The design of a game world is both a key differentiator and the foundation on which a game is built. While some games simulate the reality of the world we live in, most craft newer versions of reality that are based on imaginative perspectives so fantastic that the premise often becomes the primary reason to buy the game.
This week, we look at four imagined realities that we frequently encounter in games:
Space travel/ colonisation and contact with alien species
From Space War (1961, one of the first games ever made) to the sprawling universes of Mass Effect and No Man’s Sky and to thrillers like Prey and Dead Space, several games have tried to answer questions on outer space and extraterrestrial life. An ever-popular genre, 2019’s best space games include Outer Wilds and Observation.
Humanity’s destruction/ apocalypse
Another popular theme, the ‘fall of humanity’ premise has become popular over the last two decades. While some scenarios are built on chaotic zombie-apocalypses, others are built on Matrix’s premise of machines taking over and destroying humanity. Games like The Last of Us, World War Z, Days Gone have ensured the constant supply of Zombie/ undead titles. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn make the case for the revival of humanity after machines have taken over.
Discovery of new places/ dimensions
Exploration is a fundamental aspect of game play. Most role-playing games include integral mechanics that reward the explorer. The game world in such cases is often predicated on what defines the specific space. At times, fundamental rules like gravity, time and space are often altered to offer newer experiences. Games from this genre include World of Warcraft, Diablo, The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age and Destiny.
Alt tech/ Steampunk universes
Re-imagining technology and its impact on society, games from this genre either reshape the world around different technological styles or specific moments from human history.Dishonored, Bioshock Infinite, Thief and The Order 1886 are all games from this genre. This genre also includes futuristic titles that look at how the body, identity and the world alter due to a deeper integration with AI and tech with dystopic world-views or utopian tech realities. While these themes may not be applicable to all video games, you might find that most flagship titles might borrow from these categories to some degree. These categories though are not mutually exclusive as large gameverses can, at times, overlap across two or three.