Most video game settings are instantly recognizable. Rare is the blockbuster game that isn't set in a fantasy realm, a major metropolitan area, or in space. When a game like BioShock breaks the mold, it's a shock. Wait, you don't always have to set a game in a dark fantasy world or New York City?
For this week's Community Question, we want to know which underused setting you think should be seen more in games. As always, we started by polling the USgamer staff. Here's what they had to say!
I would like to motion that we ban the following cities from future open world games: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Seattle, Tokyo, Boston, and Washington DC. I understand why game developers go for these locations—they're beautiful and feature numerous iconic locations—but they've also been done to death. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we need more games like Far Cry 5—games that are willing to embrace rural locations (though perhaps in a way that's a bit smarter than Far Cry 5). Barring that, it would be nice to see a location that hasn't been used ad nauseum. Can I suggest Toronto? Maybe Portland? I dunno... Belgium? Show some imagination game developers. Games should take me to new and interesting settings. There's nothing new or interesting about New York City or London.
World War II! I'm just joking on that one, as I lived through the dark days of only World War II shooters. My actual answer is less "underused" and more "never" used. There's this small manga called Delicious in Dungeon, written and illustrated by Ryoko Kui. While the plot is pretty familiar—a human swordsman, elven mage, halfling thief, and dwarf warrior head into an underground dungeon, trying to find swordsman's lost sister—where Delicious exceeds is in the premise. The team is so poor, that instead of buying food in town, they instead decide to start living off the dungeon itself, cooking up the monsters they meet and kill. Part RPG manga, part cooking manga, Delicious in Dungeon is a wonderful slice of fun. I was a big fan of Battle Chef Brigade, so I'm really looking forward to more games that are "insert genre + cooking".
More offices, please! The best examples that come to mind are The Stanley Parable and Control, which both really effectively use commonplace hallmarks of offices as a baseline "normal" from which they can take things in fantastical and unsettling directions. In the case of Control, the office architecture itself is beautiful, while The Stanley Parable used simple repetition to disorient players and to let the smallest, unusual details stand out in a nondescript hallway or room filled with cubicles. In the right hands, an office is a great jumping-off point to go from a sense of the familiar to whatever fun/confusing/scary/adventurous scenario you want to transition to.
I'd love to continue seeing real-world cultures influence games, specifically ones we don't see too often in the realm of video games. Indivisible last fall was really neat for how it was very imbued with a South Asian touch. One of my favorite puzzle games in recent years was the 2017 Islamic game Engare. It showed that influence doesn't just have to be in the stylings of a game's level or a world itself even. Influence and inspiration can be funneled into any sort of game. I suppose that's really what I'd like to see more of in terms of game settings.
Alright, now you know what the USG team thinks, so how about you? Share which underused setting you would like to see in more games in the comments!