Some new settings for the game industry to explore

If you were to boil down the game industry to one setting that its a little big obsessed with, what would it be?  Right now its post-apocalyptic worlds, about 2-3 years ago it was middle-eastern conflicts and before that it is was World War II.  The gaming industry naturally latches onto settings that appear to be selling well.  Zombies and mutants might be all the rage right now, but that will change before long.  Here’s a few of my suggestions for where the industry could go next.

Low Fantasy

Many are very familiar with the idea of “high fantasy”, where elves, magic, dwarves, knights, princeses, kings and queens are all common.  Think Tolkien and your average Lord of the Rings fare.
Now enter low fantasy, a sub-genre of fantasy where there are cities and people not unlike our own, yet legends and magic still exist, they’re just not as common.  This would be an ideal setting for a Deus Ex-type of fantasy game.  Those familiar with The Name of the Wind or to a lesser extent George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series would be right at home with this setting (and I can tell you right now, Name of the Wind could work pretty damn well in a game).
Good example: Fable III – even if you didn’t particularly enjoy it, Fable III was a great example of low fantasy: huge industrial cities where magic is uncommon, yet our heroes still know how to use it.  Journeys to far-away lands reveal that magic is indeed still very much a part of the world.

World War I

WWII obviously gets a lot of attention because it was on such a massive scale, yet the stories and battles were so personal.  But the war preceeding it was not without its do-gooders and dare devils.  This is the war that gave us The Red Baron, All Quiet on the Western Front and Hell’s Angels.  Hell, even Lawrence of Arabia takes place during the Great War!
Good example: Toy Soldiers – This game is almost a template for WWI modeling.  There are great models of both British and German troops for everything from gas troopers to cavalry to high-flying bombers.  Despite having a toy facade, you get a good feel for the details of the Great War.

Cyberpunk

William Gibson birthed the genre of cyberpunk with his excellent novel Neuromancer.  In these worlds cities are huge and sprawling, but to their own detriment.  The world underneath the shiny layer on top is usually dark and disturbing.  Think Blade Runner or to a degree the Matrix films.  The crux of cyberpunk is being close to home, rather than far into the future or space-faring.
If anyone wants to tackle this setting in a real way, go for the hacking aspect of it.  Protagonists of this genre are typically anti-hero hackers who are way down on their luck.  Hacking games have been few and far between, but the real kick would be to mix them well with other game genres.
Good example: Deus Ex – Especially the latest game, Human Revolution, which showed people that were not unlike our own today, poor and stricken and where only the rich can afford to keep up with the new world’s harsh demands.  The hacking aspect of the game was actually top-notch, if maybe a little easy.
Of course I have many other ideas, mostly historical: from ancient Greece to the French Revolution, but the point is that there’s a lot more settings to explore, even ones we just haven’t seen in a long time.  Most importantly keep your gameplay and story #1 and you’ll find success no matter where you decide to put your game…Maybe it would be useful to do an article about over-used settings, hmm….
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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

3 responses to “Some new settings for the game industry to explore”

  1. J.R. says :

    How about another Crimson Skies type of game. Loosely fits the WWI aspect. Love that stylization.

    • Ryan Saul says :

      That’s pretty funny, I was going to write about the whole “Art Deco” thing as another setting and was specifically thinking Crimson Skies. Might have to revisit this one later ;)

  2. giantsbane says :

    Long live post-apocalyptic worlds!

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