Cheers, sorry, it's the very British end of the world

Apocalyptic landscapes are beloved to video games, lonesome, evocative worlds that ask players to make much of little—to scour the earth in search of survival, resources and heroism. Something about failed civilization enchants players who might be longing for an escape from the often-ruthless order of life.

One of my favorite interviews I did last year was with Brighton, UK-based studio The Chinese Room, known for the critically-acclaimed Dear Esther. Currently, the small boutique house has been at work on Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, a melancholy apocalypse tale set in 1984 Shropshire, exceptionally remote, well before modern connectivity, at the tail end of the Cold War. Native plants of the English countryside have been rendered in loving detail.

The husband-and-wife team that heads the project defined the importance of its setting:

The team's been inspired by the essence of the British wartime spirit, as well as the work of science fiction writers like John Christopher — his 1958 novel The Death of Grass follows a civil servant and his engineer friend, crossing the countryside as a mysterious virus destroys all the grass.

"Cozy catastrophe fiction," Pinchbeck explains. "'Oh, that's terrible—let's put a cup of tea on.' There's a quiet acceptance."

"I think we always associate 'heroism' with America," Curry adds.

"As long as we keep saying 'everything's normal,' everything's normal," Pinchbeck continues. "That's a very English thing as well, so that felt like a very interesting thing to play with."


There's some new, great writing out there on this unique and refreshing project, thanks to the latest round of previews; at Polygon Danielle Riendeau and Phil Kollar report on their experience:

In one early sequence, an older woman convinces a younger lady to go on a date with an old fling. In another, two women watch their children play while they discuss what appears to be a flu outbreak. Later, in one of the demo's most heart-wrenching scenes, two characters talk about what happened to their families. The performances are believable and the writing shies away from easy histrionics, the characters, spectral as they are in appearance, feel like real folks who are flawed and scared, dealing as best they can with the situation.

In another lovely bit of writing at Eurogamer, Nathan Ditum says the game he's seen so far "has been pushing all of the buttons and sensitivities my subconscious developed while growing up in the dread shadow of the bomb." His preview also makes for a nice read, describing an experience that feels "not so much like a nuclear winter as a glowing radioactive Christmas."

The Chinese Room is a very refreshing team, deeply concerned with creative storytelling and culturally-savvy enough to create something you can get excited about.