Note: Apologies for this being somewhat delayed, the powers that be decided I could benefit from experiencing life without electricity and running water for a day. I can tell you, it is mediocre at best.
Games, I’m sure you’ve noticed, go through trends. There are certain flavours of the week that come and go, like Guitar Hero or Hatoful Boyfriend (note: not really a game), but for the most part things remain pretty static.
So then, I’ve compiled a list of six environments that every mainstream, AAA game seemingly fits into, and in turn challenge you to identify the outliers that don’t quite fit into my neat little boxes.
tl;dr – read column, call me idiot in comments
As seen in: Tomb Raider, Far Cry
These are usually FPS titles, mostly of the action-adventure variety.
Perhaps it’s because it gives the opportunity to create beautiful environments that players can stare at when not launching arrows into assorted ethnic faces, or maybe it’s just our desire to ruin things that are beautiful.
I don’t think so though – I don’t think it’s our love of tropical paradises or our collective nerd-boner for anti-aliasing. I think it’s simply because jungles feel lawless.
There’s no military, no police, no rules. We’re cut off from the rest of the world, lone rangers who answer to no one – and with no one to help us.
We all love being the hero, and having to rely solely on ourselves – to be capable of relying solely on ourselves – makes us feel like total badasses.
Post-apocalyptic Corrupt Society
As seen in: Metro series, Bioshock, Fallout
We all have the apocalypse fantasy. Maybe your life is a little more mundane than you want it to be, maybe you’re just excited by the idea of a societal reset, but all of us have had a maniacal sparkle in our eye and a “What if?” thought at one time or another.
The kicker, of course, is that we’re never the ones tanning on the beach when the tsunami arrives or caught unawares at the supermarket when patient zero of the zombie apocalypse lumbers into the frozen foods section – we’re the heroes, the one with the crossbow or the samurai sword or the leader of the roving gang of street thugs.
Game developers love to tap into that fantasy, and we swallow that shit up.
There’s always this pervasive Lord of the Flies undercurrent too, like the loose net of the law is the only thing holding us back from being homicidal freakshows who would rather stab someone in the face than share our Twinkie supply.
Except you or me, of course, we’re great.
As seen in: Titanfall, Advanced Warfare
We discarded our Lugers, wooden-handled grenades and clanking carbines round about 2007, and ever since have been obsessed with heartbeat sensors, exosuits and hovercrafts.
It’s not surprising really – being more powerful just feels more awesome. We can all appreciate getting the headshot through a pair of iron sights, but it pales in comparison to ejecting out of a hulking mech and firing off a homing rocket on the way down.
Once we’ve leapt across rooftops and fired lasers directly into angry teens’ colons, how can we possibly go back to bi-planes and rifles with wooden stocks?
Maybe in the same way I can leave a bench out in the sun for three to five years, until the paint’s peeled, the wood is warped and the structural integrity is just close enough to being non-existent, at which point I can call it “shabby chic” or “retro” or whatever those people who sit on tomato crates and drink sherry out of tin cups call their shitty décor.
I seem to have gone off topic – let’s move on.
As seen in: World of Warcraft, Skyrim, The Witcher, Diablo, <insert RPG>
This one is there simply because it has to be. The public expects it of us – the stereotypical depiction of a gamer as a basement-dwelling virgin who changes his underwear bi-weekly would not be complete without an assortment of goblins, elves, wizards and dorky sounding spells.
Seeing people roleplay Call of Duty just doesn’t make for a good YouTube clip – but idiots dressed in their mother’s dressing gowns screaming “spells” at each other is comedy gold.
Of all the themes on this list, this is the one that is least likely to ever go away.
Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, The Last of Us
Sigh, zombies. I’ve spoken about this before, mainly in the sense that I’ve grown completely bored of anything related to zombies.
The past few years have been saturated with zombie titles (which, conveniently, tie in nicely with the post-apocalyptic themes as well), and 2015 isn’t looking like it’s going to be any different.
And who can blame them? I don’t know a single avid watcher of The Walking Dead that doesn’t kind of hate the show; like everybody who’s been following it for five freakin’ seasons is telling themselves that this time, this time it’ll be different.
I’m alright with the movies, but games I just can’t get on board with. The genre monster is unfortunately severely limited by a stunning lack of intelligence (or coherent thought at all, really), which rather stringently limits what you can do with them. Mostly, they have two modes – fast or slow.
The slow, lumbering type of zombies are dreary and unexciting, while the screaming, sprinting variety just make me far too anxious to actually enjoy myself.
Some of the most successful franchises on the planet, these are the games for people who want to feel like incredible athletes, without the hassle of putting in actual effort.
Also, they’re pretty fun.