Why Are Video Games Obsessed With The Post-Apocalypse?

Between the recent releases of Far Cry New Dawn and The Division 2, I took a step back and took stock of how many post-apocalyptic games I’ve played and the future releases on the calendar that I plan on digging into, and it got me thinking: Why are there so many games that deal with the end times? Not that I think it’s a bad thing necessarily, but it is intriguing.

So I sat down with Heather Alexandra to ask some questions. Why are there so many post-apocalyptic games out there? What do they do for us as players? What do they reveal about our ideal fantasies?

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Watch the video above, or read a short excerpt here:

Heather: Why aren’t there as many games about just making graffiti art, for instance, as opposed to tagging territory? It’s because games push themselves towards very competitive modes of play because that’s engaging and compelling. So that empty space for post-apocalyptic stuff—yeah, there’s the rebuilding aspect, but that also means—

Paul: How do you rebuild?

Heather: Right, fighting off weird raiders or whatever, because Far Cry New Dawn does it too.

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Paul: Far Cry New Dawn is an interesting case because we got to see, in Far Cry 5, the leadup to the apocalypse. And then Far Cry New Dawn is also interesting because you’re revisiting places you’re already familiar with and you’re seeing how people are coping and rebuilding. It gets uncomfortable at times because it’s like, “Oh, the raiders are attacking the wall! They’re attacking our peaceful settlement.”

Heather: The cynical thing about going from one game to another that’s just kind of wrecked [is] “Boy, we can just save on assets,” which is what I think a lot of people think of when they think of Far Cry New Dawn. The thing about a post-apocalypse is that it’s not just a blank canvas for design, it’s like, how can you imagine a post-apocalypse? Fallout does it very traditionally, it’s a wasteland. But Far Cry New Dawn is like, “No, we’re going to take inspiration from movies like Annihilation, where we have this freedom to make strange spaces as opposed to just another city.” Although The Division does that, but it’s like a city with a twist!

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Paul: We just had Metro Exodus, we have Rage 2 on the horizon, we have Days Gone coming soon, Last of Us Part II. Looking back on this moment 10 years from now, it is, sort of, a reflection of what’s going on.

Heather: It’s a social anxiety.

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About the author

Paul Tamayo

Video Producer, Kotaku. Hip-hop connoisseur. Fluent in Spanglish. Host of The Optional Podcast.