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The Disaster Genre

I love disaster films. Whether a Cloverfield is pooping out parasites to make people's stomachs explode or a huge killer meteor is heading to Earth, I can't help but find myself in the cinema anxiously munching on popcorn to see what happens next. There was a time when it seemed like every film coming out was placed in the disaster genre, and this prompted me look on my own shelf to see what video game titles I had that were also based around a disastrous environment I enjoyed playing in.

The Accident

The "accidental" type of disaster (usually wrapped up in some element of conspiracy theory or evil corporation) leads us to plots like Infamous when the Ray Sphere in Cole's backpack detonates and causes a large explosion, leaving Empire City in ruins. It helps when the explosion gives our protagonist a Godly surge of electrical powers because it provides us with hours of fun zapping and electrocuting enemies or the ocassional civillian. The so-to-speak accident gives us reasons for the gameplay mechanics because it makes sense in this world for the player to have these powers and consequently exploit them as much as possible. Other types of plots that fall in this category are arguably the ones that focus on the spread of a plague like in Prototye, or the illegal experiments that result in contagious mutations caused by the T-virus in Resident Evil.

The Alien Invasion

One of my favourite shooters to play is the Resistance series because of the gruesome enemies encountered in the game and the unique weapons that come out of the setting. The invasion of the Chimera takes us to an alternate history of WWII which involves a mixture of vintage guns like the Carbine, and alien technology like the Bullseye. Insomniac Games is known to have an excellent expertise in creating one of a kind weapons and the Resistance series does not disappoint in this area. Other alien invasion favourites of mine of course include the critically acclaimed Half-Life 2 (and the Gravity Gun surely delivers in the awesome technology theme), Contra, and depending on how many rum and cokes I've had, the Halo series.

The Nuclear Wars

If you spend a long enough time reading the news you might find this category of disaster to hit a bit too close to home. Seems like every time there is a threat of a nuclear war, more fiction within the disaster genre creeps up into our silver screens, consoles, and literary texts. The absolute best example is Fallout 3, where I've navigated the wastelands more thoroughly than any neighbourhood I've lived in. Old timey tunes immediately signal fond memories of plasma rifles and Sugar Bombs, and the idea of a brand new society in a post-apocalypse is the most intriguing response to disaster genre I've experienced. Another game to mention in this category is Metro 2033 based on the novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky which I urge you to curl up with and read over the holiday season if you haven't already done so.

Special Mention: The Tokyo Jungles

Because a world where humans do not exist and pomeranians populate as pack leaders is the closest to peace this civillization can ever hope to achieve.

What are your favourite type of disasters in video games? Do you have any particular titles that fall in this category or the ones I've posted? Share in the comments!

Comments

  • Locked 6 years, 9 months ago

    I haven't seen Cloverfield >.> I seemed to find myself enjoying the good side of disaster based games. Traversing the wilderness in Fallout 3 lending a helping hand when I could. It just feels right.

    I have yet to get my hands on Tokyo Jungle, but it is a blast to watch on the feed. :D

    Nice little article and welcome to 4PN~

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    • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

      Thank you! Go watch Cloverfield, but grab some Gravol first.

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  • Soulglove 6 years, 9 months ago

    Metro 2033 and Resistance 3 captures the disaster aftermath I look for with their world design and atmosphere. The aftermath of a catastrophe brings out the instincts in humans we have traded for the comfort technology gives us. We yearn for this experience, but have become frail because of our dependencies. As a species, we are adaptive, but as a society, I'm not so sure anymore. Give me a camping trip completely cut off from technology and the rest of the world, and I will feel refreshed.
    Any disaster game that is released catches my eye, but most fall short because I want more. If it doesn't capture the experience of dire circumstances and simulate hopeless odds, I won't be completely satisfied. One movie premise I would like to see for a game is an apocalypse cause by dragons. I want an open world survival horror that takes notes from Reign of Fire.

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    • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

      Excellent analysis. And I would throw all my money at a dragon apocalypse! Thanks for leaving a comment!

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  • pioshfd 6 years, 9 months ago

    This just makes me want to play a survival game as a giant monster rampages through the city.... Although they've been overdone, I enjoy a good zombie apocalypse every now and then. And another game that I enjoyed which would fall under the "Accident" category? Bastion.

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    • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

      I have yet to play Bastion! I feel so ashamed of that.

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  • Dimensaur2 6 years, 9 months ago

    I'm a big fan of the disaster genre of fiction as well so this was particularly enjoyable to read.

    My favorite kind of disaster stories are ones where the actual disaster, or looming disaster, becomes its own character in the game, book or film. My favorite usage of this comes from Majora's Mask. It's not my favorite of the Zelda games, but the feeling of impending doom in that game is unlike any other. You can literally look ultimate destruction in the face and seeing the NPC's state of mind change as it gets closer and closer just tops everything off for me.

    A lot of games feature worlds post disaster. I'd love to see some more that focus on life during the actual disaster happening.

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    • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

      That is a fantastic angle to look at disasters. I would have never thought of Majora's Mask but I can definitely see it now. I hope we can see more games like that as well!

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      • Dimensaur2 6 years, 9 months ago

        Most games seem to set themselves either just before a disaster (and using the disaster as a plot point in the actual storyline) or after it has already happened, so seeing some during a disaster would be pretty refreshing. However I'd have to question if it would garner the same sorts of emotion without relying on typical story telling tropes like having a player become attached to a character and having that character die later on due to the disaster. In a game like I am Alive the disaster manages to have character, become a major player in the story and pull emotions out of the player because it is left relatively ambiguous and you can see how the characters of the world have responded to it. The Last of Us seems to be doing something similar with their world. So incorporating an actively occurring disaster and not have it detract from the world and the characters while still maintaining a threatening atmosphere seems like it may be pretty difficult to pull off. When I actually think of it, Majora's Mask is one of the only successful usages of this in any media. I really hope more devs try this approach though. Games are probably the best medium for doing this type of experience I think.

        This is an unrelated question, but how do you feel about games that allow the player to cause their own disasters? Games like From Dust and Sim City put the power of disasters in the player's hands and most of us find creating alien invasions, tornadoes, floods etc and watching the AI's reactions to those to be pretty humorous. Even though they may not be traditional disaster games, I'd like to hear your thoughts about those. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

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        • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

          Thanks for the follow-up comment! I'm really interested to see how Last of Us will use the disaster to shape the gameplay or story. Also such a good point about I Am Alive - I've mostly watched playthroughs but have been planning to get my hands on it, but you can tell that they tried to do something different with the disaster. Honestly, I think it would be great to play a game where players control disasters. A tactic I loved using in Bioshock/Bioshock 2 was mixing the cyclone traps with other plasmids to create a new horrific trap - whether it be bees or electricity. To have that on a large scale would be not only fascinating but FUN. That kind of power and control is certainly intoxicating.

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  • Absolutely_Daft 6 years, 9 months ago

    Populous: the Beginning was a fun RTS in the case that you cause the diasters to gain an edge in taking down rival tribes. I remember when the Dakini (red tribe also the hardest) attacked your tribe, it was the worst thing that could happen. then as a fuck you to the Dakini, I headed over to their tribe and erupted a giant volcano in the center of it.

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    • Absolutely_Daft 6 years, 9 months ago

      I would also like to add Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. I like the world design in the way that the world is in a chaotic void after Hikawa hits the reset button known as the conception in the game and the player is in a constant struggle of fighting demon clans and their beliefs.

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      • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

        I would really love to see more games give me the ability to fuck people up with volcanos. Not a mechanic used enough! Thank you for sharing your titles!

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  • TurnedtoGold 6 years, 9 months ago

    Disaster genre games are some of my favorites. In particular, Fallout 3 is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. The game is great on so many levels. Something that adds to it exponentially is the mixture of fiction and non-fiction injected into the story arc. I'm not sure how many people caught all of the historical references, but they were bountiful and woven in fantastically. One of my favorites is Tranquility Lane's community. It strongly resembles the John Birch Society, and the dogmatic ideology it preached during the Cold War. When disaster games have elements of non-fiction written into the story arc, it makes them that much better. You can't have as much verisimilitude without some familiarity or semblance of reality. In order to pull me into the disaster and make me believe it's realistic, you need to partially ground me in something I know.

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    • Soha E. 6 years, 9 months ago

      I'm definitely in the category that didn't catch all of the historical references, but this makes me respect Fallout 3 even more which I didn't think was possible. Having that realism without having it hit close to home or cause controversy is also pretty damn admirable!

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