Gaming Wastelands: Apocalypses

So the 21st has come & gone with no sign of the end of the world.  It seems that the Mayans simply didn’t have the time to make a calendar until eternity, rather than predicting the end of time as we know it.  Now I know; you’re all heartbroken.  How dare they get our hopes up, right?  But fear not.  I have a solution.  Since we’ll have to wait until the Apocalypse (at least until the next doomsday prophecy dregs up from somewhere), I figured that the best way to get experience for surviving the end is through video games.  What other media lets us test our survival instincts from the safety of our couches?

Now personally, I haven’t played a lot of apocalypse-themed games.  I’ve never been that interested in the end of the world.  As much as I may think the world would be better off with a few… thousand… people, I rather like society.  I like all of the tech & convenience.  Let’s be honest, most of us would off ourselves within a few days if there really was a worldwide apocalypse.  What’s the point of going on from there?  Would it be worth living?  But I digress…

The point is that I don’t have a lot of direct experience with these sorts of games.  However, the games I’m going to briefly discuss have some interesting takes on what happens after the end of the world that I think gamers will find very visceral.

There are many different types of apocalypses, & pretty much a game to suit any of your preferences.  I’m going to pick a few different “categories” & write about a game that I think gives a good depiction of it.

Nuclear Holocaust Apocalypse

I’m not sure how likely a nuclear holocaust actually is, but if I had to predict a way for the world to end, this would probably be it.  Given the amount of nuclear power floating around, & in the hands of some not nice people, it’s something to think about.  Of course, I’m not really sure the odds of people surviving such an attack.  But assuming some bit of humanity did manage to survive nuclear fallout on a global scale, life would be pretty hard afterwards.  You’d have to deal with massive amounts of radiation & contamination of the environment.  Food would be contaminated, not to mention the physical damage.

punga1I think Fallout 3 is probably one of the best examples of a game dealing with living in a nuclear wasteland.  Fallout 3 lets you wander the desolate landscapes with the threat of radiation poisoning looming over you.  Life is hard.  Resources are scarce.  Those who choose to live outside the protected Vault Cities face many challenges not just limited to other scavengers.  The radiation fallout has changed creatures into monsters, such as the giant RAD scorpions.  An open-world RPG is the perfect genre for an apocalypse.  Scavenging supplies & surviving are key elements to both.

Some other good games of this theme are the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, which is a gruelingly difficult as you’d expect surviving a nuclear meltdown would be, & Metro 2033, which despite having a supernatural aspects gives an appropriately claustrophobic experience.

Zombie Apocalypse

I mentioned in a previous post that I detest zombies with a passion, so it should come as no surprise that a zombie apocalypse would be a living hell for me.  This would probably be a situation where I’d try to off myself as quickly as possible.  Luckily, I think this is the least likely type of apocalypse.  Modern medicine can’t even bring a dead organ back to life, much less reanimate an entire body.

Dead-Rising-2-titleAlthough there have been a lot of games with zombies, few actually deal with how to survive them past shooting them.  In this respect, I think the Dead Rising series does an admirable job.  Although fairly arcade-y, they balance survival with fun.  The world’s come to an end, you might as well have a little fun.  Why not run over zombies with a shopping cart?  Dead Rising 2 is supposed to be a better game overall, nixing the camera & letting you combine items (like an axe & a sledgehammer) but I have to give the first credit for taking place in a mall, which would be a sensible place to hole-up in.

Other good games with a surviving zombie theme would of course be the Resident Evil series (at least the earlier ones that focused on actual survival) & Project Zomboid, an indie game that is still in its alpha phase but has some great survival elements such as boarding up doors & windows.

Natural Disaster Apocalypse

Every now & then I’ll see a program on the History or Discovery channels about a predicted natural disaster that could wipe out all life on Earth.  A super volcano under Yosemite National Park that would take out half of the US, or the depleting ozone layer letting solar storms ravage our electrical systems.  These are possibly some of the scariest scenarios, because there isn’t much we can do to predict or stop them.  I’ve been lucky enough to avoid any major storms in spite of living in Tornado Alley, but the threat is scary enough.

i-am-alive_1_ss_l_120823115109I find it strange that there haven’t been as many games focusing on this type of apocalypse scenario.  The only one I can think off is I Am Alive.  The game never actually explains what “The Event” was, but based on everyone talking about earthquakes & dust clouds, I’m guessing it was natural.  Although I Am Alive has some flaws in its mechanics, I think it does an excellent job of portraying what the world would be like after civilization crumbles.  Man turning against man, letting their worst natures out because there are no laws to follow.  And with bullets being so scarce, you have to approach every person & situation with caution.

I can’t think of any other games that deal with surviving a natural disaster like this, but if you can please list them in the comments.

I also wanted to include games dealing with a proper biblical apocalypse or Armageddon.  The only title that comes to mind is Darksiders, but those games don’t count.  For one, they’re action games & don’t involve much strategy past “kill everything in your way” & second they both seem connected to the events in Revelations by the very loosest of threads.  It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of potential there.

So there you go, some suggestions for titles to slake your desire to become a wasteland hero for a bit.  And if anyone gives you any trouble about them, you can always say you’re doing research for the next apocalypse.

– GamerDame


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