As yet another battle royale title is announced for release, Ash Gomez delves into what this video game trend reveals about its players.
The battle royale trend has completely taken over video games. It seems as if every major franchise right now is considering dipping their toes into these waters just to capitalize on the temporary popularity.
It is definitely temporary, as all video game trends are. All we need is for E3 to shove battle royale so desperately down consumers' throats, that we all suddenly get bored of it. Battle royale will still exist in some regard, of course, just as it had for several years before PUBG and Fortnite made it huge. It will follow the path of all the video game trends before it: intense popularity, then overexposure, followed by disdain from the general public. It will then fade out of the limelight to find its place alongside every other genre in video games -- not overly present, but not completely absent either.
Video games are a constant roller coaster where trends hop on and off at intense rates. Some notable trends in the past have been simulation, sandbox, and augmented reality. Virtual reality is slowly climbing the ranks at the moment, and I predict it will be huge as soon as VR equipment is as accessible as other gaming technology. Even if it doesn’t become the next big thing, something else certainly will.
Although trends have been happening since games have been played, the battle royale one is particularly interesting. Most people don’t realize that this genre can largely be tied back to a 2000 Japanese film entitled Battle Royale. This film revolves around the Japanese government rounding up teenagers and forcing them to fight to the death for being unruly. For a while, this film was notable because many people believed that The Hunger Games had stolen its premise.
Dystopian fiction was wildly popular because it was outlandish enough to be fascinating, but it was also easy to envision our world with this filter.
Regardless of the originality of the idea, The Hunger Games was one of the first huge sparks for the dystopian movement. The first film was released in 2012, a year that remains significant because many people believed that the world would end during this time. Dystopian fiction was wildly popular because it was outlandish enough to be fascinating, but it was also easy to envision our world with this filter. In the case of The Hunger Games, the setting was meant to be in post-apocalyptic North America, which left many Americans feeling that the chaos could hit too close to home.
In the years prior to this, zombies had become huge through Left 4 Dead and The Walking Dead, so it was clear that dystopia was picking up speed. But The Hunger Games did not pin societal problems on imaginary creatures like zombies. Instead, it planted it firmly on corrupt governments. Suddenly, things felt a lot less fictional.
Around the time of its release, The Hunger Games linked up with another cultural touchstone of the time -- Minecraft. The modding community created servers usually called Minecraft Hunger Games in which players were spawned into a huge circle. When the match began, you had the option to either risk sprinting at the chests in the middle of the circle, or else run straight into safety with no items.
There is no sinister organisation or sadistic madman behind these battles. The reason all these people are fighting is left to the imagination or else disregarded entirely.
Many people argue that this was actually the game that inspired the current battle royale craze. Although it did not feature a depleting play space, many of these servers forced the last ten or so players to teleport to a different area and fight to the death. So, the concept was pretty similar to what it is today.
What made Minecraft Hunger Games interesting is that it took away the political edge that this genre had. Suddenly, you were one of 24 players forced to fight, but there was no reason for it. It was literally just a game. And this still applies to games like PUBG and Fortnite, which don’t focus on backstory at all. There is no sinister organisation or sadistic madman behind these battles. The reason all these people are fighting is left to the imagination or else disregarded entirely.
In a way, it feels as though we have moved on from our acceptance that we live in a dystopia. We no longer care how it happened, or how to fix it, because it is out of our control. Instead, we need to survive. The actual battle becomes more interesting than the politics that created it. The focus is on becoming the victor and living to see another day.
The act of fighting a large group of people for no reason other than you have to would have been a shocking concept before the millennium. Even though these games aren’t actually that violent (compared to what’s on the market anyway), it is easy to imagine the outcry from the message these games are sending just a handful of years ago. But today, we have accepted our gravitational pull toward dystopia, because it has begun to feel familiar.