Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rewriting History

If you watch Doctor Who, the idea of "You can't change history" has popped up.

If youtube cooperated, I would show you that.

However, the fact remains that games do frequently rewrite history when they take place in the real world. Let's look at Bioshock Infinite and their new trailer which has led me to this post.

Yes, I'm a sucker for Bioshock.  Anyway...
Any search in the history books will reveal that while the world's fair did happen, Columbia was not involved.  The Boxer rebellion did happen (it was a revolt in China against the British, Chinese Christians and other foreigners and foreign powers.)  but it ended in 1901 with an alliance of western nations defeating the imperial Chinese army and taking over Beijing. It's view over history is rather complicated so we're leaving it there.  However, China was very much NOT bombed in the original run.

Why do companies change the past for their stories?

Partly because it makes it easier to set in an alternate continuity.  We know that Columbia didn't actually bomb the Boxer Rebellion.  We know that the US won the American Revolution.  We know that King Henry the Eighth created Anglican Protestantism in order to divorce his wife.  These are very much facts.  So when something significant changes, we take it not only as an "Alternate Universe"  but because something is wrong. This is something we know is false but presented to us as true.

Bioshock Infinite had hinted at it previously.

 Seeing "Revenge of the Jedi"  is quite a shock..  Return of the Jedi part of our culture.

Most video games present an alternate future.  It's usually a dystopian since utopian futures can get boring for a game.  Fallout can be considered the main Dystopian future game that takes place in our timeline. In Fallout, a nuclear war is started over the lack of non renewable resources.  In the end, civilization collapses, humanity is hanging on by shreds, and most of the rest of the world is instead heavily mutated from the nuclear fallout.  I have the game on my GOG account so I'll have to play it sometime and then give more details.

An argument can be made for Command and Conquer, but it seems to heavily involve timetravel so that's both a past and future game.  Again, something I need to play.  According to Wikipedia, it's set in the future of an alternate timeline where Albert Einstein went back in time to kill Hitler which then led to an unchecked Soviet expansion in the 1950's.

But while Bioshock Infinite is the most obvious example, there are others. Gunparade March, Iron Storm,Resistance,  and Enigma: Rising Tide are among others.  (according to Wikipedia.  I will admit I've only heard of Resistance.) 

Gunparade is about life when Aliens invade before the end of World War II. (The historical difference should be obvious).

 Iron Storm takes place in 1964 in the fiftieth year of World War I.  In this world, (Looks over history) Okay, long story short a Russian General was NOT defeated and instead is trying to make a Russian/Mongolian empire and the war depends on the allied nations stock market.  I need to learn more about World War I.

Resistance is again Aliens invading, but this time it's during World War I.

Enigma also involves World War I, but with the Lusitania never sinking.  As a result, the US does not enter World War I so Germany takes over Britain and France.

Wars, especially the World Wars, have a dramatic effect on history and the World Wars are the most dramatic wars in recent memory.  This is probably why when it comes to alternate histories, these are the defaults.  Even if we don't know all the details (glares at Iron Storm)  we do know that things did not end up that way.

But, no matter the reason, an alternate history gives weight to the story.  We want to fix it, we want to get back to "our" history.   It gives the story writers a freedom while not explaining everything and still giving it weight.  The writers get to explore what could have happened if something changed.  So much of history depends on near misses and oversights.  What if things HADN'T come to pass.  What if Amelia Earhart wasn't the first woman to fly solo.  What if King Henry had stayed married to Catherine of Aragon?  What if Disney stayed with Oswald?

That still doesn't mean the game will be good, but it does make it a bit more interesting. 

No comments:

Post a Comment