The World Is Ending! … On Screen

Today is the 21st of December, the rumoured last day of the Mayan Calendar Long Count of 5 millenia or some such. Today (or tomorrow) some cataclysmic event will occur and the world will be plunged into 3 days of darkness! Though nobody really said what would happen after those 3 days, though Mayan scholars say it will just be the start of a new calendar count and our lives will unfortunately return to usual. Optimists have suggested that maybe today or tomorrow will mark spiritual purification and ascension into a higher order of life.

As for me, I’m probably going to be seeing lots of Game Over phrases on screen, because I will be entering the world of LAN and video games. Speaking of which, what irony it will be if we end up playing a post-apocalyptic game today, envisioning what the world will look like after today.

Looking at the list of post-apocalyptic games available, I can see why people like the idea of an end of the world. They will be the ones to rule over the planet at last, they who are armed with the skills of aiming and firing with guns they pick up on the streets. They who know the best tactics in the case of a zombie invasion or an alien domination. These bespectacled gloomy geeks who are ordinarily the subject of much ridicule will have their proper place in the pecking order at long last!

By the way, Sonic the Hedgehog and Epic Mickey are classified under games in a post-apocalyptic environment too, so I think we have all played such doomsday-foretelling games at some point.

These games have, over the years, together with movies and books, successfully created an entire world of their own. I can imagine lots of grey in the barren landscape, and people wearing dusty army uniforms — or rags — and carrying machetes. Then there will be loads of trash strewn on the streets, leftovers from civilisation. There will be cannibals, robbers, beggars, mothers sobbing for their children, children sobbing for their mothers. And there will be a lingering air of silence and doom. That is how I imagine post-apocalyptic worlds, anyway. Oh and religions and cults will spring with peculiar notions, inviting their believers to practise rituals and criminal actions in order to “purify their souls”.

Is my imagination running away with me?

But really, dystopic post-apocalyptic science fiction is an interesting world to make a game in. You don’t need vivid colours like you would with fantasy or realistic settings, the mood is easily portrayed and survival is a convenient motivation to play through the game. Granted, fantasy games like Skyrim tend to capture attention for a longer time than such science fiction fare, but this sort of game is good for the short run, for one-shot team games for instance. And of course, anything terrible can happen anytime because even the world has given up on you. There are no rules to speak of, nothing governing social order, or even physics.

Being a very bad gamer, I am speaking more from an author’s standpoint than a gamer’s one, but if you are a gamer, what do you think of post-apocalyptic games? Would you create a game like that for the market? Will it comprise supernatural elements?

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