The Appeal Behind the Survival Game Genre
The survival game genre has been something that’s always interested me, and apparently I’m not the only one. When it comes to Japan, it actually is a reoccurring plot, and now even in the Western world with The Hunger Games, the concept has proven to interest millions. Survival Games, also referred to as survival of the fittest, pin people against each other or simply put them in a situation where if you don’t win, you die.
It’s a terrifying and disturbing concept. Not to mention, one of the most common things that we see in these games, is that it’s usually the kids/teenagers forced to participate. And yet, people watch and enjoy this type of entertainment. But why?
Especially in the 21st century with all the violent video games out there, it’s intriguing to see what the ultimate game is. The nature of it all is that if you lose, you’re dead. Merging video games and that idea is what Sword Art Online is currently trying to do, and the anime is most definitely clever for its ability to bring those ideas together.
This also may be an intriguing concept to most because it instantly creates suspense. Who will make it out on top? Not to mention, a sense of urgency is often created when time limits are added or restricted areas. Situations like these can put an audience on the edge of their seats.
As I mentioned before, more often than not it’s teenagers who get thrown in the game too. There isn’t much exception to this. Children are supposed to be the innocent having them kill each other, truly shows corruption. Watching a bunch of adults trying to kill each other is something you can see in any action film, but that’s not very often the case for children because it’s an extremely disturbing thought. Although it can be argued, there isn’t any glorification given to the kids who would kill there peers just because they can. It’s disturbing and makes people very ill at ease, and this is something people are naturally appealed by.
The horror genre is most definitely a popular one, and more often than not, Survival Games fit in this category. This is a genre that natural appeals to many, not to mention besides the horror moments, there’s often blood spewing across the screen, and that’s apparently something people like too.
Though, when it comes to today’s gore, I feel as though people find entertainment through that because they don’t see it as a realistic representation (understandably so), but maybe due the mix of the innocent it can bring an audience even more so in fear with because of some of the realistic elements. What I am referring to, is that because the most often case is having amateurs kill, nonsensical chopping doesn’t happen, and instead we get a more brutal and realistic way of people dying.
In this case, I am referring to the actual murderer. Unless there is a character who is an emotionless killer who kills for the fun of it (this is seen in both Battle Royale and Deadman Wonderland), for the most part, due to the fact that the game isn’t normally a voluntary thing people usually don’t want to murder.
Though, people also don’t want to die, so true colours often start to show and life or death battles are created. Though, in these types of situations, there tends to be an after effect of what they just did. We don’t often portrayals of people feeling truly guilty for their actions. And even if there is a winner, at the end of the day, what they had to do to achieve that goal is not one that is truly something to feel proud about.
The Reasons for the Game
This reason can be as interesting as the game itself. In some cases, we tyrannical nations or societies not too far from our own. In the case of Mirai Nikki, it did in fact mix in some politics, but mostly a fantastical God who wanted a successor.
Often enough, there are deeper meanings behind the story. Back in 1948, Shirley Jackson wrote one of the most famous short stories of all times, which is none other than “The Lottery”. Although, we can talk about the themes for hours, one of the themes the author supposedly wanted to convey with a dramatization, was the senselessness of violence and the inhumanity we see in our own lives. This theme in itself can be seen in other stories of the genre, but it’s also a rare thing to get a simple Survival Game story. It may not always have so much depth to it, but it usually offers a but more on the surface.
So here’s been my attempt at trying to figure out why this genre has such a world wide appeal. Naturally, this post also refers to things that aren’t anime, but with the latest survival game, Sword Art Online having been released, it got me thinking. Though, I personally find, in comparison to some of the other titles out there, SOA is a more “tame” version of what we normally see with survival game stories. Nonetheless, it still definitely fits the survival of the fittest category.
These stories have clearly been popular in Japan since Battle Royale, and in this year alone, we’ve already seen two stories that centre around the idea. Also, if Savanna Game ever actually airs this year, that’ll make three. I’m positive survival games are here to stay.