Monday, March 19, 2012
Needs More Macabre
What does? Gaming does. At least, that's what I've been thinking about for the last couple of days thanks to the gentle push of Yakuza: Dead Souls. Playing it has really made me think about how much time I've spent on different kinds and types of gaming over the last few years years and what's struck me is just how much time I've devoted to things that are more realistic (or at least mostly) and/or Modern-themed (Metal Gear Solid, Yakuza, Uncharted), futuristic (Phantasy Star Portable, Dynasty Warriors Gundam, Alpha Protocol (somewhat)) or just straight up historical, be it realistic or fictional (Dynasty/Samurai Warriors, Assassin's Creed (The games style themselves after history after all)). This realization has made me realize the complete blind spot I've developed for things that cater to the 'darker' themes out there - the more Macabre types - like Yakuza: Dead Souls, the above-pictured inFamous 2: Festival of Blood (which I have not bought/played yet which honestly -really hurts-, but it's Digital-Only on PS3 and goddamnit, I don't have that kind of internet for something that runs hot like my PS3 does) and the classic Legacy of Kain series do.
In recent memory, the only other game that could cater to this type of thing would likely be Shadows of the Damned, what with the honest B-Side approach to the genre, though I guess Darksiders (and the upcoming Darksiders 2) could definitely count, what with the whole theme being the Apocalypse and all. And Demon's Souls/Dark Souls certainly could count too, though it's hard to say if it's because you play it to fight realized Dungeom types of monsters or because you go into the game knowing that you are going to die several times. Gruesomely. Still, I'm sure you guys get what I'm grabbing at here; Vampires, Zombies, that type of thing has been beaten down into being a side-show in most games, rather than being the driving of it. Or if it's included, they spend more time on how you, as the main character, are awesome for being able to kill them when no one else can, rather than using them to also further the story. Yakuza: Dead Souls perfectly exemplifies this; not only by having four protagonists who all, of course, do some zombie-killin', but because you see examples of other people, 'normal' people fighting as well just to survive. It's gripping and it's driving without being contrived.
But then you have things like the Zombies mode of Black Ops where it is 1.) a Novelty, and 2.) a Novelty because the main characters are famous figures who, obviously, did not fight off a zombie holocaust, and assuredly not together. Now I'm not saying that you should -only- have Zombies as a super serious addition to a game where they are displayed as is proper - a swarm that consumes and destroys by merely (re)existing, but when Zombies mode is one of the 'biggest' ways they've been used recently (other examples include being mooks in Darksiders, random fodder in Shadows of the Dead, etc.) then you have to then go a different way at some point. The same could be said for Vampires, especially when they've really not been used in all that many games if you think about it. Castlevania as a series, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, the Afore-mentioned Legacy of Kain, and the Elder Scrolls series would be the main examples here. I'm sure a few other things could be tossed out, but, really, for as dynamic as Vampires can be (for better or worse), you should expect a better utilization of them.
I just find that I really want these kinds of games now that I think about it and I've been further exposed into it. They don't even have to be horror-themed or something like that (which I imagine is what you would expect) because Dead Souls certainly is not that, nor is Resident Evil (at least, not anymore), nor is Festival of Blood and so on and so on. We really need to re-inject this theme, this mood, back into the hobby before the "shoot things that are somewhat humanoid in a destroyed city" trend really takes over fully (though some would argue it already has). It's a surprisingly untapped market, so a few games out, if you put some real effort into them (and marketing effort), and we could see it really come around. I guess the idea is that, because these things are so known, they've been done so much already, but as we can see, I can't really throw out a whole mess of examples. Unless I'm just blatantly missing quite a few things, I honestly can't think of much here outside of movies and TV where it's reliably been what we could call 'over-saturated'.
Of course, maybe I'm just wrong. Or maybe I'm simply the outlier. But I know that, at least now, I'll be keeping an eye out for these types of games that cater to these themes because they're certainly something I want to get in on. Whether it's shooting up some zombies ala Dead Souls, or something a little more traditional like trying to stake some Vampires, I'm really really wanting to play more games that revolve around that type of thing, so I'll be all for throwing money at the first dev to produce something that does this and does it well. Perhaps the latter part is what most people are afraid of, and I guess I don't blame them in that. But it doesn't make me want any less, that's for sure.