More games should explore historical settings
Apart from the story and gameplay, one of the biggest draws of video games are the fantastic settings created for the player to explore. Video game settings tend to range from dystopian futures, entire galaxies, zombie apocalypses, fantasy lands, or even alternate realities. With the exception of a few major franchises and indie games, these settings rarely involve historical settings, and when they do, it’s usually in times of war.
Some of the biggest franchises take players to historic events. Call of Duty, Battlefield, total war, and Assassin’s Creed like to explore history in the majority of their entries. However, the majority of other franchises and games instead decide to take players into fictional settings, which leaves much of the story untapped by the gaming industry. Human history is a vast and interesting place that movies choose to explore all the time, and maybe it’s time for video games to do the same.
The greatest historical video game franchises
When gamers think of video game franchises that explore history, most of the time Assassin’s Creed will come to mind. Since its creation in 2007, Assassin’s Creed has brought players throughout history to participate in the fictional war between Assassins and Templars. The series has taken players to the Third Crusade, Renaissance Italy, the American Revolution, the Golden Age of Piracy, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution in London, the Ancient Egypt, to Ancient Greece and, more recently, to the Viking Age. Almost every game explored a new period and allowed players to meet famous historical figures from that period.
the Call of Duty The franchise also explored the story through certain titles. As the series is a first-person shooter, the eras the franchise chooses to explore are based on the greatest wars in human history. He mainly explored World War II, modern combat and the Cold War. Occasionally it returns to WWII, such as with the most recent entry Call of Duty: Vanguard. While some fans like WWII titles more, the series as a whole has focused evenly on its three main settings.
Call of Duty isn’t the only major first-person shooter franchise that explores history, like the Battlefield series also ventured back in time. The series began in 2002 as a World War II shooter and has since explored the Vietnam War and World War I. As Call of Duty, Battlefield tends to favor more modern or futuristic settings. Two of the recent entries have returned to World Wars, but the latest game in the series has brought Battlefield throwback to the modern era that many fans appreciate.
Alongside these three franchises, there is Creative Assembly’s total war series. total war is a strategy series that takes players through history to control massive armies and shape the future. The franchise has gone to Ancient Rome, 15th Century Japan, Medieval Times, 18th Century, Napoleonic Wars, 395 AD, 878 AD, China’s Three Kingdoms Period and the bronze age. So many periods have been explored by total warmaking it perfect for history buffs.
Some people may also consider Sid Meier’s Civilization as a historic franchise. Although the series allows players to control various civilizations and historical figures, the actual story of the game is created by the player. It does not follow any real-world events, rather the player creates said in-game events as they fight for victory against other civilizations. The game offers great insight into historical characters and landmarks, but actual human history is non-existent.
Human history is still an untapped goldmine
Call of duty, battlefield, Assassin’s Creedand total war do a good job of exploring some historical periods, but it doesn’t go that far. Three of these franchises focus on periods of conflict, two of which focus solely on major wars. While Assassin’s Creed explores major historical events with a fictional lens. These franchises have become staples in gaming and give players a glimpse into the past, but even more games are expected to provide that while addressing different moments in history.
So many video games choose to take players to fictional locations and leave the story behind. the Fall takes players to post-apocalyptic America, Halo takes them across the stars to wage a galactic war, Die Light brings them to a zombie apocalypse, and Horizon Zero Dawn leads them to a robotic apocalypse. Although these games offer fantastic worlds that players will get lost in, there comes a time when many games take players to similar locations with different skins.
Choosing to explore the story can mitigate this. Red Dead Redemption explores a fictional version of the old west, and the world created by Rockstar is often considered one of the best open worlds in gaming. It feels different from other open worlds because it’s based on a version of the story, while many other games choose to explore futuristic or apocalyptic landscapes. Ubisoft often receives praise for the landscapes it creates for Assassin’s Creed, and sometimes people will even use screenshots of the locations as examples from that time period. The worlds built by Ubisoft feel different and unique from a lot of the futuristic or modern open worlds you see elsewhere.
There are many periods that have not been touched or have only been explored once or twice. Imagine a simulation game that allows players to manage the United States after the revolution, an adventure game that takes place during the Mayan civilization, or a strategy game about exploring the world in the age of exploration . Letting players explore these iconic periods across different genres would be fun, and players might learn something along the way.
The future is fun to predict and explore, but so is the past. Human history is waiting to be explored by more than a handful of major franchises, and perhaps it’s time to look to the past for inspiration rather than create an alternative possible future.
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