deliberate use of design fiction can stimulate discourse around game futures (in this case the growing promotion of ‘gamified’ services as means of engaging users). Whilst the notion of designing games that will never be built may seem paradoxical in relation to the Games industry’s predominantly commercial aims, we believe that the deliberate adoption of design fiction as a practice within game design would facilitate the emergence of meaningful discussions around future gaming without the frustrations induced by vaporware.