The apocalyptic setting, whether it’s from zombies are nuclear fallout, is one of the single greatest starting points for a video game. It’s a setting that allows the imagination to go further than other fantasy and sci-fi based games, because it’s so similar to real life. But the catastrophic event that plunged the world into chaos changes the mundane world into an extraordinary video game environment.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts you know that I’ve been following the new season of The Walking Dead. The show convinced me to start reading the comic books, and start replaying some of my favorite zombie games (right now I’m on Dead Island). For a long time I was against the zombie fad, games like Call of Duty’s Zombie Mode and Left 4 Dead never really intrigued me. But now I realize the reason that it’s so popular. It’s because a zombie attack could happen to any normal person. It strips away the comfort of the home and civilization and replaces it with a battle zone.
My imagination runs overtime when I’m watching or playing in a apocalyptic stetting . When I put down the controller I start to think about what I would do in a similar situation. What if zombies started kicking in my door? Or what if disease struck across the United States? Do I have the skills and abilities to cope with this level of catastrophes? Could I survive the harsh conditions of a post-apocalyptic world?
In real life I doubt I could. But I can continue to make due in my games. The point is this kind of setting transposes normal people and events into an entirely unrealistic world. It has the fun of a different universe and time period, but ties in so much with the everyday life of every player.
This is a much different experience then you’re going to get with other popular video game genres. Take the Halo franchise, for instance. Someone could easily argue that Bungie created a much more interesting setting than Dead Island or The Walking Dead. A universe filled with spaceships and aliens, and high tech weapons and abilities sounds much cooler. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Bungie’s world is totally unrealistic There’s no way that I could ever experience what Master Cheif does. His experiences are so much different than my own that even though it seems cool, I can’t completely connect with the character or the setting.
It’s the same thing with so many other games. Skyrim is another fantastical world, but once again is to far fetched for me to get totally engrossed in. The apocalyptic setting, however, could happen to me at any time. It’s equally as unrealistic, but it’s so much closer to home that I can fear it happening in real life more than I fear an alien invasion. Even a game like Call of Duty, which is based on real world conflicts seems even more far fetched of a setting. As a civilian that has never been to war the experiences I’m seeing on my monitor are too detached from my normal life for me to really appreciate the struggles of my character.
Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic video games are the best because they can perfectly create a fantasy world that’s close to home. The Sims and Halo might both be fun games. But the Sims is too mundane and Halo is to magnificent. A game like Fallout can be a balance between the two. It can take normal players off of their couch and make them think about the circumstances presented in the game in a way other genres cannot.