Send Your Cheek Swab to Space

A new promotional contest for 'Tabula Rasa' sounds like the stuff of science fiction

That's Richard Garriott in training for his upcoming trip to space. Your DNA could ride shotgun.
That's Richard Garriott in training for his upcoming trip to space. Your DNA could ride shotgun.

Nobody panic, but Austin's resident video-gaming god, Richard Garriott, is fleeing the planet and taking with him enough DNA information to rebuild a chunk of humanity. If you think this sounds like a plotline to one of his many games, you'd be right. But if you think it sounds like a mad scientist's scheme come to fruition ... well, you wouldn't be too far off there, either.

With our sci-fi issue only a few weeks gone, it seems appropriate to continue bridging the gap between science nonfiction and the weirdness that logically follows. And it only gets easier as the 21st century marches on. In this case, when Garriott and his vehicle for creative whims, NCsoft, recognized that his upcoming visit to the International Space Station could be the perfect promotion for their most recent creation, an online game called Tabula Rasa (see Cooperative Play, Aug. 31, 2007), they decided to further blur the line between reality and the gaming world. However, to ensure there isn't War of the Worlds-style mania, allow a clarification: There is no race of aliens called the Bane coming to obliterate Earth's population like in the game. Then again, both Garriott and his Tabula Rasa alter ego, Gen. British, will be jumping into spaceships and bringing human DNA with them. Garriott will be rocketed into orbit as part of a commercial space-travel endeavor in real life (, while simultaneously his fictional counterpart's spaceflight will serve (in the game, at least) as a fail-safe in case the Bane succeed in destroying humanity.

The fruit of the promotional brainstorm session was the idea to put data from Tabula Rasa – including character stats and appearance – along with personal messages from the players themselves on a hard drive and shoot them into space with Garriott, like a digital time capsule capturing this moment in gamer history. Even stranger/cooler, a handful of lucky online gamers will get their cheeks swabbed, get their DNA digitized, and have that info put on the "Immortality Drive" destined for the space station. Check out if you don't believe me.

What does this mean for you nonplayers – aside from a reasonable worry that aliens will find said DNA and use it to create a race of superclones to take over Earth? Well, if you want to get on board the DNA train to space, you better start playing Tabula Rasa now, and, conveniently, NCsoft will be offering a free trial all this month (

But bear these words from Garriott in mind: "Me taking this time capsule of genetic and player data to the safe haven of the International Space Station will mean that in the future, in case all of humanity is wiped out, we'll be able to rebuild humanity and life in the image of Tabula Rasa players, as well as with actual genetic information from the players who win this particular contest." Speaking as a gamer, I'd prefer to have any character from Tabula Rasa (alien-obliterating badasses all) re-created to defend the planet instead of my scrawny, pasty self. Clone the real me when you need someone who can nail all three solos in "November Rain" on Guitar Hero.  

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Richard Garriott, Tabula Rasa, NCsoft

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