A-Z of Gaming: A is for Aliens
Aliens have to be one of the things that feature in games most of all.
Since the dawn of gaming to the current generations, the extra-terrestrials have always held their place in the gaming world. Whether you go back as far as the original Space Invaders, or look toward future releases like Alien: Isolation, creatures from other planets and galaxies have always been a video game staple. They’re constantly appearing in all shapes and sizes and as enemies, allies, protagonists and antagonists, and everywhere in between.
With the races among the stars, there’s a lot more room to be creative with your character design. There’s no formula set in stone, so it’s very easy for artists and writers to create something unique and interesting that can lend themselves to the rest of the games atmosphere. Friendly, bubbly, cartooned beings from another galaxy? Check. Or you could go violent, terrifying space spiders from a few solar systems over.
This diversity in design is why you see them everywhere. They can be light-hearted beings of fun and colour – like the Prince and his cousins from the Katamari games – or beasts horror and gore, such as the terrifying Necromorphs from the Dead-Space series.
As well as their physical characteristics, stories of planets and species can be detailed and fascinating. The Mass Effect series, for example, has its story and universe enriched by the details of its inhabitants. There are so many alien races, all with an interesting back story of their race and home planets, intriguing design and even unique personalities. It’s these details that make for a rich universe that changes it from a game’s setting, to an enjoyable place to be.
Most commonly you’ll see aliens and extra-terrestrials in action games, not uncommonly on the receiving end of the protagonist’s weapon. Violence has always been a talking point in video games, but it may appear that violence against fictional species from other worlds is much more accepted than graphic dismembering of virtual humans.
I think if you were to show to one hundred people scenes of computer-generated aliens being killed or hurt, and then the same scene substituted with humans, many more would find the latter scene most disturbing. Could this be because people are able to disconnect from imagery more readily when the subjects are fictional?
It seems so obvious when you say it out loud, but graphic imagery is graphic imagery – the subject matter shouldn’t factor. Yet would Manhunt be as controversial if it were Alienhunt?
I’d certainly hope we’d treat each other more kindly than what a typical sci-fi game suggests if we were to make first contact with an alien species. But until then, the thousands of fictional species that fill our screens will remain tools for entertainment – along with their countless extra-terrestrial stories – and are here to stay.
What’s your favourite video game character from another cosmos? What are you favourite moments interacting with an extra-terrestrial? (In a game – we don’t want to hear any probing stories). Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ggsgamer.