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Joystick: Apocalypse Nope — ruined game worlds are overused

Published 10:00am Thursday, May 9, 2013

Imagine you’re in a desolate world, trying to survive in a barren wasteland, slowly making your way through traps, terrors, monsters and madmen as you struggle to reach your goal. Congratulations! You’re playing about half of the games on the market now.

I didn’t realize just how much of a crutch an apocalyptic setting is until last year, during the whole Mayan Apocalypse debacle where people thought the world would come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, we have a schedule full of games where you have to get through the aftermath of an apocalypse or two.

Just think about it: Are you at the final boss? You’re most likely fighting in an apocalyptic setting. Does your game have sci-fi elements? I bet a nuclear warhead (or the equivalent thereof) blew up at least part of your game’s environment.

Saving the world is all well and good, but do we have to blow it up first? There’s plenty of games which rely on this trope, including my favorite “Final Fantasy 6.” But for every Super Mario game, there’s something like “Fallout,” or “Walking Dead.” Those games deal with the conflicts that arise as survivors of a world gone mad try to make their way to safety and some semblance of normalcy.

But the problem here is these games escalate their conflicts immediately, and while that provides an interesting world environment to interact with, the apocalyptic game is fast oversaturating the market.

I say this as “The Last of Us,” a PS3 game by Naughty Dog, comes out this June. The story focuses on the journey of two people trying to get from one quarantine zone to another without being eaten by whatever menace plagues their post-apocalyptic scenery. The game looks gorgeous and interesting, but I’m not as intrigued with it because I feel like I’ve played a variation of it about once every couple months or so.

I’m all for high-stakes conflict, but the apocalypse game isn’t doing that much for me anymore. I’d rather solve a challenge in an interesting world than go through X amount of craters to get to the final boss nowadays, but I see the need for some ramped-up excitement. This trope won’t go away as there’s always a good market for fantasy violence in games, but I would hope more developers think about how to save the world’s environment before destroying it.

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