What exactly “counts” as an apocalypse? This is what we attempted to define in this week’s podcast. While the answers and viewpoints varied, this I believe is tied to the general aura surrounding the concept itself. A point brought up in the discussion that I would like to expand on further here is the idea of ‘The End’ being endemic of all humanity, from the time we stopped banging rocks together and realized we could stop existing.
It is one of the three ‘Great Unknowns’ in the history and collective psychology of our species. We are concerned broadly with: where we came from, why we’re here, and where we may be going. The first two items it could be said we have some tenuous ability to latch onto; at the very least, they are able to be grasped more solidly that the last, because of its very nature. We almost cannot help but ponder the topic and philosophize about it. The mystique of the subject makes it naturally alluring. To embrace the unknown has been a dream of humanity since we could dream at all; in fact it is likely the reason humanity has risen to the top of the hierarchy of species on this planet.
“What once was frightening becomes fun in a sense, when viewed and experienced virtually."
Possessing the self-awareness to envision our own demise may be a depressing prospect at first, but it is also a kind of strength. To explore the apocalypse is to recognize the fact that we will not be around forever, so perhaps that realization lends a feeling of exuberant immediacy to living in the now of our lives.
I would argue (and did briefly in the cast) that the above is probably a major reason why apocalyptic settings in games are appealing. Giving ourselves the power, albeit by proxy, to wade through the wastes of our imagined downfall diminishes the fear of it to a degree. What once was frightening becomes fun in a sense, when viewed and experienced virtually.
Personally, I am a fan of these types of games (and other media), as some may gather from my comments in various 'casts. They provide a new frontier in which to explore ‘The Beyond,’ all from the comfort and safety of our homes, allowing us the ability to confront the question and perhaps learn something about ourselves in the process. And that may be humanity's best chance of avoiding destruction. Unless, of course, the mutants get us first.