Snow Crash’s Influence On The Internet & Gaming
Here’s what I like about Snow Crash to this point: The novel doesn’t take itself so seriously.
It’s light-hearted and irreverent. The dialogue isn’t so stilted and forced. It’s all the things that Neuromancer wasn’t–at least to this point.
One of the other things I like about the novel is its foresight. Neal Stephenson wrote Snow Crash in 1992. And, in the novel, he basically describes a lot of the aspects of our modern day internet.
For example, the “metaverse” in Snow Crash amounts to what is MMORPG games. That’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for the uniformed. If you’ve heard of online games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, then you’ve heard of MMORPGs.
Your “avatar”—meaning an online version of you—interacts with other avatars, makes friends, walks down a virtual city block, buys stuff, steals stuff, commits crimes, infects other avatars with viruses, and so on.
For a novel that was written 21 years ago, it’s amazing how dead-on Snow Crash is about this. But Snow Crash’s influence goes way beyond the “metaverse.”
Here’s how the book’s Wikipedia entry explains the novel’s influence on the internet and gaming:
While the 1986 video game Habitat applied the Sanskrit term avatar to online virtual bodies before Stephenson, the success of Snow Crash popularized the term to the extent that avatar is now the accepted term for this concept in computer games and on the World Wide Web.
Many virtual globe programs including NASA World Wind and Google Earth bear a resemblance to the “Earth” software developed by the Central Intelligence Corporation in Snow Crash. One Google Earth co-founder claimed that Google Earth was modeled after Snow Crash, while another co-founder said it was inspired by Powers of Ten.
Software developer Michael Abrash was inspired by Snow Crash’s Metaverse and its networked 3D world. He left Microsoft for Id Software to write something in that direction, the result being Quake.
Did you catch that second paragraph? Google Earth was modeled after Snow Crash—according to one of its founders. That’s, like, a big deal.
The interesting thing is how much detail Stephenson goes into explaining all of these foreign concepts, like the metaverse. In 1992, they would’ve been “out there” ideas and would’ve required a lot of explaining.
But as I read the novel today, in 2013, I almost want to say, “I get it, Neal. I know what the internet is! I know what an avatar is!”
Yet again, another example of fiction influencing real life. Of course you can learn from fiction.
So far, so good with Snow Crash.