It’s the End Of The World – The Apocalypse in Film/Literature and Everywhere
It might be kind of the wrong time to talk about this, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, I think with that, for some, comes more time to delve into more story, including that of the Apocalypse/Post-Apocalyptic in nature. This is one of those genres that can tell a lot of interesting things because you can look at the struggle of man to overcome, the in ability of humanity to stop their own doom, or the breakdown of society and how it could fall apart and rebuild.
This is building off of my articles on where to start in comics and the article on zombies in pop culture. The format is going to continue to be a little bit different every time, mainly because it can be, but I want to talk about some things that have worked well and some that don’t work as well.
I think that we can all think of a lot of apocalyptic or post apocalyptic stories out there. About 5 years ago we had a lot of them being taken on in the Young Adult style with books series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner. Some of these worked better and some were disappointments, at least for myself. Since then, the genre hasn’t really died off, we have Netflix putting out shows like Daybreak and The Rain where things are going horribly wrong or have gone horribly wrong in the world. The genre as a whole has kind of been all over the map though with a lot of goofy stories as well as many very serious takes on the genre as well.
Now, I’m not sure that any particular take is going to be always the right one. Some that take themselves too seriously become overwrought and melodramatic, while others can try and do a humorous take on it that just ends up being hit or miss. And there’s also an element where some authors are trying too hard to be profound on a topic that is going to lend itself to a lot of speculation.
Just to talk about speculation, I feel like there are two that I can kind of compare as to how one does it decently and the other does it poorly. In The Hunger Games, we have this idea of spectacle, and that humans, even when things are going poorly are going to want spectacle and probably even want more and greater spectacle, especially if they are at the top of the food chain. This is something that we can see already in our society where people love things like Survivor, or even before our time with the shows in the Roman Colosseum, so The Hunger Games has a feeling of something that is grounded and truthful to it. Compare that to Divergent. The issue with Divergent, besides that the story just takes a left turn that everyone saw coming is that they split up humanity and society in a way that doesn’t make any sense. At no point in time before has society split itself along those lines in such a way or tested people so that they would be split that way. It feels like an illogical jump for a society to make and one that doesn’t really aid the society in the long run. So even though, I would say, there is some overlap, the speculation and the ability for a post apocalyptic story to have a ring of truth to it makes a big difference.
Now, I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how it’s moved into other mediums. It’s easy to think of books, films and TV shows, but in many ways it’s just as easy to think of video games. The Last of Us is a prime example of a post-apocalyptic game, and the Resident Evil games take place during or after the apocalypse. But probably less known to some, though obviously something I like, is how it’s made it’s way into board games. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Season 2 are basically board games about the apocalypse and the fallout from that. And it gives you an interestingly written story. Even a game like Dead of Winter, which I’ve mentioned in the zombie article, is definitely about survival after the apocalypse. While I don’t have a ton of post-apocalyptic games on my shelf, I have a lot that are about thwarting that great disaster from happening, basically all of the Lovecraft Mythos investigative games from Fantasy Flight fall into that category. In those games, Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Eldritch Horror, Elder Signs, you’re always trying to stop a great old one from coming through, or something along those lines. Even fantasy games like Gloomhaven, Sword & Sorcery, and Aeon’s End: War Eternal, while maybe not as heavily apocalyptic as some, have bits and pieces of that thrown in, especially if you fail the campaign.
Finally, there are RPG’s, and I think when it comes to a medium that is built for the apocalypse, RPG’s are that medium. Even if it hasn’t happened, the fact that you’re going on an adventure to do something, it’s going to be to stop something bad, and generally that’s some form the of the apocalypse for at least part of the world. And if you make it up to level 20, it’s probably for the whole world. In fact, one of the campaign books for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is Princes of the Apocalypse. There’s just something about the story of an malevolent god trying to destroy humanity and the player characters becoming humanities champions that just works well for a story. It’s one of those things where you can joke that it’s a story as old as time, but it works for so many reasons as it gives you that heroes journey and that final thing for them to overcome.
Well, that was kind of rambling, I had a lot that I wanted to talk about what I like from apocalyptic stories and why some of them don’t work as well if they ring a little hollow. Plus, I couldn’t go an article without talking about how it has flowed into the RPG and Board Game mediums. What are some of your favorite apocalyptic stories from whatever medium it might be?
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