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Tired Themes

The last discussion of theme prepares us to discuss something which is common in gaming: themes rise and fall in popularity, starting a trend and then dying out. What makes a theme lose its luster? Should you consider a game if it has a tired theme?

At the time of this writing, I personally have found that there’s a common list of themes that are becoming overused. These themes are tired.

  • Dungeon/Fantasy Heroes
  • Pirates
  • Zombies
  • Dwarves

A tired theme doesn’t get people excited about a game. The theme almost becomes nonexistent because it feels like that guy at the party that wants to talk about something that was popular last year. It’s just not cool. Maybe they were popular when a certain movie was out, but really, there’s no reason for designers to use these themes. And if they have a game in development which does, I strongly recommend changing the theme if possible. Otherwise, wait for it to become a thing again.

However, there are some themes that recur. Their popularity ebbs and flows, but invariably they come back because they still draw fascination from time to time. They speak to what we as a culture once were or what we could be and thus remain in our minds no matter the era.

Tired but classic…

  • Ancient Egypt
  • Ancient Rome
  • Classical Maya/Latin American Civilizations
  • Medieval to Renaissance Europe
  • Space Exploration Science Fiction

Even if a theme is tired, it doesn’t mean a game is bad, it just means it can’t get the attention it might gain with another theme. As you’ll see in a future post, this choice of theme determines much more about your game than the artistic style, it could very well determine what message you’re sending.