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Author Topic: Dystopian Games... Whats the appeal?  (Read 1730 times)

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Offline Lachdonin

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Dystopian Games... Whats the appeal?
« on: February 3, 2013, 08:55:05 PM »
I'm not entirely sure if this belongs on this board, or the Discussion board, but in flipping about on the Googlez, i noticed a running theme in alot of Wargames and RPG's. They all take place in some dark, wartorn and distopian place, where no one even approaches being the 'good guys' and if they do, they are sorely on the losing side.

But why? Whatever happened to Star Wars, or Star Trek, where it was all about a brighter tommorow? Yes, there were enemies to fight and terrible scourges raging accross the stars, but you could actually make a differance by taking a stand and being the hero. Now the industry seems to be deep into the mud of 'you only delay the enevitable'.

 I remember when the D&D worlds were stable, safe places and the reason you had to go into dungeons was because, thats where all the monsters were. Now you have psychotic, Shadow-empowered empires, Abeolith kingdoms and mutant undead overrunning cities in the middle of the night, and uncontroled Primordials scorching contenants.

The same pervasive doom is sweeping into video games too, with older franchises like Starcraft, Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls etc. joining on the badwagon of things like Redfaction, Crysis, Torchlight, Borderlands (hilarious as it may be) and Sins of a Solar Empire etc. in painting worlds of endless futility, where nothing you do matters and everything is always going to go to pot anyway.

Why? Have we become so jaded that we are letting the futility of our own existance invade the fantasy we used to use to escape it? I used to love Warhammer because it was something different, something grittier, but now its just a part of the pack. While the novelty of its earlier adoption of the distopian image still sticks with me, and i tend to see alot of other franchises as something of a rip-off, the trend is somewhat disheartening.
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Offline Chuckles, The Space Marine Clown

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Re: Dystopian Games... Whats the appeal?
« Reply #1 on: February 4, 2013, 04:38:54 AM »
Well for one thing, utopia tends to make it difficult to understand why people are fighting, which when you're dealing with a game representing armed conflict can be a bit of an obstacle. The idea of "a single man in the right place can make a difference" means that the status quo has to keep changing, which is problematic in the model of a tabletop game. In the case of roleplaying games like D&D I can see what you mean, but with regards to 40K or Iron Kingdoms you end up having a situation where every game matters to the overarching plotline, which simply isn't practicable on the scale we're discussing. When you have a small group of people being directed by an individual (ie a DM) it's not difficult to keep the story moving forward. When you're dealing with a tabletop game being played by millions of people across the planet, the status quo becomes more important.

But utopia hasn't ever been popular as a storytelling concept, and every piece of successful fiction that I know of which portrays a utopia has always been ultimately about subverting that idyllic image. The hope for a better tomorrow is not the antithesis of dystopia, which is why Star Wars and Star Trek can appear to be more hopeful than 40K or Iron Kingdoms while still being interesting, because they feature conflict. Star Trek has always been at its most interesting when it portrays the Federation under threat (to me anyway, but I may be an outlier there) in some way, from the Borg or the Klingons or the Cardassians or whichever other rubber-faced alien species is threatening galactic domination this week.

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