Survive. That’s your objective: you don’t have to save the world, you don’t have to kill a fearless warlord. All you have to do is survive. This may seem boring, right? Not anymore as a few games recently have taken this formula and enhanced it, making the survival genre a very prominent figure in the gaming industry.
It seems that there are an increasingly large number of open world survival games getting published and it’s for a good reason. While they may seem esoteric at first because you have little to no idea how to play unless you have a preconceived idea of what you need to do in order to survive, they often provide limitless gameplay and secrets everywhere in the world. Survival games today are becoming increasingly popular but have few direct objectives other than the survival aspect, the games in the genre elicit logic and creativity from the player, causing for seemingly infinite amounts of player-generated objectives.
The most obvious and most popular open world survival game that helped spawn the new genre is Minecraft. Minecraft is extremely popular for a reason; there is no clear objective from the start and the player is able to do whatever they want. Aside from the initial collecting resources to create a shelter and the looming possibility of defeating the Ender Dragon, there is no inherent objective in the game. You can do virtually whatever you want, whether that is build an intricate house for yourself or wander around the world killing monsters, it is all up to you.
Because of this, the game has become an international phenomenon. It is used regularly for YouTube commentaries, allowing it to spread by word of mouth. It allows for the player to sink countless hours into the world in order to gather the resources to build his or her next big self-created objective. When that specific objective is done, you can move on to your next idea, and repeat that as many times as you would like. There is no limit to what you can do in Minecraft, which is why it has become the phenomenon it is today.
Another game that has contributed to the open world survival genre and was released last year for PC and this year for the PlayStation 4 is Don’t Starve. The objective in Don’t Starve is in the name: you need to collect resources in order to keep from starving, dying from monsters or going insane. The game also gets more and more complex the farther into the game you make it. As you explore, you find more new enemies, resources, and locations.
Though there are story cutscenes in the game explaining how the characters got to where they were, story elements never undermine the core gameplay of Don’t Starve, aside from an unlockable Adventure Mode. The game has many complexities initially unknown to the player that are only discoverable through exploration, and finding these is always rewarding and helpful to surviving. Survive as many days as you can, then unlock more characters for variety in play-style and do it all again. Don’t Starve is a great example of the survival genre, using the aspects of it to make a deceptively deep survival experience.
When you hear the word survival, you probably think zombies. Post-apocalyptic games are so common today and zombie survival games are prominent in the genre. There are many survival games that take place during the zombie apocalypse, and your main objective is to survive as long as possible. A game like DayZ is a realistic zombie survival game in which your only objective is to live as long as you can, avoiding zombies and other players who can kill you as well. While doing this, you gather supplies such as bandages, food and water in order to maintain your health.
Other games are less realistic, throwing you in the middle of thousands of brain-craving zombies while you fight your way back to a safe house, like in Dead Rising or Dead Island. Whichever side of the spectrum the zombie games are, they all play into the same open world survival genre. These games have become so popular and there are now so many zombie survival games for everyone, and each of them helps the genre grow larger and larger.
Open world survival was not a prominent genre until a few years ago, a few select games have helped the genre grow to the point where it is today, making it one of the most popular genres around. Games like Minecraft helped the genre become more popular because of its infinite possibilities and recent games have followed in its footsteps with their survival aspects, attempting to bring something new to the table. The genre has become so saturated and yet there are still so many possibilities. While not every title is a game-changer, each game released in the genre helps it become something bigger and better, which is something I doubt many people saw coming just a few years ago.