The movie business tends to run with trends. It's why in one year you can get two movies about vampires, or Houdini, or Sherlock Holmes. The video game business is no different.
Take Africa, for example. For years, the continent - and, let's not forget, the continent's inhabitants - had been largely ignored by an industry focused on aliens (space), fast cars (race tracks) and Nazis (rural France).
Yet in a six month period over 2008-09, two major, high profile games (sorry, Afrika) weren't just set in Africa, they were really set in Africa. With real Africans and everything.
Those games were Resident Evil 5 and Far Cry 2. Sure, one did a better job of depicting the continent's complex political and racial situation than the other (hint: it was the game not made by Capcom), but at the end of the day, both titles had put Africa on the radar.
Crytek's games - the first Far Cry and Crysis - have done something similar, the German developers carving their own niche on sunny tropical beaches while other FPS teams continue to set games in mud under grey skies. The same goes for New York City, both Grand Theft Auto IV and Prototype replicating the Big Apple in their own special way.
It's like Yoda said. Always two, there are.
So what will gaming's next hot destination be? It can't be any of the above locations, they're old hat. It has to be somewhere not only new, and fresh, but interesting. Somewhere that, like Far Cry 2 and GTAIV, is as big a part of game's appeal as the mechanics and characters themselves.
Here are some of my ideas; feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section.
AUSTRALIA - Bias, perhaps, but hear me out; the world's smallest continent is also one of the most varied, with deserts, rainforests and everything in between. It's sparsely populated (so there's less work for developers), has great weather (blue skies are always fun) and a history of open roads and lawlessness (in case anyone is thinking of a Borderlands sequel/clone).
Best part? It's criminally under-represented in games, making any game set in Australia - regardless of the tone or time period - truly unique.
MONGOLIA - Know what was most interesting about Uncharted 2? The way it took you to Nepal, an area you'd probably never been in a game before. Well, Mongolia is kind of like Nepal, only instead of snow, you could have plains, and yurts, and horses, and throat singing.
ICELAND - Know what's weird about Iceland? There's no trees. Well, there are some trees, but not like there is anywhere else that's not a desert. And there's your appeal; it's like a desert, only instead of sand, there's grass, and fishing villages, and - timeline dependant - vikings.
KOREA - Korea stands poised this decade to be like Japan was in the 80's; a fascinating, vibrant Asian powerhouse. But just like the war that shares the nation's name, developers seem to have forgotten Korea even exists, with any and all Asian settings focused on China and Japan. Something set in present-day Seoul would be a nice touch.
Note I'm talking locations only, not themes. And by themes I mean "World War Two", or "Zombies". We'll get to those later in the week!