You have to laugh. You really do.
I have spent just over four years in a University environment now, and watched numerous pitches for different types of games from many, many people. The best ones, without fail, are the fresh-faced and enthusiastic new students; untainted by the often harsh realities of the games industry (heck, even of higher education) and of marketplace and customer requirements, they tend to arrive with some particularly innovative (if completely unfeasible) game ideas.
Of course, there are always one or two each year who inevitably pitch a game revolving around the idea of 'Zombie attack in (insert local landmark here)'. And, every year they inevitably get shot down for being so incredibly unoriginal. This isn't horrible or unfair - zombie games have generally been done to death, and any originality is going to be minimal at best; pitching a game like this is hardly the best way to get the true creative design juices flowing.
At least, that is how it has been in past years. This year however, I am very much looking forward to how these pitches are going to go. The inevitable zombie games will resurface once more I am sure - but this time, when they are pulled up on their highly derivative design, the students will be able to use a really quite unbreakable defence; Call of Duty did it. Red Dead Redemption did it. And they made money.
Yes, of course these games are massively successful on their own, and the zombie add-ons are only to extend the gameplay for the more dedicated players. Still, it is an interesting situation in which some of the world's most prolific developers are releasing games that only one or two years ago would have been deemed a poor use of one's imagination coming from a group of students. Oh how this industry turns on a sixpence.
|Zombies on the Moon - if it was pitched by a student designer, they would be politely shown the door...|
That is the lighter side of the 'Every Game Should Have A Zombie Mode!' fad that is sweeping the industry. However I would postulate another more probing question: if every game and its Dad has a Zombie mode, will players become densensitised to the zombie as the iconic horror entity that it actually is? Will hours of running and gunning the undead hordes make the threat of the zombie in its original survival horror home wane? Does it even matter? Maybe this is actually a very good thing for the industry. By flooding the marketplace now with a legion of undead games and game add-ons, will developers inadvertently bring about a time when consumers have had enough?
Could what appears on the surface to be developers being highly unoriginal actually lead to them being forced to think up more original ideas? Will the undead eventually, and rather poetically, die?
Is the zombie simply too firmly ingrained in gaming to ever disappear? Or is there a critical mass, beyond which the undead become uninteresting? Comments below!