I'm creating a space opera video game and I was wondering if to be considered a Space Opera it had to feature some supernatural abilities like Star Wars has with the Force. Or can I completely forgo that entire idea altogether and keep the rest of what the Wikipedia page says about Space Operas?


closed as primarily opinion-based by Mołot, Shalvenay, Vincent, Paul TIKI, Josh King Jun 13 '17 at 2:50

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    $\begingroup$ David Weber's (and others') very successful books set in the Honorverse don't. David Drake's RCN Series doesn't. If those are not space opera that I don't know what is. Star Wars is more in the nature of an extended fairy tale. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 12 '17 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Actually the question is not opinion-based. It's just it should be migrated to arts or some humanist as this is the question for theatrology 101 "what is an opera". HInt: it's the big flying thing at the beginning. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Jun 13 '17 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ Star Wars is fantasy, not science-fiction. It's a Good-vs-Evil story featuring princesses, knights with bright swords, and a gentle old wise sage hiding in the heart of a forest training a new disciple to face the evil wizard. They just changed horses for X-Wings and made an spherical dragon they called the Death Star. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Jun 13 '17 at 7:52

It might help to recognize that Space Opera is more akin to action/adventure than science fiction. Heroes blast their way out of prison, villains become tyrants for the self-serving desire to have power, and politics resemble Greek tragedies: all about personal grievances and family bloodlines. Space Opera is a bit of a mash up of pop futurism and traditional storytelling.

With Space Opera technology is just a story mechanic to service the plot. Consider one of the grandfathers of pulp sci-fi Flash Gordon. The science (if you can find it) is nonsense, but these are larger-than-life characters doing exciting things. It's not that the science is too lazy or "soft", it's actually irrelevant. Don't worry, you don't have time to think about what makes the hawkcycle go, you are too busy dodging death rays and being seduced by gorgeous amoral princesses.

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The downside is with no consistent world rules technology comes and goes as needed Deus ex machina to get characters from A to B, or to resolve impossible conflicts instantly. Star Trek is among the worst offenders for casually discovering or inventing a world-breaking technology on a weekly basis and just as quickly ignoring it. Technobabble is used not to inform the viewer but to talk over their heads. That isn't science fiction, it's just trying to awe with pseudo-intellectual wordsalad.

Another unfortunate staple of Space Opera is reductively amplifying every conflict to an ancient battle of Good verses Evil (looking at you, Babylon5). I think this is more a case of reductio ad absurdum, or just bad writing. How old is this conflict? Since The Dawn of Time…, wait no, before that even… Why rely on dry technology infodumps to explain the setup if you can have a juicy prophecy with built-in foreshadowing to get the action moving? Also why develop characters with believable motives when you can just have space nazis? Most genre clichés probably have a grandfather that did it well, followed by hundreds of derivatives that did it to death.

Supernatural magic is not necessary, but it's the corollary to Clark's Third Law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Only in this case it's actually magic but we'll say some technobabble so it sounds like advanced technology.


It doesn't have to feature supernatural abilities.

However, consider what is the 'theme', something that you can always revolve your stories about, repeatedly. To be successful, you must be able to immerse the player into your story (or, overwhelm them with stunning graphic, gameplay, or sound effect, but this won't help your story).

Supernatural ability fascinate people because most people at some point in their life imagine if they have a supernatural power, so they can associate and identify themselves with the characters.

If you take this supernatural ability away, you must focus on other area which people can identify to. Romance, parody, or even hard science. A story about black hole may be a good start.

For a basic start, see this article, especially the FAQ. Research well on other space operas.


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."--Arthur C. Clarke.

In the wiki article you mentioned, you'll notice some of the examples given as Space Operas don't actually have a supernatural ability. For instance, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and the series it spawned, didn't have something considered supernatural in every book, and even in the books where you might argue that it does, well...see the Arthur C. Clarke quote above and maybe replace the word technology with biology.

I actually don't see much as far as supernatural is concerned in the whole article. Just a passing mention, I think...

So no. It's just an adventure in space. Strictest definition would be campy and dramatic with a romantic angle thrown in, but...action adventure in space is just fine.


As the creator, you can do whatever you want. Very hard SF settings and games exist, such as Children of a Dead Earth, and there are a multitude of sites that deal with harder or softer settings, like Rocketpunk Manifesto, Tough SF or the ever helpful Atomic Rockets.

If that is not your thing, there are games, sites and movies which you can draw inspiration from for "softer" or even fantasy versions of SF.

The important thing is to understand "why" you want to add that element into the mix, and what it does to the story. If it suddenly "appears" and is used by the hero to get out of an otherwise impossible jam, the readers/viewers/gamers will probably throw their hands up in disgust, since it is clearly a cheat that you added to solve a problem you had written yourself into. You might also discover that your "special feature" has all kinds of implications which change the story immensely, and probably in ways you didn't think or or expect. Transporter technology from Star Trek is one of those things (and its non magical), which if you think about it totally disrupts if not destroys most of the Star Trek story universe. (Starships would not need hallways, "jeffries tubes" or turbo lifts if cheap and reliable transporter technology as depicted in Star Trek existed. They would not need kitchens or bathrooms either if you really think about it, and those are the simplest first order consequences.....)

You might also need to think about how the magical properties you invent change over time. Star Wars had a wonderful opportunity with "The Force Awakens" in the trailer when Mark Hamill (Luke) intones "The force is strong in my family. My father had it. My sister has it. You have that power too...."

Just imagine the implications of that on the Star Wars universe.

So think about the story you want to tell, look at the implications of the thing you want to add to the setting and see how it changes the flow of the story, game mechanics and so on.



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