Whether it’s zombies, nuclear bombs, evil governments or aliens, we are obsessed with mass death at the moment. This isn’t restricted to video games but it does seem to be the biggest trend at play with many new and upcoming releases, but why?
Perhaps because the quickest way to get a gamer excited is to make them afraid of their environment. Who can forget the first time they went exploring in the Capitol Wasteland in Fallout 3? This initial thrill of being able to explore such a massive environment quickly gives way to constant fear as soon as you venture too far and find the hideous monsters and deadly Enclave soldiers that are just waiting to end you.
It’s certainly a lot simpler to build a world from scratch when you don’t have to account for civilisation. Games like Final Fantasy 7 spent hours of story line (and presumably hundreds of hours during the design stage) setting up the world in which you play, detailing everything from the politics of the world to fashion and dialects of different regions. The difficulty of this task has become more and more obvious as series like Final Fantasy went the way of the Star Wars prequels and lost their audiences by getting mired in the intricacies of plot while forsaking what fans really wanted, like actual game play instead of twenty minute cut scenes.
But What About Genre?
Aside from the traditional apocalypse scenario, we do also love a good dystopia, as you can see with such world-class titles like the Bioshock series. There is clearly a love of dark subject matters and isolating game play in the gaming community and its becoming a little bit of a problem by narrowing the field of possibilities for games. Gaming is most often compared to the film industry, with good reason, but this is limiting for an industry that needs to strike out on its own and get away from being compared to something that has so many constrictions.
For every game that is really pushing the limits of our imaginations by telling a story in a way that no other medium can (like Flower or even the criminally underrated Driver San Francisco) we get 10 games that do nothing different to games from 5 years ago (I’m looking at you Call of Duty, Gears of War and Gran Turismo). Even in terms of tone or style, games are getting homogenised and simplistic. With films you have a wealth of different genres, like comedy, drama, romance etc. because people like variation but the same cannot be said of the majority of games. Let’s look at a few of the most anticipated games of this year – Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Dishonoured and Assassin’s Creed 3. These games are the equivalent of action films; it’s all about running around killing things, which is good, but not enough to rest an entire industry on. So, where are the other genres? Borderlands 2 was very funny but it still had to cater to the traditionally young community of gamers by being, above all, a first person shooter.
Am I alone in wanting an influx of radically varied and innovative games or are people happy with keeping games for killing things and films for everything else?