2012, the end of the world is nigh
Welcome to 2012, you have less than a year to live! Well, we don’t really know that, but Hollywood and Discovery Channel sure are milking the 2012 end-of-the-world predictions. That’s all fun and good, but it is child’s play compared to what gaming has to offer to the susceptible mind. Games with a post-apocalyptic theme go back all the way to 1983 when a game titled Tranz Am put players behind the wheels of beefed up battle cars (read: a collection of colored pixels vaguely resembling a car) and told them to look for eight Great Cups of Ultimate on the ruined wastelands of North America. It sounds corny, and it was, but since then, the gaming industry has produced some remarkable post-nuclear themed games, 9 of which you will find below.
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: id Software
Released: October 2011
Disaster: Asteroid Strike
In 2029, mankind is brought to the brink of extinction after an asteroid hits the Earth to a devastating effect. With civilization gone, the survivors struggle to build up some semblance of an existence, but murdering bands of bandits and mutants are constant threats that make it difficult to do so. You play The Ark Survivor, a cryogenically frozen remnant of better days and product of the Eden Project, an attempt of pre-apocalyptic Earth to repopulate the Earth long after the proverbial asteroid dust settles.
Why it matters
Rage is arguably the first game to meld an open world experience with excellent gunplay and even better racing mechanics. The post-apocalyptic setting is built up using stunning graphics and convincingly depicts a world in which survivors try to make the best of the remaining resources and old-world technologies to keep their lives from falling apart. As the Ark Survivor, you initially feel a certain distance from the often somewhat deranged characters that you encounter during your travels but it is seductive to get drawn into their madness.
8. A New Beginning
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Disaster: Climate Breakdown
The effects of climate change have severely diminished Earth’s population and driven the remaining survivors to live underground where they are protected from some of the mayhem still going strong on the planet’s surface. Earth’s last remaining bastion against outside threats - its magnetic field - is on the verge of collapse just as a solar flare of epic proportions threatens to destroy life completely. In a last ditch attempt to keep this from happening, a team of time travelers goes back into the past in an attempt to stop the climate from changing at a point in time where it is not too late.
Why it matters
The hectic nature of First Person Shooters often does not allow the player much time to actually consider their surroundings. Like most adventure games, A New Beginning has players piece together one puzzle after another and, with that, progress through the game in their own time. What makes the game different from every other game on this list is that it is able to deliver an engaging and thrilling story while simultaneously serving a subtle educational experience. Featuring familiar yet unnervingly desolate sights such as a frozen-up Kremlin and flooded San Francisco, the game makes players aware of just how devastating climate change can be and that it will spare no one if left unchecked.
Genre: Strategy/Role-Playing Game
Developer: Max Design
Disaster: Nuclear War
A nuclear war has devastated the planet. Food, water and other resources are scarce and the survivors have taken to eating dogs, maggots and whatever else they can lay their hands on. This is no existence at all and it is time for someone to start rebuilding civilization. The player sets out to be that person, but he’s not alone.
Why it matters
Burntime is by any rights an obscure game that few have played, but there’s an unmistakable resemblance with the excellent, more recent Fallout franchise. Perhaps it served as an inspiration? In a time when AI was more A than I, Burntime created an thrilling rat race between the player and three AI competitors. To become the dominant force in the sector, the player will have to find and convince people to help him and craft items to establish sources of food and water. While being murderously difficult, Burntime deserves credit for freely experimenting with innovative gameplay elements that we would love to be able to take for granted today.