By Ben Watkins, a first time contributor for AlienLion.com
If you consider how many video games have been made in the history of the whole wide world, you’d expect a certain level of repetition, when it comes to the backdrop. Our options are obviously limited in general, but some genres require certain check-boxes to be ticked, as well. You certainly couldn’t place a first-person sci-fi shooter in Scunthorpe, for example.
Since locations in time and space have a huge impact on a game, it’s starting to feel just a tiny bit stale but it doesn’t have to. Even our familiar settings can still take us places. Whilst many have been used once or twice, it beggars belief that people aren’t making the most of what is out there. For example…
1. The British Empire
Now we all know that the British Empire has reared it’s head in the world of gaming time and again. It happened as recently as Assassin’s Creed III, and few things were more fun than trying to finish the job of world domination with a band of Red Coats, in Empire Total War. But the sheer size of the British Empire and the history behind it is staggering, and the potential for gaming is vast; yet, as a general rule, any games with Imperial connotations are extremely shallow. I mean, at the moment, you can only really play on the periphery of the Empire, either in a far-flung colony or from a distance. What we haven’t seen is an in depth up-close-and-personal experience (FPS?) of some of the major moments in British history without them being vilified (quickly, name a villain without a British accent).
To think, at one point Britain owned nearly 1/4 of the world. Just take that in. ¼ of the world was owned by Britain, a small island that can’t even experience summer properly, let alone control over 450 million people worldwide. Evil or not, it’s quite an impressive achievement, with plenty of rises and falls that are ripe for the picking. The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean, The War in Afghanistan where only 1 man survived out of a contingent of 16,500, The Opium Wars, The Scramble for Africa, any of these events were so incredible and ridiculous at the same time that we could have a whole new Call of Duty series, titled ‘The Red Coats’. Just imagine not sneaking around dark alleys, looking for a mysterious villain in a suit but fighting in the frontlines, shoulder to shoulder with some 6ft9 brute, drums and bagpipes blaring, marching straight in to the jaws of death! Sure, the gun-dynamics would be hard, but if Assassins Creed III can master musketry, then I’m sure its possible.
2. The Vikings
Again, Vikings have been used in previous games, and again, the potential here remains huge. Whilst Viking: Battle for Asgard is a game all about… Vikings (obviously), like most others, its all just a bit stereotypical and (cliche word coming up) cliche. There is so much more to Viking life than Thor and Loki and Odin and hammers. Sure, there is no doubt that some raping and pillaging did take place, once and again. Whilst there is some serious debate going on, surrounding just how mental they were, with some people not entirely sold on the fact that they drank Reindeer piss to get high, vikings were still potentially the most hardcore people ever. For example, It was actually Viking law that every man had to have a weapon. That’s right, a viking had no right not to bear arms!
But what about the fact that the vikings were epic explorers, traveling everywhere, from America to China? Speaking of the world, their mythology said that Odin and his brother killed the original Frost Giant and made a planet out of his head. We could explore the rise of the Frost Giants, the presence of Dwarves and Elves and the Giant snake that is wrapped around the Earth and has the potential to destroy the universe. And it was all intertwined with their daily life, but all the games so far just concentrate on aspects that weren’t really important to them, like the length of their tresses. Most of the imagery surrounding the Vikings is complete bullshit (they never wore horned helmets-how’s that for mind blowing). Don’t get me wrong, their badassery is a great subject but a more accurate and in-depth portrayal could be interesting still.
3. The Crusades
Assassin’s Creed has been there too, and yes, the crusades have generally been milked for all they’re worth, but apart from the historically-dubious version of the events, from the view of the likes of Altair, there is so much that could be done here. Crusading was like the Medieval version of video games, complete with mystery, epic battles, heroism and prejudices (religious in this case). Hell, Crusaders invented siege warfare and pretty much revolutionized the way we fought against people hiding out behind giant castles. Most games surrounding the Crusades so far don’t really let you play through the Crusades. Once again, you will find yourself on the side-lines looking in, watching the major events unfurl around you, whilst you do the background work and very little else.
There is so much you could do on both sides of the wars, and so many places you could go to. It wasn’t even just the British Christians vs the Arab Muslims, as you will find so many more different groups getting involved in the Crusades, including Mongols and Vikings, and overall, it was a melting pot of brutality and huge battles. And just think of the images? The Middle East is an extremely beautiful part of the world, especially when you throw in some over-the-top European architecture. The cities were thriving hubs of people, and the country side was spectacular, even if they were littered with the bodies of people from all over the world. It was faction warfare at its finest, and I personally would love to be able to pick a side and change the outcome of one of the most influential periods in history. For once, let us just be in the battles, doing the hard work, fighting the battles and getting thrown in to the shit-storm that was the Crusades, rather than pussyfooting around the whole event.
4. The Empire of Genghis Khan and The Mongols
If you want to make a list of super-awesome-people in a ‘huge-douchebag’ kind of way, Genghis has got to land at the very top. If he isn’t on yours, let me explain why you’re wrong. Genghis Khan united the tribes of North East Asia to his cause, which was to conquer most of the world and cause as much chaos as possible. The Mongol invasion of Asia and Europe led to some of the deadliest battles in history. Even though the British Empire was pretty forceful in her acquisition of countries, the Mongols made them look like little bitches in comparison. The Mongolian Empire of 1300 was the biggest in history, and even though Genghis was no longer alive by then, on the day he died, his Empire was still twice the size of that of the Roman Empire. To top it all off, Genghis was a huge fan of the phrase ‘Fuck Bitches, Get Money’, and raped his way through Europe and Asia to the extent that it is expected that 16 million people today are direct descendants of him. 16 MILLION.
Yet, where are the games dedicated to this legendary douche? You’ll be hard pushed to find one, and there is no reason why that should be the case. Of all the eras and empires ever featured in video games (and there are plenty), surely, being a horse-riding, world beating Mongol would be fun beyond belief. Games have pretty much mastered the whole horse riding-and-fighting mechanic, and the Mongol’s attempt to take over the world sets up a pretty good story line in itself, uniting countless tribes under the banner of Genghis, and killing everyone else. The fact there isn’t a game that allows people the opportunity to play through the life of one of these crazy bastards, rampaging through Asia and Europe on horseback and taking over pretty much everywhere they come across is simply criminal.
5. The Apocalypse
Now, I know that there are plenty of games out there that focus on post-apocalyptic worlds, and I for one love the atmosphere of titles like Fallout, where I know that some serious shit just went down and the remnants of the old Earth are barely around. In fact, the post-apocalyptic setting can battle the zombie apocalypse as the most overused theme of the recent years. Plenty of games also tackle the immediate build up to potentially apocalyptic events, but the concept of playing THROUGH the events of a world-ending catastrophe, as they unfold, is not one that has been covered. Whatever the nature of the apocalypse, be it a religious, technological or nuclear Armageddon, playing through the actual events could be super sweet.
I don’t know about you but I’d love to experience the precise moments of human civilization losing its shit (from behind a screen), with looters and rioters just working out their strategies, a complete breakdown in social order and just sheer madness ensuing. There is an unbelievable amount to work with, its almost insulting. It could be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (hint, moar Darksiders!) and the religious consequences that follow, or it could be a Terminator-esque mechanical revolution, which could really mess with the way you go through the game, bearing in mind any gadgets or machines would probably end up trying to kill you. Even living through a Nuclear War would be relatively new, especially from the perspective of a normal citizen, rather than a frontline warrior or the chosen survivor. Left 4 Dead comes quite close to this theme but, well, zombies. It could be fun.
So yes, whilst it is true that pretty much every location and time period on earth has been in some way been involved in video games, there are some that are just begging for more attention. Running around fighting terrorists or opening chests is all good fun, but give it a new background, and it becomes something completely different. There is so much out there and once you have a good setting, the game will just write itself.