Bedlam, our genre hopping, era-spanning shooter is unleashed on October 16. It is an FPS celebrating the fact that video games have grown up, made by people who grew up with them.
I was approached five years ago by developers RedBedlam, who had ascertained from the myriad gaming references in novels such as Pandaemonium and A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away that I might just be a teensy bit interested in working with them to dream up a new FPS.
We met in London for what was meant to be a brief chat, but ended up spending several hours talking about gaming down the years, from ZX Spectrums and Commodore Vic 20s through to the modern age. We discussed how games had evolved, how our relationship with those games had evolved, how we had been shaped and inspired by games as a culture and a community. But mostly we talked about that amazing experience of exploring these new realms, that sense of awe and excitement and escape.
We shared a delight at the extent to which games have matured, and by what improving technology has allowed them to become, but though we all missed the innocence and wonder of our first gaming experiences, we agreed that our sense of nostalgia actually feeds into the thrill of watching our old favourites evolve into something more sophisticated.
Maybe you started with Doom and saw that become Quake, Half-Life, Halo and Call of Duty. Maybe you remember switching disc after disc to play RPGs like Neverwinter Nights or Elder Scrolls Oblivion, then a few years down the line you were all the more appreciative of the open-world vastness of Skyrim.
We wanted to create a game that encapsulated that evolution, a game that played with how the tropes and conventions had altered. Not just obvious stuff like how the visuals had improved, but subtler things that gamers would appreciate, like how the run-and-gun style gave way to the cover shooter.
And then, being gamers, we wanted to hack it and mix it all up.
So imagine being pinned down in a firefight inside a gritty World War Two shooter, and suddenly being able to let rip with the weapons load-out you’d previously been using in a Nineties-style science-fiction FPS. Imagine taking World War Two weapons into a fantasy RPG. Imagine playing 2D arcade games from a first-person perspective, or stomping around the map of an RTS like you’re a giant.
Imagine all of that, and you’ve got Bedlam.
Of course, all of the above would make for an amorphous mess without a strong story to explain the concept and memorable characters to hold it all together, which is why I wrote it as a novel first. The book came out in 2013 and was among the top ten best-selling SF debuts of that year. Now, two years on, you can explore the “Gameverse” for yourself.
If you grew up with these games, then you’re literally going to have a blast from the past. And if you’re a generation younger, then you can enjoy a playable crash-course in games history, full of dark humour, relentless action and a sweary Scottish heroine so ballsy she could make Duke Nukem cry.