Military shooters. Orcs and Dwarfs. Post Apocalyptic. Zombies. What pops into your head when you read those ideas? Played out. These are all ideas that are heavily explored in the video games of today. And while there are, of course, good modern shooters, and games based on surviving in a post apocalyptic world, seeing a trailer debut for a new game that re-explores any of these genres forces even the most easily-amused gamer to roll his/her eyes. “Really?! Another FPS?! How original!”
And, therein lies the problem: developers are re-exploring old ideas time and time again, usually without adding their own twist to the genre. I know that not all developers are guilty of doing this. In fact, there are some developers out there venturing into new genres or creating their own, much like Quantic Dream really advancing the movie-like-games/interactive drama genre. But, the gaming community is seeing more and more lack of creativity when it comes to AAA titles. So, here we go, all of you lazy devs out there—a list of some genres and ideas that we at Den of Geek think are underexplored or unexplored successfully in video games.
For a period of time in human history to have such unknown aspects to it, you’d think video game developers would be all over creating a game based on prehistoric times. There is so much opportunity here to create an open-world, exploration game heavily infused with RPG elements. Create a game that puts gamers in the Paleolithic Era where they have to be hunter-gatherers to survive. Take us into the New Stone Age and have a rival/war between two villages. Or, better yet, place the game in a setting 85 million years ago, and put your character against this beast that swam in the waters.
I know that many hardcore gamers find themselves skipping the yearly sports game iterations that EA or 2K Sports spit out, but there’s a reason for that: they’re the same thing every year. You can’t reinvent basketball. You can’t reinvent football. You can’t reinvent baseball. But, what developers could do, is begin creating their own sports. While we do have League of Legends, it isn’t quite the fantasy sport I’m talking about. Think about it—there is a lot that a person could do in a video game or movie that they couldn’t do in real life. This is why J.K. Rowling created Quidditch. That’s why Podracing was added to Star Wars, and that’s why Final Fantasy had Blitzball. With all of the creative minds in the world, and the rise of eSports coverage, why haven’t we seen a newly invented sport showcased in a video game? (Please, no more Blood Bowl, though). The potential for that type of game to be huge is undeniable, as it blurs the line between eSports and real sports. With a proper rulebook, tutorial and obviously the ability to play with your friends online, a fictional sports game could be a major success.
While the category was mildly explored in BioShock Infinite, Dishonored, and Damnation in this current console cycle, there hasn’t been a successful open-world game with a steampunk setting. I want to see mechanical spiders, jet packs, giant steam-powered robots, blimps, etc. There is a ton of potential for creative weapons, vehicles and enemies with a steampunk-themed game. Developers could even throw in elements of horror, or go in the more commonly used setting of steampunk culture by placing the game in the American West and give it more of a shooter feel. Either way, a huge open-world steampunk game is needed. We almost got to see it in Gotham By Gaslight, the cancelled Batman game that was set in a steampunk world. Maybe one day.
One of my favorite genres of movies is the western, with films like No Country For Old Men, 310 to Yuma, and Unforgiven leading the pack. But, the genre is still relatively under-explored in the video game world, when you compare it to military shooters and post apocalyptic games. Sure, Red Dead Redemption was one of the best games to set us back in the west, and Gun gave us a pretty good western as well, but other than that, there really isn’t a western-set video game that immerses us in the time period. Call of Juarez is mediocre at best, and I (along with most) don’t consider Borderlands a western (although I have heard it mentioned when discussing the genre). The American West contained some of the most notorious criminals in U.S. History, and so much violence and lawlessness that you’d be more likely to find a bullet in the face than a helping hand. Setting a new open-world game in the old American West (think Grand Theft Auto V meets the American West) would work incredibly.
No, I’m not talking about a Cool Boarders 3 or Shaun White Snowboarding, or the “Array” map in Call of Duty, but a shooter or an action-adventure game set in a land dumped on by heavy snow. Yes, there were the Lost Planet games which were set on a snowy planet, and Uncharted 2 had some of the best snow in a video game to date, but other than that, gamers have not yet received an INCREDIBLE game set in heavy snow. Heavy snow creates an eerie atmosphere for a gaming world, as we saw in the original Silent Hill, and it’s also a fantastic setting for a survival-based game. But, unfortunately it’s very under-utilized as a main setting for video games.
Non-Ridiculous Alternate Histories and The Butterfly Effect
What would’ve happened if Christopher Columbus’s fleet sank before reaching the Americas? What if the South won the Civil War? What if cell phones were never invented? These are some of the ideas out of millions of possible alternate histories that could create an interesting butterfly effect that could be used to lead a gamer into a creative alternate universe. The keyword here is creative, not absolutely ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Fall of Liberty!) While the Assassin’s Creed franchise has dabbled in some alternate history, there hasn’t been any other games to do so on the same level or better. A proper alternate history shouldn’t take us into the future, but re-imagine the everyday things that we know and love.
The Deep Ocean
Sharks and giant squids are sure to scare the majority of people that see them, but when you delve deeper into the depths of the ocean, the real horror begins. For one, marine biologists are finding new species of life in the deep ocean every year. And, secondly, there’s still so much of the ocean unexplored that there is no telling what the hell is down there. Take a look at this, this guy here, or how about a vampire squid? There’s an incredible sense of discovery and wonderment when you talk about the sea, which translate well to video games. And, game developers could venture into a fantasy world below the water, much like BioShock did, but make it more about the discovery on the unknown rather than the story.
A narrative set in an open-world ancient Egypt has the potential to be amazing. Ancient Egypt had architecture way ahead of its time, some of the most famous masterpieces of art, and let’s not forget about the whole mummification thing. All of these elements can certainly provide a good base for a video game. How about a game where your main objective is to assassinate a Pharaoh, and you’re going up against a strong military presence? And, the whole mummy thing obviously lends itself to a survival horror title. Imagine exploring the many tombs and crypts of Egypt, when (somehow) things go awry.