The Roles of Rivers: Waterways in game play

Passing over the historic Brazos River this past Memorial Day weekend I flashed back to Fallout: New Vegas [FNV] and the time spent exploring the Colorado River and its shorelines. I heard the distinct sound my character would make as he started to drown and gulp for air, trying to sneakily reach a distant shore. I saw John Marston, of Red Dead Redemption, herding cattle (no, not nerds) against the river’s current in hopes to rope out a future for his polygon family. I visualized screenshots of Bethesda’s upcoming Elder Scrolls Skyrim and the beautiful rivers rendered with its new engine. I then swerved back into my lane and finished crossing the bridge.

Were I almost met my watery death, the Brazos River.

What this brief brush with wet death brought to mind, other than “Watch the road!”, was the huge roles rivers play in games. At times rivers act as a game’s protagonist or as a roadblock to exploration. Some developers use them to create a natural looking “invisible wall” that your character can’t pass – I’m looking at you Left 4 Dead. As in FNV, a river can play an integral part to the storyline and an actual enabler to exploration.

In real time strategy [RTS] games rivers can be (as is the case in real life) an asset that can garner you resources or positional advantages – a fine example of this can be seen in the entire series of Civilization games. In a war focused RTS a river can help protect your main base’s flanks, a tactic I used to my advantage constantly in Relic’s Company of Heroes.

The bridges of Company of Heroes Lyon map made protecting my flanks a bit easier.

As was the case this year with the Missouri and Mississippi, real rivers around us can create stories of their own with each flood. They can bring new twist and turns to the world’s geography and to a game’s narrative. Rivers were the basis of cities in early America and provided life, and death, to those around them. The same can be said of rivers in video games but without the actual pain of loss or the excitement of life…unless you’re me, were at times the difference can become like the water, murky.

Select New Campaign – Welcome to GamingNerdHerder

Welcome, and thanks for visiting.

GamingNerdHerder is where the animals who feed off the gaming grass (or meat, for you FPS [First Person Shooter] carnivores) can gather at the watering hole and read about the multiple facets of the gaming industry; from insights/thoughts on marketing; impact on society; and game play in general. It is also a place for those not as engaged with the industry can come and gain a better understanding to how much of a dork I am and inform themselves about a billion+ dollar industry they may not be familiar with. For instance, as mentioned above, the acronym FPS stands for a type of game where one goes through as the main protagonist in a fist person perspective with usually a weapon as the only thing visible of the player you control… a first person shooter.

In your face.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 screen-shot

Posts will range from personal opinions about all things game, coauthored gaming related blogs and when I can find the time (and willing interviewees), interviews of individuals intimately involved with the gaming industry.

Thanks again for the visit and don’t forget, the next time you need to satiate your inner nerd just join the herd.