What Will Post-COVID Game Worlds Be Like?

The Last of Us Part 2 - Dying World

I was recently watching some post-apocalyptic movie when my partner pondered aloud if there will be a period in the near future when COVID-19 will show up as the cause of the end of the world in movies.

This naturally lead me to thinking about video games, as so many things do in my life. Will there be a The Last of Us or Left 4 Dead-style game where COVID-19 is the specific arbiter of doom and destruction or the source for some unforeseen zombie outbreak?

That would perhaps seem in bad taste, especially in light of our federal government’s abysmal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of this writing, more than 175,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, a number that is probably lower than reality will dictate once the data can be sorted.

That is a staggering number of fatalities. Surely it would be a subject too sensitive to use as the backdrop for an action or survival horror video game. And yeah, maybe that will prove to be the case. But from tragedy often springs our greatest attempts at parables and finding meaning or silver linings in these dark clouds.

Fallout 4

But considering the size and magnitude of this pandemic, surely there is good reason to assume that the horrors ravaged by COVID-19 will serve as the narrative backbone to all sorts of media down the road. We are already seeing this to some degree expressed in contemporary songs and documentaries. As Hollywood grapples with this, and learns to work around the distancing necessary to help stem transmission, it is probably only a matter of time before we get social-distancing teen slasher movies in the vein of Unfriended, tethered to the digital interactions forced by quarantine.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds if there are, in fact, video games that deal with this particular issue. I’m not even talking about an exploitative or bombastic approach, but maybe in quieter indie games in the vein of That Dragon, Cancer, which could perhaps dissect the emotional impact of this event and how it personally affected developers.

In the meantime, I’m keeping a tally of games that offer in-game masks. I’m looking at you, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
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