The term "wild west" came into use in the early 1800's with the Louisiana purchase. Up to that time, America ended roughly at the Mississippi river. After the Louisiana purchase the country was suddenly about twice as big as it had been before. The Mississippi was a huge natural border, and the land beyond it was largely unknown to the American people. They knew a bit perhaps from stories told by people who had gone and come back, but the land was very wide-open, and even though it was now "owned" by the United States, there were still many Native American tribes who did not recognize the ownership of the land. When settlers talked or thought about this land, it was a wild, untamed place, somehow magically West of everything. Thus, it became the Wild West. This specific trend of being able to expand continued for close to another 50 years, with America expanding by war, treaties, and outright purchase.
Almost every part of what makes up the "Wild West" dramatically increases the storytelling and game design potential available for an interested party.
- There's piecemeal expansion of the country through fighting, diplomacy, and outright purchase; with an average of one major military operation per year either in country or somehow involving the expansion of American power, warring factions are always possible.
- There are long running skirmishes with various Native American tribes; that some of these tribes believed in individual Gods and Spirits as strongly as some of the settlers believed in one God adds the potential for mystical components to any story.
- The sheer size of the country made continually policing it almost impossible; someone who broke the law in one town or city could, with some effort, disappear to another town or city and start again.
This combination of circumstances has made the Wild West an easy playground for game designers looking to tell almost any type of story.