A look at the next gaming craze
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 02:02
Zombies have arguably been the most popular genre in gaming for the last decade. In the past generation alone, we saw the release of the “Left 4 Dead” series, “Plants vs. Zombies,” “DayZ,” “State of Decay,” “The Last of Us,” “How to Survive,” Telltale’s “The Walking Dead,” the “Dead Rising” series and the “Dead Island” series. There are literally hundreds of zombie-centric games on mobile app stores; even the Wii U, which it’s library mostly includes family-friendly Nintendo titles, released “ZombiU” as a launch game. The zombie genre is almost limitless.
It’s easy to understand why the genre has made it this far with so much success. In an age where players seem to gravitate towards gritty narratives and shocking set pieces, zombie games deliver. How much more dark and intense can a game get when it tells the tale of humanity on its last leg, desperate to survive against near-impossible odds? It’s heavy stuff, and no other gaming genre seems to compete with it in that category.
In addition, zombie games have shown that they have the capacity to support a variety of game types. We’ve seen role-playing games, first-person, twin-stick shooters, quick-hit mobile games and tower defense games, to name a handful.
I like zombie games as much as the next person, but after almost a decade of brains, guts, and gore, I’m ready for a change of pace. Let’s see a new genre for a new generation of consoles. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo promised big changes and new games with their next-gen. hardware, and so far all three haven’t really lived up to the ‘new’ games part. It may seem a bit random, but I think the gaming world is ready for a kaiju genre.
So what is a kaiju? Kaiju is a Japanese term that literally translates to “strange creature,” but it’s interpreted in English as “monster.” In modern terms kaiju is associated with a film genre, which was started by the popular “Godzilla” film franchise in 1954. Other franchises, like “King Kong,” and the recent film “Pacific Rim” spawned from the popularity of the genre. In fact, “Godzilla” is getting a reboot this summer.
It’s important to note that kaiju movies aren’t just about giant monsters bashing each other into buildings and causing mass destruction; they have meaning. Just like the zombie genre, it often shows humans fighting for their lives against impossible odds. Even “Godzilla,” which sometimes has silly undertones, is thought to be a metaphor for nuclear weapons.
The kaiju film genre has proven to be incredibly resilient, surviving for over 50 years with countless entries, but it’s often overlooked in the gaming world. That’s a shame, because the few kaiju games we have seen give us a glimpse of a robust genre with many styles of gameplay.
The recent adventure game “Attack of the Friday Monsters” for the 3DS shows us what a light-hearted kaiju game could look like, placing the player in the shoes of a young boy enthralled by the giant monsters. “Colossatron,” another recent game for mobile devices, is about a giant, robotic beast destroying city after city with intense puzzle mechanics. And let’s not forget the PS2 fighting classic, “War of the Monsters,” which gives the player a whole roster of kaiju to fight and play as (there are also many “Godzilla” games that mimic this style of gameplay).
I wish I could give more examples of how kaiju games could be a success, but the fact is there really aren’t any. With “Pacific Rim” and “Attack of the Friday Monsters’” releases last summer, “Godzilla’s” reboot this summer, and “Colossatron’s” recent debut, it looks like kaiju are actually making a comeback into popular culture. Only time will tell if other gamers pick up on this genre’s potential, but with new technology in developers’ hands, it’s not far-fetched to think that we’ll be playing as Godzilla in the very near future.