Need for Speed Hydrocarbons
Souvik Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Apologies for my rather slow return to Ludus Ex: many interesting events have happened meanwhile and have been missed by me because of other engagements. As I try to refuel my engines and get back to research after conferences, parties and my other job (not necessarily in that order though), I find myself in a world plagued by petrol crisis and inflation. This makes me wonder whether petroleum, that extremely important mixture of hydrocarbons, has any of the effects on the videogame-world as it does in other aspects of our quotidian affairs.
The thing that surprises me is that videogames seem to ignore this very important part of our lives. We drive cars in GTA 4, race like crazy in Need for Speed Carbon or Motocross Madness and we even fly all kinds of aircraft in videogames but I don't remember ever having to go to a petrol station. Not that petrol has been ignored altogether in videogames: players of Rise of Nations will remember how important it is to possess your enemies oilfields so that your tanks and planes can keep flying. Suddenstrike introduced petrol trucks as an important element in its Resource War version: the animated petrol truck explosions bring a sense of fear into even the mightiest martial spirits. A more recent (and for me extremely disappointing) game series called Act of War even has the petrol crisis as a key theme. In general, however, games seem to avoid the issue. The in-game characters need weapons, ammo and even food but their cars seem to have an inexhaustible supply of fuel. I wonder why. Also, why connect the importance of petroleum only to military affairs?
As games get more 'serious' and responsible, perhaps they will be able to take this into account especially keeping in mind the millions of people who play them.
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino