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The Survival Genre and the Next Generation of Games
In the mid-to-late 2000s the survival genre was fairly unheard of in large scale gaming. Besides the obvious involvement of horror games like the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series, survivalistic elements floated under the radar of big-budget productions. It was not until the revelations of a few classic horror/adventure franchises (and the subsequent success) of F.E.A.R. and Dead Space as well as the the mega-indie game Minecraft that the gaming industry begin to realize the commercial potential and demand for games that tested a players endurance, wits, and skill. Soon, almost every game publisher pushed the inclusion of survival in their games. THQ created their own survival-themed franchise with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. EA invested heavily in survivalistic themes, adding major survival-based gameplay elements to their Crysis, Mass Effect, Spore, Sims, and continuing Dead Space franchises. 2k Games took the survival aspects of their original BioShock and heightened them in the sequel Bioshock 2. Even Rockstar’s GTA IV is riddled with survival-based elements that add a unique sense of player interactivity with the fictional Liberty City.
More recently in post-2010, we can see the effect of the survival genre in full swing. Iconic games like the Metro: Last Light, the latest Tomb Raider reboot, Assassin’s Creed III, Alan Wake, and of course The Last Of Us all encompass the feeling of individualistic freedom and a sense of loneliness/desperation that causes the player to feel the need to survive in a hostile environment. Indie games are also riding the waves of the survival genre, with features like Terraria, Don’t Starve and Don’t Feed Me at the helm of the category, and many promising survival games like Starforge and Outlast in the works.
Still skeptic? Think about all those zombie and apocalypse games that have saturated the video game and entertainment industries. Those themes are based off this genre of survival – and gamers love them. They love the freedom of roaming around and taking action on their own terms. We gamers are naturally attracted to the idea of gaming independence, and granted that the game is of superior quality we will pay money for worthwhile experience.
Although the survival genre has experienced great reception with a catalog of deserving games, the question remains if the genre will stand the test of time. About a decade ago (when survival wasn’t really named a genre) the combination of the Call of Duty and Halo franchises bloated the FPS space to a point of extreme saturation, paving the way for millions of other developers to join in for the ride and take home a piece of the billion dollar pie. As of yet, no game – with the exception of The Last of Us – has really dared to base a game purely on survivalist themes but only time will tell if it started a whole new market that will engulf the next generation of gaming.