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The Best Genre in Video Games?

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With all the preferences of gamers in terms of genres, one area that stands above the rest for me is historical fiction. I am in some regards a nerd in terms of historical events; I like learning about as many different things as I can, but it’s when those historical events are fused with video games that they become even more engrossing. The genre has really blossomed in the past five years which makes it and exciting time to explore the possibilities.

The most obvious game that draws on historical fiction is Assassin’s Creed. The first title did have historical elements to it, but it wasn’t until Assassin’s Creed 2 that Ubisoft really dove into the historical richness of the time period. The city was crafted accurately (more or less) and the inclusion of real people and buildings with true biographies and backgrounds created a sense of immersion that really was never seen before.

In my opinion, it’s almost tougher to craft a fictional story based on real facts while maintaining a realistic feel compared to a totally unique and new  intellectual property. The developers have to create a feeling for the player that although the characters and locations were real, their fictional actions within the gameplay and plot are believable. When there is an intellectual property no one can second guess if the character would do something because there is no background experience to draw from. For example, it’s a lot harder to convince the consumer audience that Leonardo da Vinci was an accomplice to the assassin’s by crafting weapons and machines for them while still maintaining his historical identity of a scholar and inventor than Mario would kill goombas with fireballs.

Ironically, the game that made me start contemplating this genre more is a new point and click adventure based on the Watergate scandal called Watergate: The Video GameAnyone not familiar with the Watergate scandal (or that has completely ignored American history) should know that it took place in the 1970s and involved then President Richard Nixon and a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters (some may call it a conspiracy, but to each their own). The game is a very simple point and click adventure focusing on Bob Woodward, who along with Carl Bernstein, broke the story for The Washington Post. The game draws from Bernstein’s book chronicling the events that transpired and their eventual publishing of the story.

Watergate, to me, is why the historical fiction genre is so interesting in gaming: it’s able to take a story that the average citizen knows about and lets them relive it themselves (all be it with some entertainment value added in). There has been so much published surrounding these events that it’s exhilarating to be able to actively live out the events. As a caveat, I also played this game on a post-high of Watergate information having ironically just watched Revisiting All the President’s Men which was a documentary on Discovery interviewing the actors and crew that worked on the original movie based on Bernstein’s book (which if you haven’t watched I would highly recommend). That did add to the fun that I had playing this extremely simple game, but the underlying fact remains that this is arguably my favorite genre of games.

Many games struggle with fully immersing the player in the experience, but historical fiction games don’t have that problem. The background for the plot and events are already established so there is no lag time for players to be engrossed in the story. This is the element that the genre can capitalize on. The fact that players believe they know what and when things will happen is a chance for developers to throw some curveballs into the story and really shock people. I can only hope that more developers create games using the Assassin’s Creed or Watergate style because there is huge potential there.

Lucas has evolved in his video game preferences. With a foundation in predominantly sports game, action adventure games are now his favorite to play. He is a competitive swimmer and likes to play volleyball, basketball, and golf.