Grand Theft Mammoth
I think cavemen are great. There’s an old thought experiment concerning cavemen. You go back in time and bring a stone-age child back to the present. How would that child do in our modern society? Would it get on like any other child, or would it lack some sort of evolutionary capacity to cope? Intriguingly, it’s not quite as simple a idea as it first seems. Anyway, I want to know how a person from today would cope if they found themselves zapped back to the days of cavemen. And we have a way to (sort of) find out! Videogames!
You play a caveman (or cavewoman) who lives with their family in a vast prehistoric environment. If you’re feeling brave, you can wander off on your own and embark on some sort of crazy walkabout. Or you can stay with your own tribe and help in the onerous task of survival. There will be various elders who you can defer to for help or advice. You can also reproduce – maybe your children can act as ‘extra lives’ in case you fall into a volcano, or get pecked to death by crows. If your character dies, your children can carry on, but they will only have the skills and knowledge that you have managed to pass down to them (encouraging you to be a good parent in the game).
Of course, there will be other tribes with whom you can trade or even try to conquer. A fair amount of the game will involve exploration and gaining knowledge of the fully interactive environment to help you and your tribe survive. The land that you explore is packed with forests, glaciers, mountains and all sorts of interesting terrain. Living along side you will be large numbers of wildlife, some friendly, most (initially) hostile.
Everything you do in the game will have an effect on your character – from acquisition of knowledge, to physical improvements from walking long distances. You can go on hunts or tame wild animals to help you out. Maybe your tribe will become feared because of its domestication of sabre-toothed tigers. Or perhaps you’ll manage to tame woolly mammoths?
As you progress through the game, you will have to find new dwellings for your growing tribe. To help cope with the demands of survival, you can develop new technologies and cultures that will provide your tribe with a sense of community.
The game needs to be as open-ended as possible while offering well defined (but purely optional) goals. Like Civilisation II, there could be different criteria for victory according to which path you choose. So you can win if you develop your culture or technology to a certain level. Or you can just assimilate all of the other tribes and create a pre-historic kingdom.
The main pleasure of the game will come from gradually building your own character but in a way more complex than the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ paths that so many games seem to offer now. From this element, each player will have their own story to tell, and their own unique relationship with the environment in which they play.