By ahoodedfigure 11 Comments
I'm willing to guess enough gamers lead lives either too boring or too interesting to want a game like I want, but I'll lay it out right here since I have a mind to.
In Grand Theft Auto, one of the things I enjoy the most is imagining actually living in a given neighborhood. The false-fronts of different neighborhoods are everywhere, the record shops you can't get into, the specialty clothing shops that don't really exist. I think about my limited experience in heavily urban environments, and I'm always fascinated by how neighborhoods differentiate themselves to create a distinct feel. You get local bands playing in local bars, local festivals that have a distinct attitude you wouldn't find elsewhere, all these things that add up to a specific aesthetic, and since we only live one life by most accounts, we'll never get to experience them all.
Granted, there's probably some serious overlap in what people imagine are unique attitudes, but the kind of game I think might be cool is to combine the feel of several distinct neighborhoods into a sort of life sim, trying to recreate these aesthetics without some of the hassles of real life. This game would definitely not be everyone's bag and I'm cool with that, but I guess I like the idea of moving into a neighborhood, getting a job (where you don't actually have to stand around for 8 hours-- just like any sim you can do time distortion, or have minigames or something like other games do), experiencing the local music scene (buy records, meet people in the record shop and learn about concerts, venues), meeting people from different cultural groups (get involved in soap opera stuff if you want to, or blow it all off), all with the usual game devices like loading a prior save if you screw up a relationship or whatever. Now that I'm pretty much settled down, I wouldn't mind a game that took a more realistic bent, something that wasn't about combat (or blunt satire). Sorta like Shenmue without the hackneyed mob stuff, maybe. I dunno.
The reason I even bother to talk about this with a general audience is that Sparky_Buzzsaw reminded me of something I wanted way back during the last time I had a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator. You could fly to different airports, but I sort of wanted a reason, a game to go along with it. I imagined pretending that I was part of a courier service, and that I'd have missions to fly from X to Y, with bonuses for doing it in a reasonable amount of time, having to plan the routes, make sure the winds were favorable, that sort of thing. I never really got around to doing that, probably because I was less willing to go through the chore of learning to sim-fly if I was then going to have to imagine I was playing a game.
When imagining this expanded flight sim, it's natural to expand the idea into what you'd do on the ground in between jobs, how'd you'd spend the money you earned. When I look at this, I can't decide if I'd want it to be about idealized(?) versions of real locations, or if they should be completely fictional. Given that while playing San Andreas I got the inspiration for a lot of this, I can see a fictional city being just as interesting, but I imagine people who actually live in the real cities that might be a subject for the game might know more about the cool places to go and plug in facts about them into a game engine. When the latter gets shared with everyone, you'll have people doing a bit more than virtual tourism or entering a random address on Google Maps and hitting street view. It'd be an alternate form of escapism from the usual fantasy, science fiction, or constant war stuff we usually get.
Real life is better when it's going your way, but I think it'd be neat to experience another life for a little while, especially since simulation doesn't cost as much time and money as actually moving to a new city, and all you have to do when you want to move on is put down the controller.