RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Apr 26th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Modern, fantasy, opinion

In the overall timeline of video games, it is quite easy to see a long list of games for a handful of settings. While games have a massively different way of being played its the background setting that can pull players in at a much more deeper level. With games many settings which were once limited to a niche genre of pulp fiction are able to become massive ideas and intellectual properties. Being able to visualize your favorite type of setting is powerful for many gamers. They will chase that feeling down. It could go all the way to the extent of enjoying an otherwise mediocre game, and blinding yourself to its flaws.

In terms of an overall library for video game genre then both traditional Tolkien-esque fantasy and science fiction have a massive list of examples that anybody can pull off the top of their head. Most games set in the modern world tend to push for realism, so there tends to be a lack of real fantasy elements in a lot of them. If there is any magic to be had there usually has to be some explanation included with it, while in fantasy magic is implied. You have to qualify why there are fantasy elements in what is otherwise a regular, modern, urban jungle.

For science fiction and traditional fantasy, the appeal is rather simple. Drop the player in a completely unknown arena, surrounded by a hostile world with few friends and plenty of enemies. Mix together some systems that support the world and lore built into it, whether licensed or original, and its quite easy to escape to a new land of limitless opportunity. On the other hand, the appeal for modern fantasy is being surrounded by the familiar, walking down a street you feel you've already been down. The buildings look like the ones downtown, the people look and dress like us, and its easier to figure out where the character belongs in society. You're much more likely to be something other than a Dungeons & Dragons-esque murder hobo in a fantasy world, or some beacon of hope in the far future.

The player is surrounded by what they find familiar, but just under the surface is where the real magic and tension is brewing. Most games that work with modern fantasy always veil the actions of the characters in shadow, since having wide knowledge of a sudden burst of magic or unbelievable skill or power could cause widespread panic, riots, looting, and opportunistic conquest (see Shadowrun's Awakening). The actions must be hidden from everyday sight, which helps what the characters get involved in feel all the more special. Systems we are all familiar with can even be included, such as a job or school, increasing the sense of familiarity surrounding the player.

Widespread panic if this happens in the middle of a street, and not a secret supernatural world.

Sadly, there remain few examples of modern fantasy in the video game space. Since most games set in modern times focus on realism, adding even elements of the supernatural can go against the main design philosophy for a studio working on a modern action game. Fantasy elements seem more limited to genre which are more traditionally dominated by fantasy games. You have RPGs like Shadowrun, a few Final Fantasies, a couple World of Darkness games. and the Shin Megami Tensei pantheon, while also having MMORPGs such as the Lovecraft inspired Secret World.  Mix a bit of action with the RPG and you get Parasite Eve. Some of the major survival horror franchises such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil could be classified as modern fantasy, since there are fantastic and supernatural elements permeating an otherwise familiar world and landscape.

Modern fantasy generally just seems to be an underutilized setting, but given the recent success of Persona 5, its quite likely to see this grow in the coming years. I can only hope to see an expansion, since Far Cry Primal's stone age setting also showed the gaming world that there are massive eras in human history that have largely been untouched by major studios. The indie scene seems to have picked up some of the slack, and there examples of nearly every era of human history and prehistory to find.

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