A common theme for many video games is what is often called post-apocalyptic, but what does that really mean? Well, dictionary.com has a few different definitions of the term, some referring to the Biblical connotation and others a more generic explanation. I think we can all agree "pertaining to the imminent end of the world" or "any universal or widespread destruction or disaster" is a fair description.

Therefore, post-apocalyptic means...

...after the end of the world or after universal or widespread destruction or disaster has occurred.

The very foundation of some of our favorite games resides in this cataclysmic setting; we've witnessed the end of the world (not necessarily just Earth either) as a result of plagues, meteor strikes, nuclear war and even alien invasions.

In Fallout, we're told it was a global nuclear war.

In Rage, we're told it was the impact of the asteroid 99942 Apophis on Earth.

In Left For Dead, we're told it was a highly contagious virus nicknamed the Green Flu.

In Gears of War, we're told it was the locust invasion.

All great games and stories...

...and really just a brief sampling of the numerous games occurring in a post-apocalyptic setting.

While in a sense it does happen, we don't seem to classify games as "pre-apocalyptic" although the events in the game certainly seem to be leading that way. One could argue Gordon Freeman started an apocalyptic event when he fumbled and caused the resonance cascade. As the game progresses, it certainly seems like it could be classified as a universal or widespread destruction or disaster. In Halo, the Covenant seemed fairly determined to eliminate the human race as they glassed planet after planet along the way. The same can be said for the Mass Effect universe and the whole Prothean - Reaper - Catalyst story line. I think we were about to witness an apocalyptic event at the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, and I don't mean in the game. Is it still too early to joke about the Mass Effect 3 ending?

Anyway I've said it (via blog) before and I'll say it (via blog) again...

I'd like to see more mid-apocalyptic games.

Now, I was going to try and make it all the way through this blog without mentioning a certain game that has been mentioned a lot lately...including by yours truly. But I can't. Well, I could...but I don't want to...because it illustrates kind of what I'm talking about. But don't worry, I'm not going to say much or dwell on it long.

In the beginning of that game, you pretty much start at the kick off to the apocalyptic event. I think it's safe to say the citizens of Austin, Texas where the game begins are witnessing the apocalypse. But then the game fast forwards to a period of time later on down the road. As great as the game is, I think I would've also enjoyed seeing it play out during the span of time between where the intro leaves off and the game actually begins.

Okay, that's all I am going to say about it...see, that wasn't so bad.

If I look at the games I mentioned above occurring in the post-apocalyptic time, and imagine them mid-apocalyptic instead, I think they'd be entertaining to play too. They'd probably share some certain elements - the chaos and lawlessness that would likely ensue when the inhabitants experienced the escalation of emotion realizing the end was imminent.

Imagine playing a Fallout game preparing and planning for...and then experiencing nuclear war...taking shelter in bunkers; surviving in RADCON suits; fighting off the looters and those suffering from the effects of radiation exposure. And the black rain - the fallout cloud that is said to block out the sun for however long it takes the radioactive dust to dissipate from the atmosphere.

Imagine playing a game like Rage, where you don't wake up and start the game after the event has occurred, but instead play it from the point where you know an asteroid is going to hit the Earth and you're trying to gain access to one of the Ark's...and you experience the event as it happens, as well as the ensuing aftermath. This was such an amazing element of the Rage novel, it's a shame it wasn't featured in the game.

Imagine playing Left For Dead as the virus outbreak starts to spread and more and more people become infected - the widespread panic and the military invoking martial law. It would be a lot like when I watched The Walking Dead television show for the first time, when the outbreaks first started - the element of who do you trust, if anybody. How you still felt remorse for killing an infected person since they still seem so human like. In most post-apocalyptic games we see rusted out cars long abandoned, buildings that have been ransacked and anything of value taken...electricity is scarce and anything that runs off power is usually not working. But imagine midway through the event when chaos is at its highest...when those in positions of authority are still trying to maintain order before abandoning hope. Car horns are still blaring, the emergency broadcast system is running in a continuous loop, reporters are trying to cover the story and the civilized world begins to topple. Now that could be an experience to remember.

Even Gears of War could benefit from a spin off game covering the period before the locust invasion. This event is chronicled well in a number of the books, but by the time we start playing the game it's many years after Emergence Day (E-Day). By this time Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) forces are war-torn, battered and bruised. Only remnants of the former military force remain and they don't seem to really have it together...more like, just trying to survive. Perhaps a game based around E-Day? Gears of War: Judgment does this somewhat I suppose, but civilization seems to have already had its butt kicked and the game doesn't really focus on anything but the main characters and their struggles against the locusts. I'd like to see a Gears game where the military forces are sent in to battle with the civilian population watching the coverage on the news, unaware it's not going to be enough...until it's too late.

Movies and television shows seem to use the mid-event crisis more than video games do. I never really started following The Walking Dead until the show started airing on AMC. From the start - Season One Episode One we're right smack dab in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. In the movie adaptation of War of the Worlds, we see the events start and quickly escalate. I guess technically we witness the start and the stop of an apocalyptic event in the movie...but at least I got to see the middle of it and all of the chaos that comes with the end of the world.

I don't know why I have this fascination with playing through the middle of the events but I'm sure it has something to do with seeing what the actual experience might be like as it unfolds. In a post-apocalyptic game, there is a good chance you are a survivor of the event...or perhaps you were born afterwards and heard the details via legend passed down from generation to generation. But mid-event, it's the act of surviving that really gets me...and having to make all those difficult decisions - not just with the source of the apocalyptic event, but also your fellow mankind and how they deal with it...or don't.

Happy Friday (or Saturday, by the time you read this). Hope you have a wonderful weekend.