The Long Dark: Whither Survival Gaming?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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The Long Dark: Whither Survival Gaming?

Ever feel like the game “How to Survive” was horribly misnamed? Ever play hardcore mode on “Fallout: New Vegas” and wish every game was like that? There may be some hope as yet with a new kind of game that seems to be cropping up of late, at least on PC, and it's being exemplified in a new game known as “The Long Dark.” But “The Long Dark” has got me to thinking, what's going on in the field of survival gaming, anyway?

There have been some efforts on this front. On a certain level, “How to Survive” took a run at it, and the Xbox Live Arcade indie title “Survivalist” gave it a shot as well. “DayZ” has been enthralling crowds, “ApocZ” on Xbox Live Arcade has chipped in here, as has “Rust.” Even “Minecraft” has spawned a kind of renaissance in survival gaming, giving rise to the concept of going out into a field surrounded by trees and making supplies from the things found therein, then going underground to find more supplies to build more things. But “The Long Dark” steps that up quite a bit.

In “The Long Dark,” you're set to see how long you can survive in the Canadian wilderness. Sometimes you find things like lake cabins and ranger stations, but sometimes you just plain old die. As one player found—Charlie Hall at Polygon, specifically—survival can be a difficult proposition. With three successive games starting out in different positions, Hall found out that it's easy to die in the Canadian wilderness, once to exposure and twice to wolves. More than once conditions on the ground—the impossibility of even telling time of day—contributed directly to his demises.

Though there aren't any zombies in “The Long Dark,” there's still an incredible amount of work that goes into survival, and this game illustrates that point nicely. It's hard to believe that this game is still in alpha stage, and where it goes from here might be particularly interesting. It's the kind of game that could launch a whole new breed of gaming.

Consider the recent rise in open world gaming. Available from several places—an increasing number of such titles in recent years—open world games work particularly well with the survival gaming concept. Scavenging food, finding weapons, building defensible positions and hunting...these are all behaviors that have been seen in games of late. Just look at “Skyrim”; by the time that was done, you could build a house in the middle of nowhere, furnish it as you liked, and then go out to plant crops and hunt monsters. Why aren't others copying this?

There's plenty of room in the field for games with a survival bent, both on PC and in consoles. Sure, it might be difficult to develop and get the word out, but it's quite clear that there's a market for this sort of gaming action. It would be interesting to see more games take advantage of the open world concept to bring in a survival aspect of things, and though it might be difficult, it could be an impressive development overall.