History has a wealth of inspiration for artists of all kinds. Painters, writers, directors – every discipline has utilized the events of the past to tell a story in the present. But it appears that some historical periods are more popular than others. Is there a reason for this, or could we be missing out on an excellent source of material? Check out our five top historical periods that gaming seems to have forgotten.
1) World War I
With the announcement of the newest installment of the Battlefield franchise, it appears that at least one major publisher is turning its eyes and talent towards accurately representing this major point in history. Until this point, World War I had always been overshadowed by WWII, for a number of likely reasons. WWII had nicely defined “bad guys” to fight against while WWI was not quite so clear cut.
WWII had planes, tanks, machine guns and grenades while WWI was really the period during which these weapons of war were still in their very early stages if they had been invented at all.
However, it’s a real shame that this incredibly important point in history has been largely ignored by gaming. WWI was essentially the end of an era, where cavalry charges and trenches were still a part of everyday tactics. One of the most popular pieces of artillery came from the 19th Century, and two million people died from a disease.
Tanks were literally invented during this period, and routinely broke down and got stuck in the muddy battlefields of Europe. In comparison, the battles of WWII were positively streamlined.
WWI offers a period of war that includes intense political intrigue, rapid breakthroughs in research and dramatic twists and turns on the battlefield. Everything that a game could adapt easily into solid mechanics, and what’s more we have plenty of historical paraphernalia and records from this time. Unlike many other periods in history, we could genuinely make this a believable experience. Bring on the bolt action rifles, trench clubs and bayonet charges!
2) The Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a turning point in the history of Europe, as the Bolshevik Communists and their allies battled against the monarchists and capitalists. It was one of the largest conflicts across one of the most enormous countries in the world. Had it gone any other way than the Bolsheviks eventually winning, it is unlikely that the Soviet Union, the Cold War and the rise of Communism elsewhere in the world would have played out in the same way, if at all.
While Russians and the Soviet Union often feature in modern games (Call of Duty progressing them from being our allies against Nazi Germany to replacing the Germans as enemies), the Russian Civil War is curiously absent from a setting on its own.
This historical importance would make this period prime material not only for typical shooters and strategy games but also for playing around with alternate timelines. Imagine having the capability to build a capitalist government instead, then seeing how that would play out into the current age.
Furthermore, the historical period itself literally had Red armies, White armies, and even Green armies, all fighting against one another for dominance: the factions already have their own colour schemes! What could be easier?
3) English Civil War
Roundheads, Cavaliers, Musketeers and rebellion, the English Civil War was one of the many times in history where people decided they had enough of the monarchy. Starting essentially as an imbalance in power and mass disagreement between Parliament and King Charles I, this tension eventually erupted into complete civil war, dragging along the other countries of the United Kingdom as well.
Eventually, this revolution resulted in a temporary win for the rebellious Roundheads, resulting in mass legal and moralistic reform under the now-Republican English government.
While many games have taken place in medieval Europe, only a few have attempted trying to take place during the Age of Discovery, particularly within the bounds of 17th century England. This period was defined by rapid European expansionism, the adoption of early firearms and the English Civil War took place directly in the middle of it. It could make for an excellent grand strategy or tactical game, or even just a period for a good hack and slash. More advanced technology, desperate alliances and a number of different stories to tell from a number of perspectives, the English Civil War would make an excellent period for lovers of history to explore.
4) Islamic Golden Age
The Islamic Golden Age was one of the greatest intellectual and philosophical revolutions in history. Writing and algebra came into true focus while scholars made serious efforts to try and collect, translate and maintain as much knowledge as they possibly could. An emphasis on free thought, a desire for expansion and a thirst for learning drove the various caliphates of the time to become some of the most advanced nations in the world.
However, this historical period has been largely overlooked, mostly because many people in the Western world may not even be aware that it happened! We tend to think of the Renaissance as being one of the intellectual and creative primetimes for humanity, but the start of the Islamic Golden Age predated this by about 1,000 years. Considering the enormous progress in everything from art to science to warfare, it is a shame that more titles have not taken advantage of this historical period.
5) The Stone Age
“But what about Far Cry Primal?!” Yes, Far Cry Primal has certainly taken us to the Stone Age, and there have certainly been other titles that utilise the Stone Age at some point (such as Civilisation and Empire Earth), but it has never really felt like this era has been done proper justice. It’s either something to progress from or just replacing modern tech with Stone Age versions.
The Stone Age is far more than that, though it’s understandable why few games have touched it – very little historical evidence, combined with the fact that people would unlikely empathize much with an early human. You don’t really have all that much to work on.
Why not put the focus on the actual age and all that it entails? Survival, tribal communities, the beginnings of agriculture – just think of the crafting gameplay that you could have. So long as they don’t do something stupid like including dinosaurs (sorry ARK), the Stone Age gives plenty of opportunity as a historical period ripe for the gaming industry.
These are just a few of the historical periods that seem to have been forgotten. Not every war game has to be in World War II, and not every grand strategy has to be set in Europe. What do part of history do you reckon would make an excellent game setting? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out the rest of The Nerd Stash for more gaming, comic and movie news.
A serial hobbyist, Jack loves everything from blacksmithing to brewing – and, of course, the occasional video game.