Andrew Kauz blog header photo
Andrew Kauz's c-blog
Fronts 45Posts 0Blogs 61Following 0Followers 101



Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages

[In this fake series (that maybe will become a real series if I or others feel like it), I turn the Destructoid original series "Games Time Forgot" on its ass and instead discuss time periods that games just don't seem to explore.]

Like this, but not.

Living in the Early Middle Ages--sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages--you've had a hard life so far. You managed to escape Rome before its downfall, narrowly missing the arrival of Germanic tribes and large-scale war with the Goths. You traveled to Britain and somehow arrived unharmed despite the constant threat of barbarians and smallpox. You kept yourself fed despite economic and political collapse and extended periods of agricultural struggle.

Luckily, you're trained in the use of swords, but with threats seeming to come from all around you, how long can you hope to last?

If this sounds like a great setup for a game, I would completely agree with you. However, aside from strategy games that allow you to tinker with the history of this period and dozens of RPGs that use medieval times as a springboard for creating new fantastical worlds, the Dark Ages--and the Middle Ages in general--don't really get a lot of treatment. Could a true medieval (no, not Medievil) game really work? Read on.

The Life and Times

Throughout the Middle Ages, a lot of shit happened. Religions struggled against each other, bands of fighters clashed, castles were constructed and torn down in terrible ways, and city life became nothing but a memory. Until relatively recent years, not much was really known about the Early Middle Ages, and now that we know more, it perhaps wasn't as dark of a time as many believed. Though there was plenty of war and suffering, there was a fair share of artistic and intellectual development.

Still, it wasn't fun. Those who weren't living life in the filth were the few warrior nobles in existence--those who lived and died by the sword. Before chivalry emerged, there was simply killing for money and survival as warriors on horseback traveled to collect taxes for those who had laid claim to land. Lords competed with each other for the loyalty of the peasants, who in return had very little to offer. The clergy attempted to gain a foothold, though it lacked organization and true power.

Does this not sound like an incredibly rich setting for some meaningful storytelling?


The Game

Creating a compelling game in this setting could seriously work. With any of the struggles mentioned above, a mature and realistic story could be told. A lowly peasant could learn the ways of the sword in order to fight for a better status for his family, rising through the ranks and coming under a lord's power before realizing that this life isn't any better. A trained knight could fight in patchwork armies against the many Germanic invaders. Or a more open-world experience could be provided where any number of these elements could be combined to give a comprehensive experience set in this time.

As for genres, many of them could work, from a first-person experience akin to Oblivion to an all-out action game like a toned-down God of War. We could have a traditional RPG or (yet another) strategy game with a more narrow focus. With the right story, any of these could provide a rich and original experience.

Why We Probably Won't See It

Thanks to stories of King Arthur and his favorite magician, Merlin, it's probably unlikely that we'll see any sort of realistic games set in the Middle Ages. Medieval times on our own world have largely been forgotten, instead replaced by created worlds where magic can lend a sense of wonder to an otherwise unsophisticated and dreary existence. For this reason, making a game without these elements might be considered too risky by developers or publishers.

We still have games that are somewhat similar, at least. Bioware's Dragon Age promises a low-fantasy tale with plenty of maturity, and we'll always have the occasional RPG or strategy game that lets us visit castles and swing swords.

But I know that a great game is just waiting to be made here. Despite a lack of realism, I think games like Assassin's Creed proved that games set in historical periods can indeed work in the hands of a skilled team. And, come on, who doesn't like knights?
Login to vote this up!



Please login (or) make a quick account (free)
to view and post comments.

 Login with Twitter

 Login with Dtoid

Three day old threads are only visible to verified humans - this helps our small community management team stay on top of spam

Sorry for the extra step!


About Andrew Kauzone of us since 5:10 PM on 04.30.2009

In loving memory: PAX 2009 (thanks ZombiePlatypus! And WalkYourPath, of course)

I'm Kauza, which is pronounced like cause-uh. My real name's Andrew Kauz, if you'd rather go for that.

I like talking to Dtoid people, so please add me on your favorite social networking site:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kauza
Gchat: santakauz[at]gmail.com.

Basics: I'm 25, and I write things.

Eternal thanks go out to Y0j1mb0 for the amazing header image you see above. So, thanks, sir!

Look at some of the things I've written.

Things on the Front Page:

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale
The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames
Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard
A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived
Top ten games for people who hate Thanksgiving
The wrong thing: Being evil should be more like sex
Staying dry in a sea of spoilers is a matter of building a boat
Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
Come, take your pilgrimage to gaming's one true mecca
Here's to you, random-JRPG-dialogue-writer-man
The forgotten: Crushing disappointment at the hands of Crash 'n the Boys
The people who have the power to change the world
Improving game communities: Enough with the negativity
The draw of exploration: Antarctica to Oblivion, Shackleton to Shadow Complex
I suck at games: BlazBlue and a slapdash attempt at fisticuffs
I, the Author: My Everest
Untapped Potential: The Gamer's Education
Other Worlds than These: Our World, Only Different

A series sort of thing about status effects
Toxic Megacolon and other fresh status effects
Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart
Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone
Also check out the related forum thread.

The Fall of the Titans (wherein I talk about dead or dying gaming companies)

The fall of the titans part 3: What once was shall be again
The fall of the titans: Sega died so that we might dream of the future
The fall of the titans: Why do the giants of gaming die?

Stories from the Past (a series about my experiences playing certain games):

Stories from the Past: Tobal 2, Tomba! 2, and console double-vision
Stories from the Past: Diablo and the Dark Ride
Stories from the Past: What the f*ck, mom?
Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica
Stories from the Past: The One-Balled Man-Bear
Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus
Stories from the Past: Suikoden 2

Storytelling (a series about, well, storytelling):

Storytelling: The Problem of Genres
Storytelling: Mass Effect, Vonnegut, and the Fourth Rule
Storytelling: Doing Nothing in "The Darkness"
Storytelling: The Power of a Single Line (Yeah, it was my first post.)

Other stuff that is good:

Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands
Can games transcend good and evil?
Nothing is sacred: We won't let you go alone, but we have made a tragic decision
How Destructoid single-handedly changed my motherís opinion of gaming
Why Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest sports game of all time
Seven reasons that I will end you in creative ways if you don't play Folklore
Mother Nature and the Impending Death of the Gaming Spirit
Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages
The Sins and Successes of In-game Collectibles
The Lock is Broken
When Music Surpasses the Game
Truckasaurus Rex and the Humor of Games
I Want to Cry (storytelling related, but not part of the series)

I have others as well that you can check out on my blog. You'll enjoy them or your money back.

Since it seems like the cool thing to do, here a list of my favorite games that is coming straight out of my ass and onto your computer screen, and in no particular order.

Fallout 3
Uncharted 2
Suikoden 2
Mass Effect / ME2
Metal Gear Solid followed by any number you can think of
Tales of Somethingendinginia (OK, and the Abyss)
Battlefield: Bad Company
Xbox LIVE:kauza
PSN ID:santakauz
Mii code:kauza


Around the Community