Most space games task you with bringing a single space-faring nation into galactic dominance. But what if the entire canvas of sentient life in the galaxy was yours to weave? Then you’d be playing
The Fermi Paradox demo.
You are the galactic gardener task with shepherding the development of intelligent life in your space. You have undefined powers (usually of clickling bubbles that list their effect, but also some multiple-choice events) to guide their development. It’s never explained how this works, but it does.
Aside from events you have to adjudicate, The Fermi Paradox tasks you with tracking five stats that determine how resilient a race is. Resources is the one that raises the most issues, as even stone-age people’s are liable to strip their environment clean and die out. Oops!
Ideally, you wouldn’t let races die out as it’s directly contrary to your goal. However, it all comes down to Synthesis points, which are gained via disasters (either in events like these or in the campaign map, where you can devastate non-sentient planets for a small trickle of Synthesis). The best outcome in any situation will demand Synthesis; the worst will give it to you. So do you just let a people meander towards a probably interstellar civilization? Or do you let die in a grand conflagration to gain Synthesis points to boost your favorites?
Life does have a way of finding a way, and new races may crop up on uninhabited planets. They can act as replacements to the ones you already lost, or as another ward under your care, or just as a pool of Synthesis to harvest at an opportune moment.
Hopefully, their development will be smooth enough to the point where you can guide them through Civ-like epochs to reaching the stars… buy they will never be self-sufficient, in that they’ll never solve their problems themselves. Meanwhile, you’ll always see the costs and benefits of your actions. So looking over these space peoples is less like raising a child and more like looking after a particularly dim dog.
Of course, since The Fermi Paradox demo featured humanity, I had the chance to witness a few takes on current issues. If you look into the banner image, I made humanity ban the Internet. I think preventing the rise of Facebook was worth it.
Was worth it to make the Prun bite the dust, however? Maybe – especially since they already had a colony ship full of outcasts making their way towards some planet they could colonize. Did I have fun playing The Fermi Paradox demo? Not really. The game looks smooth, but there’s a lot of dead air where I was just clicking Synthesis bubbles to get through the turns (you get one action per). Maybe there’s a real galactic gardener who’s also unhappy about the tedium of his work – that would explain the real-life Fermi paradox.