Entertaining Peery: Video Game Tourism, Fallen Earth
May 31, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I recently had the opportunity to fulfill a long time wish to drive the length of I-40 from end-to-end. This happened to coincide with my desire for gainful employment. A new job had me relocating from Apex, North Carolina to Orange County, California. Thus, continue my foray in the Video Games Industry, this time under the Carbine Studios banner.
While the trip itself is worthy of a longer treatment, I will focus this piece on something I will call: Game Tourism. My better half is an Architect and Urban Planner with a focus on Community Design and her work often has her trying to distill the essence of a “place” and create an inventory of the various facets that make that place unique. Often these are interesting historic places, a famous individual’s legacies, unique geography, iconic structures, so on and so forth. All these are then woven into a vision for the locale in order to leverage these things to enhance the lives of those who live and work there as well as bringing interest and tourism to the area. I posit that the fictional depiction of a place should also be considered an important facet.
I have always been fascinated with the meeting of media and reality. From film to video games, places depicted in media take on an extra cache from being injected into the stories. Thus, the real places enter into my curiosity after having learned something of them from a film, video game, etc. For example, living in The Triangle of North Carolina, the Durham Bulls are a local minor league baseball team… that the film Bull Durham made more famous than any other team of their stature. Going to a game with the film as a backdrop takes on another dimension. What’s more is the team even realizes this and last time I was at a game, Susan Sarandon was the PA voice over welcome to the game and park.
How does this work for a video game? For my example, I will return to my recent cross-country trip. In order to get to L.A. from North Carolina, I-40 is the shortest, fastest route. It also happens to pass close by the Grand Canyon and through Kingman, Arizona; both of which are featured in the futuristic/post-apocalyse MMORPG, Fallen Earth. (FE is a game that Mr. Platt and I both worked on during our time at Icarus Studios and I still play when I get the spare moment.)
Having played in a game that used the USGS map for its world-building basemap, it was extremely cool to visit the real places and see the game in “real life.” I have to give extra kudos to the Icarus Studios artists and worldbuilders for making a “real” world after having been able to compare their work to the real place. Driving through the “real” Sector Three’s Kaibab Forest was like deja vu with the only difference being I was in my SUV rather than in an Interceptor, dirt-bike, horse, etc. from the game. Oh, and the roads weren’t as cracked…yet. Parts of I-40 in Arizona are dead ringers for the game’s Sector 1 Plateau and more so as you come upon signs for Kingman, called “Old Kingman” in the game.
I made a point to stop for the night in Kingman and soak up the game’s “ambiance,” up close and in person. In game, the town is overrun by raiders and is an important location in your quest to get a set of wheels, literally and figuratively. I discovered the railway that cuts through town in the game, just where it should be in the real town. I saw the motel and storage facility where the raiders hold up. I have seen the game’s “past” and the town’s “future.” I was grinning like an idiot the whole time thinking about all my game experiences in the town juxtaposed to being there in person.
The town of less than 30,000 people doesn’t have much to recommend it on its own. Route 66, the bygone icon of road freedom, is the biggest point of pride. It probably would surprise the town fathers of Kingman to know that, at its height, Fallen Earth had many more players going through a virtual Kingman than the real town has residents. Will they run out and put up a sign “Welcome, Fallen Earth clones!” I doubt it, but this is one person who DID stop in the town precisely because of a video game. On top of that, Kingman won out over Needles, CA for my stop for the night. Needles afterall plays a prominent part in another of my favorite games: Wasteland. It couldn’t hurt Kingman to reference its appearance in the game, even if it was rated MA. Afterall, Wilmington, North Carolina had a Blue Velvet tour last time I was there and that’s not exactly family friendly, either.
By Josh Peery