Horizon Zero Dawn & No Man‘s Sky

by Douglas E. Welch

Part of New Media Interchange #010
The Electronics Entertainment Expo

As we sat and let the E3 demonstrations wash over us, there were moments when something would capture our attention and really make us watch. For me, among all the games, there were 2 that made me take notice and even enticed me to thinking about actually playing them when they are released.

The first game was Horizon Zero Dawn. The Playstation web site description reads,

“Take on the role of skilled hunter Aloy as you explore a vibrant and lush world inhabited by mysterious mechanized creatures. Embark on a compelling, emotional journey and unravel mysteries of tribal societies, ancient artifacts and advanced technologies that will determine the fate of this planet, and of life itself.”

An article in The Verge describes the game in this way.

“You play as Aloy, a woman who seems to have broken from her tribe. She has a gift for hunting these creatures who, and here’s where it gets weird, are actually machines. They look like deer and elephants and snakes and all sorts of beasts, if those beasts were designed with the leftovers from the Killzone art department. It works. You wouldn’t think so, but the design is beautiful.”

The first thing that struck me about Horizon Zero Dawn was the art design. The world looks amazingly beautiful. This is always an important part of any video game for me. If I am going to spend time in an alternative world, I at least want it to look nice. That isn’t to say that it needs to be “pretty”, though. The ugly, dark and dangerous world of the game, Dishonored, was just as fascinating for me. It was a completely believable fantasy world and worked together as a whole.

The creatures of the Horizon Zero Dawn were another striking feature. They look like the animals we might be familiar with, but then you realize they are made from the technology of the past, discarded, abandoned parts reassembled by some AI that continued to exist long after humans had abandoned their cities.

I am sure there are science fiction stories that dealt with a world such as this, but the concept is new to me and quite refreshing. It is hard to find new ideas, new metaphors and new worlds for video games, but this certainly struck me as a very imaginative world to set the game.

Finally. the protagonist of the game is a woman, something far too lacking in most video games. Sure, you have Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise, but barring the most recent prequel version of the Tomb Raider game (and the next title in that franchise announced at E3) the overtly sexist portrayal of Lara in earlier games is out of touch with today’s more enlightened views.

With Horizon Zero Dawn and other new releases like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Dishonored 2, both with playable female lead characters this E3 seems to show that gaming companies have finally gotten the message. Women should be an equal part of gaming just as they should be in the world.

In the Thinking with Google article from 2014 mentioned above it says,

“…adult women have recently unseated teenage boys as the largest video game — €“playing demographic, according to the Entertainment Software Association. YouTube trends reflect this: Viewership among women has doubled year over year, and women over the age of 25 are the fastest-growing demographic for gaming content.”

With trends like this, it is certainly about time for women to be addressed more seriously in the gaming world and this includes having characters to play that resemble them. Sure, we can all decide to play as any character we want in a game, but we tend to put someone similar to ourselves in the starring role. Women gamers should have the same and equal opportunity to do this. Additionally, I think this also opens up a host of new ideas and opportunities for gaming content as we move beyond the “big man hack and slash” narrative frame that has dominated the industry so far.

Another game that looked very interesting was No Man’s Sky from Hello Games. This space game has a lot of similarities with Minecraft and yet is something completely difference. Like Minecraft, the worlds you explore are procedurally generated complete with terrain, flora, and fauna. Like Minecraft it is a game of exploration where players are given credit for discovering new planets, plants and animals. They can also mine planets for resources to construct new and better items. Since the world is generated on the fly for each player, it theoretically has no limits. Players actions expand the world in whichever direction they go. If the generated worlds are unique enough to sustain interest, players could find years of gameplay here.

Of course. after I have made all these comparison, No Man’s Sky is also entirely unlike Minecraft in many ways. The world is a beautifully art-directed, fully realized, realistic world, not a square block representation. The animals aren’t limited to a few cows, chickens, and pigs. Each world procedurally generates wildlife appropriate for the planet. In No Man’s Sky you are rewarded for exploration and the discoveries you make. I was recently wondering about a mod that might be designed for Minecraft to provide something similar and give a little more incentive for exploration.

Again, just as with Horizon Zero Dawn, when the demo for No Man’s Sky began, I stopped what I was going and watched. It grabbed my attention. It also made me want to learn more about the game and, even more importantly, made me want to play it myself. I think this is always the first goal of any demo and Hello Games certainly hit the mark with No Man’s Sky. This could be the first game since Minecraft that has really excited my gamer instincts.

That’s my take on E3 and what I, personally, found interesting. It was a huge show, with huge announcements, and something for nearly everyone.

What’s your take on storytelling in this new technological age?
How will it affect and enhance your future work?
Send along a comment via email at
NMI@3rdPass.media or on Twitter to @NMIPodcast.

— This Article was written by — Douglas E. Welch

New Media Interchange

Episode #010: The Electronics Entertainment Expo

This is New Media Interchange where we talk about the media world beyond mainstream television and radio, including podcasting, YouTube, live streaming, gaming and more.

NMI is Hosted by Douglas E. Welch, Pioneer Podcaster, Blogger and Writer in Los Angeles.

New Media Interchange is part of the 3rdPass.media Podcast Network

For More information about this and other shows, go to http://3rdPass.media

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