7 Amazing Video Games We'll Never Get to Play
Video games face the same gargantuan hurdle as every other creative medium: To get your property made, you have to first filter it through a lot of people who hate ideas almost as much as they love money. Before you can create something truly novel, it must first survive the veritable gauntlet of assholes that is upper management. That's why we end up getting a new Tomb Raider sequel every year, even though anybody could ask the fans one simple question and be instantly presented with literally decades of blockbuster concepts. That question is: What's your brilliant, perfect, tragically nonexistent game idea?
I asked the question once before, and then spent the rest of the afternoon punching the wall in furious despair that I would never get to play those games. Now, I'm asking it again, because I have the memory of a goldfish and I like pain.
A note to any game developers who may be reading: You can take any of the ideas presented in this column, or the last column, or the comments, or from literally wherever you want, just as long as you don't make us play another Call of Duty game. Remember: It's not IP theft if the other party is about to shove their ideas so far down your throat that you'll be crapping premises for a week; that's just self-defense.
A Clever Superhero Game
If I'm going to put other people's game ideas out there for potential mockery and almost certain theft, it's only fitting that I go first. So here it is -- here's my idea for the most perfect, brilliant, tragically unrealized interactive experience in history:
Aquaman: The Game.
Jesus, I think I just booed myself.
Hear that? That's the sound of a million browsers closing in disgust. But wait, hold on: It doesn't have to be Aquaman. It could be any open-world superhero game (a la Arkham City) that revolves around an underpowered main character. We nerds give a lot of shit to Aquaman, but his book has to be a blast to write. I mean think about it: How much fun is infinite power, really? The very concept of Superman bores the shit out of me; there's a reason people don't write many classic tales about how difficult it is to be the best guy in the world. We don't want to root for the beloved high school quarterback to continue being beloved; we want Rudy to vault onto the field and knock his dick in the dirt. Our favorite stories are of characters who take the one meager talent they were given, then punch the world in the face with it until the world assault-vomits success onto their sneakers. But if underdogs really make for the best stories, then why are all of our biggest superhero games about overpowered God-men?
Who all seem to have a crucifixion fetish ...
Take the Infamous series. It was great fun, but it's also a fine example of creative laziness. The main character, Cole, starts off with a pretty badass power already: He masters electricity. Sure, he starts off kinda weak, but his powers quickly grow stronger and stronger until you, the player, are flying across the city, unleashing massive lightning storms that devastate whole blocks. I'd like to see a game along the lines of Infamous, but about a dude like Aquaman: the superhero world's unpaid intern. The main character has to be somewhat useless at first glance, because the game isn't a brawler, it's a puzzler -- you have to be clever with your abilities, not just punchy. You start out with one power -- something kind of dumb, like the ability to speak with fish, or seeing two seconds into the future, or complete control of unvarnished wood -- and it will never grow. That's it. That's all you get: You're The Planer, master of rough wooden surfaces, and it's up to you to take this city back from the hordes of murderous criminals. But while your power is shitty, the way you use it doesn't have to be. Talking to fish is lame? Sure, if your imagination sucks. If you want to get a little creative, though, you could do stuff like this:
"WHO SMELLS LIKE YOUR MOM'S VAGINA NOW, BRAD?!"
The key is that you're not given incremental upgrades to your power; it's all available to you right at the start, and your effectiveness relies entirely on how you use it. If you're a bit on the dull side, maybe you'll just hop out there on the streets and start impotently throwing splinters at fleeing, laughing criminals. But if you're clever, you'll be snapping telephone poles down on top of their car, whipping sheets of plywood like 6-foot-wide shurikens and swinging uprooted trees like baseball bats. Unlimited power is only interesting for a few minutes -- that's why every video game is a progression of increasing strength that ends with your character at their most powerful phase. Once you get over the novelty of that deadly new super-move, though, what's the point? Nothing can stand in your path; you are a god among men. And you are bored. Limitations are much more interesting than abilities, and there's nothing more satisfying than overcoming them. Which is the greater accomplishment: the man with bulletproof skin and super-strength who stops a bank robbery, or the despot who rules an entire city with an iron fist despite only ever possessing the ability to invert men's penises with the power of his mind?
You Are the Monster
Basically I want a game where you play a cryptid and the goal is just to survive and conceal your own existence. No missions or campaigns, and no story, just survival. You would have to eat humans for nourishment every day and hide somewhere to sleep for a certain amount of time. Your character would not be able to stand up to a real face-to-face fight and would be easily outnumbered, so survival would be a challenge and the emphasis would be on stealth.
The world would be an open environment set in a small suburban town, with some rural aspects on the edges. It would be just populated enough to be fun and realistic, but sparse compared to GTA, and the AI would all have an agenda and a pattern to their movements (like the civilians in Shenmue). All of them would be unique in appearance and behavior. Obviously there wouldn't be a massive city of them. It would have to be just a small town.
AI would react realistically to the sight of your character, tending to shrug it off if they didn't get a good look, but reacting with increasing suspicion if the same person sees you often or if they get a good look. They also wouldn't forget they saw something just because you are out of sight. Each character would carry their own memory of what they have seen. Rumors would also travel and collective suspicion would rise.
There's a vital component missing in most modern stealth games: consequences. There's almost always an alternative to stealth built into the game. It's better to discreetly sneak in and cut a guy's throat in Assassin's Creed, but if you fuck it up, you can always parry and combo slash a whole battalion of guards into a pile of gaily dressed mincemeat. That's what's great about this idea: By making you the bad guy -- the cliche horror villain who lurks in the night, shunned by a fearful society -- you have a clear and convenient narrative device for the whole world to be your opponent, and the consequences of it catching you are immediate and apparent.
But What If ...
... you kneaded some X-Files up into this dough? The idea is great, and a lot of the game could absolutely revolve around your life as a monster in a small town, but where does it go? What can the story be, if you're the only victimizer in a town full of victims? There's no narrative there. Now, what if you were actually playing an episode of The X-Files from the opposite point of view? You, the player, are, like, that creepy stretchy guy who kills everybody from the vents and eats their liver. There is a small, elite team of investigators who might be after you, but nobody really believes them when they insist that there's a monster in their midst. Why would they? That's silly; you're being Mister Silly-Face, Mulder -- I don't care that you've been right every single episode, or that I just saw an inbred Bigfoot alien last week, exactly as you described him -- there's no such thing as creepy stretchy guys!
Eventually, depending on how clumsy you are, how high suspicion levels rise and how many people see you, the town will have to believe them and come after you. But the rest of the game is a fine dance of maintaining doubt as you try to evade, capture or kill Mulder whilst simultaneously watching Scully undress from inside of her refrigerator.
Command and Devour
A dinosaur-themed RTS.
You could have Velociraptors as light infantry, Triceratops as cavalry, T. rexes as heavy shock units. You could even have naval battles using Plesiosaurs, Ichthyosaurs, Kronosaurs and Megalodons, and aerial battles using the various pterosaurs.
I'm not sure what would be the best way to do the factions and keep it balanced, maybe carnivores vs. herbivores or Jurassic vs. Cretaceous or something, but I think we can all agree that a game where you have huge armies of dinosaurs tearing into each other would be fucking awesome.
Every time you ask gamers what we want, you'll find that there is a very subtle but persistent undercurrent beneath our sophisticated, contradictory and complex desires: We want more games about dinosaurs, assholes.
But What If ...
You went cross-genre? The only thing nerds love more than dinosaurs is incongruity: Jurassic Park succeeded, in part, because it pit dinosaurs against the modern world. What if you did that, but more directly? An RTS game that has you leading an army of dinosaurs against modern society! I promise you, if you let me send squadrons of T. rexes into Manhattan to eat tanks, I will fucking drown your children in my money.
Groundhog Day: The Game
You wake up and have a time limit (a day) to experience the world. A not too large, open world, with independent and advanced AI within it, all starting with the same disposition each day. When you wake up, it starts again. Instead of just exploring locations like you normally do in games, you'd be exploring events, and how you impact them. There could be SO many non-rigid stories taking place within the world that you could watch one day, change the next, or just watch how small changes affect events in an unscripted way.
How would the game end? Maybe it never would.
I am now and will forever be in favor of all things Groundhog Day. I will buy Groundhog Day: The Game, Groundhog Day: The Cereal and Groundhog Day: The Menopausal Hot-Flash Cooling Pillow. I don't give a shit: The phrase "Groundhog Day" is like my "Would You Kindly." You speak those words aloud and I will do whatever you say after them, up to and including killing a man. It is a dangerous psychological condition, and I would thank you not to exploit it, my fellow Internet sociopaths.
But What If ...
You could keep one small change per iteration of the game day? I'm not exactly sure how the mechanic would work -- maybe you'd get five seconds per diem to save changes -- but giving the player the ability to not only repeat a day, but persistently influence how that day plays out over time would both separate this from the existing property and add a new spin on interactivity. I really think you need this other mechanic in there, though. Because otherwise, isn't every game with a save/reload function already Groundhog Day?
Oh shit! What if that's what Groundhog Day was really about: God saving and reloading Bill Murray's life over and over again until he beat the level?
Aaaaand now I've started bleeding from the nose. Does anybody else hear horns? Goddammit: I've broken my own mind.
[The game starts and] everything seems normal, but slowly you see strange creatures on the edge of your vision. Like shadows moving on their own and becoming solid. Suddenly one of the shadow creatures attacks you and your own shadow comes to life and helps you defeat it. Over the course of the game you learn more about the shadow monsters and how you are able to have a sentient shadow.
[Cut to you] in the hospital and you still see the shadows. As you fight your way through the hospital, none of the NPCs are reacting to the monsters around them. Now the player could rationalize this as just lazy coding of the AIs, think that the PC is a chosen one that is the only one that can see them or ask themselves if the monsters really exist in that world at all. Eventually the NPCs might take notice of the player who's attacking nothingness and talking to his shadow and go after him.
There are two things we need very badly: new villains in horror, and new gameplay mechanics in games. The living shadows are a really neat concept that straddles the fine line between novelty and familiarity: They're not yet so overused as to be boring, but they've made enough prominent appearances in pop culture to be accessible villains for almost anybody. I think the concept of alternate universe shadow men is one of the few new monsters our generation will contribute to the lasting lore -- well, that and Mario Lopez, of course.
But What If ...
You really focus in on the second half of that idea -- the crazy hospital stuff?
This could be The Fisher King: The Video Game!
Wow, Robert: You really are balls-deep in the cultural zeitgeist, with references like that.
OK, for those of you who don't know, The Fisher King is a movie about crazy hobo Robin Williams (the most believable type of Robin Williams) rampaging through modern day New York City because he believes he's a medieval knight on an important quest. That could make a killer game: You set up the standard horror plot, but at some point, it becomes totally clear that you're just a crazy person, and that this whole shadow-person quest is your madness. Inevitably, the real world starts to intrude -- in the form of policemen and doctors -- as your psychosis becomes more pronounced. So you're trying to strike a delicate balance, freely fighting the shadowmen late at night, in sewers and abandoned alleyways where nobody of consequence can see you flailing at nothing, while trying to subtly avoid them in public without evoking suspicion. Shit, maybe we could get Robin Williams to voice the lead character!
Never mind, I ruined it. Sorry, guys, that just ruined the idea forever. My bad.
Everyone Is the Main Character
My perfect game would be one set in a normal city, in a similar way to GTA, but instead of [the police coming after you when you do things "wrong"], the thing you just did becomes acceptable. For example if you drive a car into a supermarket, a couple of in-game weeks later you might see someone else do the same. Eventually, assuming you're a psychopathic criminal/serial killer, the whole city you're living in will disintegrate into chaos with people torturing and murdering people left right, with your life being in constant danger from all the crazed killers you've sort of inspired. I think the best bit of this game would be that you could go on a run of shooting prostitutes, and then spend some time picking up litter from the road, and a few months later you'd get a huge abundance of dead prostitutes, but really clean streets.
You start the game expecting a GTA clone, which we all know how to play: hilariously violently. But there's no reloading of old saves, so every action sticks. Slowly, your antics convince everybody in the city that total fucking murderous anarchy is like, the new dubstep.
And what does the world become when literally everybody is Niko Bellic?
But What If ...
You flip the script halfway through the game? Maybe it's a sudden revelation on the part of your character that the world simply cannot continue with everybody's grandmother ramping flaming ice cream trucks into the local library every other hour, or maybe you're just suddenly ripped out of your character and put into the shoes of the only cop who's still doing his job. The first half of the game is your average GTA/Saints Row havoc-causing sandbox, with the world slowly descending into insanity, and then the last half is you dealing with the psychotic universe your actions have created. Sure, it's annoying that you keep getting ripped out of your car by random pedestrians who immediately drive it into a wall and then run away giggling, but it's made all the worse by knowing that it was you who taught them how to do it. It's the "I learned it by watching you, Dad!" gameplay mechanic.
Explosions: The Game
Whenever I play multiplayer games, I notice that the things I most consistently enjoy in them are explosions and physics, particularly when the two are gloriously combined. So my ideal game is a fast-paced multiplayer using nothing but physics and explosions.
You don't get any guns that fire conventional bullets; if you have guns, melee weapons or anything else, they cause explosions. Some minor, maybe sending a person reeling back a few feet, like a machine gun that fires tiny bombs; some moderately powerful, like a grenade that sends you flying in the air before landing in a heap; some really fucking strong, like a mine packed with so much ordnance that if someone steps on it, the victim goes flying at over 100 mph and slams into the ceiling, leaving a collection of splattered blood and giblets rain downing from above.
You'll have a lot of your conventional weaponry, like machine guns firing bombs, pistols firing bombs, shotguns firing bombs, etc. But you'll also have some more creative weaponry, like missiles that can turn corners; RPGs that hone in on a person once they get close enough, so the victim thinks he dodges it only to have it smack into him from behind; and of course the default melee weapon of your fists, which causes a grenade level explosion upon contact.
Obviously you can't have people take the damage they normally take in other multiplayer games when hit with explosives, nor the extensive waiting times when one dies. Instead, everyone has enough health to take, say, 50 machine gun-bombs, and have them quickly respawn, being dead only one or two seconds, long enough to see what surface their remains slam against.
Finally, the players will be affected by the physics of any explosion, and with so many, they either need to avoid being shot (with this amount of explosions, unlikely) or learn how to adjust to the disorientation of the explosions. Levels will be wide open and sprawling, to allow a degree of maneuverability in the face of so many large-radius explosions, as well as to make a satisfying visual indicator of how far a body falls.
Because goddammit, games don't have enough explosions.
Roughly half of the concepts that I've highlighted here address some heavy issues: They're games that deal with not overcoming, but embracing your own limitations, coping with pending insanity and coming to terms with the consequences of your actions in the total absence of societal morality. And lofty concepts like those can make for some amazing games.
But if everything always means everything, then meaning itself becomes meaningless. Remember when you went through your "deep stoner" phase? Discussing Wittgenstein over bong tokes like your limited, masturbatory teenage experience in the world could possibly contribute something meaningful to any conversation? That was fun. But eventually, the conversation always turned back to Dr. Mario and titties, because "deep" has an expiration date, but retarded bullshit is forever.
Sometimes, gamers just have to admit that our favorite part of a game is the part that went "boom," and wouldn't it be great if it all went boom? Wouldn't it be great if it all went boom, all the time?
But What If ...
You actually just made that game, developers? What if you just shut your fucking idea-holes for a second and gave us Multiplayer Boom-Boom: Explosion Edition? What would happen?
You would make a billion goddamn dollars. That's what would happen.
So there you go: That's a small sampling of the best games never made, as put forth by a random assortment of Cracked readers. And it's nothing special. Nobody's saying that these are the greatest ideas that will ever exist. If you think you can do better, smart guy, well -- OK. That's probably fair. Give it a shot! Spout your idea loud and proud, and let us all wallow in your nerd-droppings.
Get the first episode of Robert's Sci-Fi Serial Novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here, or buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out 5 Reasons GTA IV Is The Worst Great Game Ever Made and In Defense of Games as Art.