3. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Ninja Theory
Released: October 2010
Disaster: Global War
150 years into the future, little remains to betray that our planet was once home to a thriving civilization. All that is left of the concrete cities of old are buildings overrun with vegetation on the verge of collapse. With the human population nearly eradicated, one would think the war would be over, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mechs, remnant but still surviving war machines of the old war, actively seek out the few remaining humans with the aim to eradicate them all. And if the mechs don’t get you, the slavers will.
Why it matters
Whereas Metro 2033 hints at the Earth being better off without humans, Enslaved makes a powerful statement that Earth will do just fine without us, portraying a planet that is slowly but surely taking back control over its own destiny. But there is another message here too. In our never ending quest to develop new weapons, we may inadvertently create something that we cannot fully control. Enslaved’s mechs, creations of the opposing factions during the war and no doubt a contributing factor to mankind’s demise, are still roaming the planet long after the humanity itself has ceased to dominate.
2. Half Life 2
Genre: First Person Shooter
Disaster: Alien Invasion
Tampering with technology they do not fully understand, researchers create a resonance cascade, an interdimensional rift that attracts the attention of an advanced race from another dimension. War ensues, but Earth’s technologically inferior military forces are no match for the Combine. Seven hours after it started, the war ends with Earth surrendering to the invading army, heralding the start of a long and bitter struggle for Earth’s ragtag resistance fighters.
Why it matters
In Half Life 2, scientists put mankind in mortal danger. While one can argue that “it’s only a game,” scientists experiment with insufficiently understood technologies every day. Large Hadron Colliders, Cloning, Nuclear Fission, Quantum Teleportation... it is clear our curiosity is stronger than our wisdom. Half Life 2 shows the player the (fictional) consequences of such dabbling with the unknown, providing a thrilling experience like no other before. Gordon’s constant struggle with the Combine feels at times like an emotional roller coaster. The game taps into the player’s brain by serving hope, despair, anger and sadness at a fast pace and in doing so it taps into the player’s psyche like few other games have.
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Developers: Interplay, Bethesda Game Studios
Release of the first game: 1997
Disaster: Nuclear War
Fearing a nuclear war, American scientists build underground complexes aimed to give a small portion of the population a chance to survive a nuclear holocaust. A great war erupts in 2077 and ultimately leads to the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. The protagonist, born long after the war, is one of the first of his Vault to venture outside and finds a nuclear wasteland in which humans, ghouls and mutants still survive, but barely so.
Why it matters
Inspired by Burntime or not, the Fallout games are the very embodiment of the post-apocalyptic setting in games, the post-nuclear in particular. Their Role-Playing roots put the player in an almost continuous scavenging hunt, looking for useful items to either use or trade with. Remnant security robots, mutated animals, mutants and ghouls scour the wasteland and may either prove to be helpful or to endanger the protagonist’s life. Often using familiar settings and landmarks, especially in the later games, the Fallout games speak to the imagination and offer a troubling glimpse into the consequences of a nuclear war.