As gamers, we’ve explored more nooks and crannies of more worlds than we could easily count. From Mars to Eden Prime to New York, we’ve been all over the universe, through various dimensions and back again.
The most fun, for me, is exploring recreations—either literal or representative—of the real world; places I have been or places I would love to see, but are too expensive to visit. I look forward to comparing GTAV‘s Los Santos to the real thing, and touring Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs has been a blast. Assassin’s Creed II was nothing short of educational.
Then I think about some of the other places out there that remain unexplored; some modern, some less so.
Game developers of the world, this is my wishlist.
Washington, D.C. & Baltimore
When the first images of the logo for Grand Theft Auto V hit, I got very excited. I saw the currency texture and started to put some ideas together in my head. Money made me think of power and government, and that made me think of our nation’s capital.
No, it never occurred to me that they’d just head back to Los Santos. The thought didn’t even enter my brain.
D.C. and its neighbor Baltimore would be a perfect setting for a Grand Theft Auto title. In one city you have the hard, bleak crime that inspired the TV show The Wire (Yes, I know the whole city’s not like that). In the other you have the center of political power. GTA stories are always about rags-to-riches. Add in a political climb as a shadow politician or a precariously balanced career as a fledgling politician, and it could make for an interesting story and character examination.
London, England: The Industrial Revolution
Previous games have visited London to some degree; I remember playing The Getaway briefly on Xbox a decade ago. It’s always been a bit underused, though, and as a city with one of the richest histories in the world, there’s tons of room to do interesting stuff.
Last year we saw a demo video of a canned Batman: Gotham by Gaslight game. When talk of Assassin’s Creed III started up, I started to wonder where it might end up. One of the possibilities I came up with was London during the Industrial Revolution (incidentally, this fits the time frame of AC3 pretty well).
The London of the Industrial Revolution was dense, overpopulated, dirty and dark. All good things for a coal-streaked assassin. There was plenty of social strife at the time, with heavy pollution, labor problems, and a just-beginning-to-fade monarchy; there are plenty of people and situations to develop a game from.
Full disclosure: I’m a huge nerd for ancient Egypt. As such, I have a vested interest in exploring it regardless of game mechanics, and would just be happy if someone did a high-resolution reconstruction and let me run around.
Visually, unique is the only word for Egypt. Nothing like Thebes and Memphis then exists today, aside from the ruins and hieroglyphs that hint at what was. To render the cities as they were might be hard, but there’s enough left over to make educated artistic guesses.
As to what would happen there, besides an episode of National Geographic, ancient Egypt had a long, interesting history. Dynasties rose and fell, religious powers waxed and waned. Despite the general knowledge that the pharaoh was a god to his (or sometimes her) people, there was corruption in the ranks as there always is in places of power. Members of the court conspired for power and devotees of various gods vied for favor under the pharaoh’s reign.
Operating in the shadows of ancient Egypt, sneaking in and out of the temples to investigate or participate in a conspiracy could be awesome.
Bankok (Krung Thep)
As you might remember from that song from the 80s, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble. The movie OngBak, though, is about a humble man kicking everyone’s faces, and that movie or something like it is a perfect premise for a game in a great setting.
Bangkok is a massive city with a unique look and culture. Canals dot the city and traffic jams are frequent and large, making getting around a unique proposition. Motorcycles and open-air taxis are commonplace. Even the martial arts are different there; Muay Thai is a visually—and physically—stunning martial art that deserve more attention.
A game that capitalizes on the unique look of the city, the crowds and traffic jams, and Muay Thai Kickboxing could be a ton of fun.
Like Ancient Egypt, this is a bit of a fanboy thing and it isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned it. We’ve been to Tokyo in the present, the future, and the distance past. Yakuza has brought us to the Kabukicho (called Kamurocho in-game) district many times. The recently re-released Jet Set Radio and this year’s Binary Domain took us to the Tokyo of the future, and of course games like Way of the Samurai show Japan in its Warring States and Shogunate periods.
One of the most interesting periods in Japanese history, though, was that period of rebuilding after the war. The huge companies today were just becoming big then. Politics were crazy with the controlling right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, the fear of Communism, and frequent student protests. Interplay between crime and politics was commonplace as right-wing politicians hired yakuza to ensure American visits went on without trouble.
In Western Japan, the Yamaguchi-gumi criminal organization was starting to become truly impressive and the Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai were growing in Eastern Japan. Yakuza still, moreso than now, adhered to the “noble outlaw” way of life, avoiding regular citizens and controlling disorganized crime on their turf.
Rather than continuing to age protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, the next Yakuza game should shift the focus to his adoptive father when he was starting out. This would be a chance to make some of the interesting older characters of the current series younger and more central to the story, and to introduce some new ones as well.
A game like this could take place in Osaka and Kobe, rather than Tokyo, or even a bit of both like in Yakuza 2. Aviator sunglasses and huge collars would be appropriate instead of ironic.
C’mon Sega. I’m begging you!
Others I’ve pulled from conversations with friends might be the Mafia-controlled Las Vegas, Prohibition-era Chicago, Mumbai, the Australian outback, or even a bike messenger game set in San Francisco. You can play as Joseph Gordon-Levitt! There are all kinds of other places; those above are just a few of my favorites, places I’d love to see captured in games.