Saturday, July 1, 2017

Video Game Inspiration: Alaska


Alaska... A good place for game dev ideas?
Here we are on July 1st, which is Canada Day, and we're just 3 days away from Independence Day in America. However, the topic that's being written today involves a place that is cushioned against both America and Canada, and it's just a hop, skip and a flip away from the eastern tips of Russia.

In the dog days of Summer I'm actually writing about Alaska, and better yet I'm writing about Alaska in the context of video game writing. Slow day at the Gaming Journalist Gazette office? Maybe, but this isn't the most random topic to discuss. I have ventured into more random topics before.

The small community of Barrow, Alaska is a very fascinating study, and not just in the sense of digging up interesting history. Barrow is by far the most northern point of the entire United States, and if you happen to visit this place you will realize how often Barrow receives snowfall throughout the year. How about we try pretty much every day? Yes, this includes the Summer season where a few inches of snowfall touch down on the grounds of Barrow.

The way of life in Barrow is fascinating because it simply doesn't march to the same beat as small communities that you see down here in the mainland of the United States. Alaska in general is like that. Unlike the mainland 48 states and the other distant state Hawaii, Alaska has that sense of mystery surrounding it. The great unknown... you never know what you're gonna get once you venture through the heavy wooded areas or scale up tall hills and mountains in Alaska. Sounds exciting, huh? Tell that to those who actually live in Alaska, and they'll tell you just how tough life is in this state.

A fun fact about Barrow that soon (if it hasn't happened already) it will be renamed back to what it was originally named, which is Utqiagvik. For the sake of this blog post, though, let's just keep calling this place Barrow to avoid confusion.

It's no wonder why an environment like Alaska's is so appealing to game devs, especially if they're trying to make a cool survival style adventure game where the main character has to find a way to outlast the opposition. Barrow in particular would be a great example of inspiration for game devs because they can see from this example of how hard life really is in Alaska. It is the job of the game devs to make an experience that on the surface may look boring and turn that into something exciting enough for players to engage in.

To make a certain game environment work you would have to get a feel for what that environment is like. In this case if you want to make a video game about Alaska, then you have to get an understanding of what Alaska is like. It's not just about Alaska being a cold place. Everyone knows Alaska's a cold place. How do people go fishing in Alaska? How do people hunt for food? How do they track down moose, deer and other large animals when they hunt? How do people stay warm in Alaska? How do people create their own shelters?

See where I'm going with this? You have a basis for making an appealing game already if you utilize Alaska's features and implement them into a game. Can you say RPG? Can you say survival simulator? How about an ambitious platformer? Or even a thrilling Mystery & Suspense Third Person Shooting Game where you're figuring out a bizarre murder mystery?

When you think about it, Alaska really isn't that bad a place for making a video game around. I suggest watching the linked video above, a documentary on Barrow to see what northern Alaska is like. If you're a game dev you might want to take some notes.

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