The Ryan Lambie Column: underused video game locations

Ryan's got some ideas for where a few more videogames should be set. He's surprised that nobody's thought of them before...

Gunfright

People who are good at programming, I’ve decided, are from space. How the hell do you people do it? I swear you’re not human. Personally, I just about grasped Spectrum Basic, but when I attempted to learn Machine code I hit a brick wall.

Since then I’ve stared blankly at Fortran, scratched my head at PHP, sworn at C++ (and called it something beginning with C, in fact), and now find myself confounded even by something as apparently simple as Flash Script.

It all started last week, when I received a review copy of Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood. It occurred to me, as I aimed a nineteenth century hand-cranked gattling gun at a platoon of Union soldiers, just how inexplicably rare games set in the Wild West are.

Ultimate released Gunfright decades ago (which was yet another reskinned version of Knightlore, as was their wont at the time). Then there was an obscure Konami shooter called Sunset Riders, swiftly followed by the dreadful FMV shooting gallery Mad Dog McCree.

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With our shelves already groaning under the weight of games set in WWII, RPGs set in an alternate medieval universe and first-person shooters set in space, it seems incredible that developers aren’t looking further afield for fresh ideas.

So in a flurry of sudden inspiration, I began thinking of all the untapped times and places in history so far neglected by the games industry, and immediately hit upon a particularly exciting one: the extinction of the Dodo.

Back in the 17th century, the ill-starred Dodo was as common as the pigeon on its native island of Mauritius, and (according to contemporary accounts) so tame and inquisitive that you could walk right up to one and hit it over the head. And human nature being as it is, that’s precisely what those early explorers did, despite the creature’s disagreeable taste. Then newly introduced pigs and monkeys nicked all the eggs, and within a few decades the poor Dodo passed into history (the last Dodo was apparently sighted somewhere in England, where its owner fed it pebbles until it died sometime around the year 1681).

Anyway, my game was going to be called ‘The Last Dodo’ or something like that, and would have been a platform game where you played a mother Dodo jumping around Mauritius collecting eggs to take back to her nest, all the while avoiding the pigs, crab-eating macaques and head-stomping explorers – it was going to be a classic. But, because I’m a dullard, I found myself scuppered at the scripting stage and unable to make poor Mrs Dodo jump, or do anything very much at all.

Tired and frustrated, I therefore bequeath my clutch of underused game location ideas to the gentle readers of Den Of Geek:

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Glasgow A welcome change from overused cities such as New York or London, Glasgow, with its mix of urban grit and gothic splendour, would make the perfect setting for an open-world crime sim – and with Rockstar North based a few miles away in Edinburgh, it’s surprising they haven’t set a GTA game there yet.

Besides, lines like ‘You gotta break some omelettes to make some eggs’ would sound fantastic spoken with a Glaswegian accent.

Easter island Easter Island, with its acres of windswept barrenness and the spooky beauty of its monolithic stone heads, could make for a stunningly atmospheric location.

Prehistory Lionskin loincloths. Woolly mammoths. It seems like an obvious choice really, so it’s strange that the Stone Age has rarely been visited by the games industry since Chuck Rock in the early nineties.

Ancient Egypt Again, a staggeringly underused time and place in history, given its spectacular architecture, art and society – as far as I can recall, the last game set in Egypt was the creepily austere Total Eclipse, a ZX Spectrum adventure that involved solving puzzles inside a grainy 3D pyramid.

South America Incas! Aztecs! Mayans! South America has enjoyed such a rich cultural history that it seems almost bizarre that a game hasn’t yet been set there. At the very least we need an adaptation of the Mysterious Cities Of Gold, or maybe an extreme sports game based on Ulama, a Mesoamerican ballgame that vaguely resembles volleyball (and which, if rumours are to believed, was occasionally played using a severed head in ancient times).

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Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.