Let’s get political for a second. Marianne Krawczyk, award winning writer for God of War II, has a theory on why we like post-apocalyptic games so much. In short, we are screwing up our world so much that our games are reflecting that screwed up environment.
"With climate change, revolutions starting every other day, YouTube beheadings, corporations being recognized as people, massive oil spills, etc, etc, etc., I think it’s very easy to feel small and powerless," Krawczyk said in an interview posted to Gamasutra. "So one take on why the post-apocalyptic world is resonating with people is that it’s a reflection of our own troubled times and, more to the point, the lack of control that we have over what is happening. It just seems like it’s a matter of time before we are there in some way or another."
She goes on to expand on her theory as to why we like playing these games more than, say, we like watching post-apocalyptic media. Games inherently have a sense of optimism to them. The world may be screwed up, but in the end of the day you still have agency in it. "When we take this very human condition and manifest it in a world where you get to play, shoot stuff and take back some of the control that we currently lack, it makes sense to me these games/stories resonate," she said.
And that makes a certain bit of sense right? While the world may be horrible in Left 4 Dead, you can still shoot your way to the end. Though The Last of Us was heart wrenching and soul destroying and you certainly may not agree with the decisions that Joel makes over the course of the game, Joel still has power and you, as Joel, can express that power and take charge over his life. Even The Walking Dead, which has some pre-scripted event after pre-scripted event telling you what you can and can do, is entirely built around the idea that “your choices matter.”
This, quite simply, feels good. If you don’t have control over the amount of money you make or what your elected politicians do or what wars are going on in the Middle East and how many people are dying in them, being put into an even worse situation and finally having power to do something about it gives us a little bit of release.
What do you guys think? Do we play post-apocalyptic games for catharsis? Do we make these games because we see our own world on a one way track to the post apocalypse? Are we desperately trying to see power in places where we have none? Or are we just shooting zombies for the fun of it? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Former Contributing Writer