Just yesteray, in A Look At Death, I commented on the lack of culture in games. Now, along comes Kevin Carter with an article about Game Ecology on Gamasutra.

He covers several points that have annoyed me – and perhaps you, as well – over the years: enemies that exist with little or no connection to their environment. Their only purpose is to be there for combats.

Once in awhile – usually in D&D games – you might find hobgoblins leading (forcing) goblins into combat, or having it out with orcs. More often, you come across all sorts of disparate groups who appear to work together just fine. And these are the evil groups.

One aspect I liked about the first Doom is that the various demons didn’t trust each other. If an imp hit something else with a fireball by accident, the two would start fighting each other.

One of the fun things I liked to do in that game was come across a large group of mixed monsters (or just a group of zombie soldiers), turn on no clipping, run through them a couple of times, then stand back and watch the carnage as they slaughtered each other. When only a couple were left standing, I’d say “Thanks for the help!” and blast them ;)

Of course, that was a shooter, yet it seemed to me more realistic than so many RPGs that had very different types of monsters and/or animals just hanging out here and there, waiting for you to come along.

Carter’s main point is that designers too often treat what they create as “levels” to be fought through rather than as parts of a living world. I certainly agree with that.

It also connects up with culture. After all, the sentient (as opposed to merely animal) types have some sort of culture, which we rarely see, about as rarely as we see any “human” culture in these games.

But that does bring us to the question: do the majority of gamers care about this? Or are they happy to simply get in there and go through the usual combat paces, and not worry that it’s odd for warm-climate critters to be bouncing around in arctic conditions?

I would certainly like to see game worlds that had real cultural and ecological aspects to them. Not just thrown in as an afterthought, but fully integerated.

You may feel differently. Read the article, and see what you think.

Game Ecology on Gamasutra