When asked by GameInformer’s Ben Hanson to compare the pride of working on the PlayStation exclusive Days Gone compared to the other games he’s worked on; John Garvin, the creative director of the game, emotionally replied “there’s no comparison, as it will be six years (of development) by the time we’re done.” Which is a profound statement, because comparing Days Gone’s development cycle to most of the games the studio Sony Bend has made, their titles have had turn-around times of around a year or two. With the team’s catalogue consisting of Syphon Filter, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Resistance: Retribution. Days Gone is ambitious from all angles by comparison, as it touts itself to be a post-apocalyptic, third-person, survival, open-world, narrative-driven, zombie horror game (with stealth and RPG mechanics). Among the approximately 130 people at Sony Bend who worked on the title, there’s an evident passion that has remained consistent throughout these years of development. Yet, there’s also many that have remained cautiously optimistic about the game.
Which is fair, as there are high expectations that come with being a PlayStation Exclusive. Among the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, and God of War, having to stand among these games which pushed the boundaries of storytelling and technical feats are debilitating standards for a studio of any size and talent. To ensure that they’re given a fair shake, Sony has been very kind with giving the team the time it needs to make the game the best it can possibly be.
Yet, across all the years of marketing Days Gone has attributed itself with. Centering itself around its technical marvel of the horde with its initial reveal, forming itself around the open-world survival experience, before finally readjusting itself to the emotionally narrative aspects that the game will feature. There’s an inherent trait of the game that has resonated with me and maintained my interest since it was revealed in 2016. Which was that the title was not only set in my backyard, it was made there too.
Sony Bend is the heart of game development in Oregon, it’s the only high-caliber game studio in the state and is hidden away in the city of Bend of which the studio is aptly named after. Apart from being the home of the last Blockbuster, the town is an accurate representation of the greatest facets that Oregon features. With tranquil lakes, majestic peaks, and thriving wildlife that form a catalyst of the ideal Pacific Northwest aesthetic. Notably, this aesthetic represents how the area is largely a wilderness full of natural wonders. One of the last areas in the world where you can find these landscapes unsullied by humanity. Typically, in storytelling, a Pacific Northwest setting is a backdrop where one has the potential to fluently speak to societal issues and the human experience in a sedative manner.
In Other Media
The developers at Dontnod entertainment have been crafting contemplative and thoughtful stories with the award-winning Life is Strange games in this area to great effect. As the series’ has been utilizing solemn scenery to bring to life stories that empathetically portray the struggles of American youth. From the coming-of-age time-bending adventure that Max and Chloe find themselves among the Tillamook Bay-inspired tapestries in the first title, to the racial sufferings the Diaz brothers face leading them on a road trip across the Pacific in the second, there’s a goal achieved when using the unique format of video games to give players a strong sense of perspective to marginalized groups of people. Apart from their stellar writers, actors, and development team as a whole, Dontnod wouldn’t have been able to bring about this methodical honesty to the aspects of their storytelling were it not for first bringing to life the lonely hiking trails, the charming Oregon coast, and the dense backwoods of Washington.
The film Leave no Trace is one of the best movies released in 2018. It went largely ignored in most circles, telling the story of a father and his daughter who attempt to live disconnected from society’s framework as much as possible. A large majority of the film is filmed in Portland and its surrounding forested area. Achieving in its runtime to mournfully speak to homelessness, PTSD, and the larger stigmas regarding mental illness that encapsulate the United States as a whole. It’s a slow-burn, one that’s made enjoyable by the viewer being able to soak in some of the most skillful depictions of Oregon scenery while experiencing the intimate journey of the protagonists. The exceptional representations of our real-world in a digital format such as those found within Life is Strange and Leave no Trace is art in its own right.
Among all its flaws and controversy, the one shining beacon of the game Assassin’s Creed Unity, is the accurate representation of Notre-Dame Cathedral that one Ubisoft employee spent an entire two years modeling. Considering the recent events surrounding the Cathedral, that employee’s contribution is more valuable than ever before. With games, large worlds are made for the player to explore and consume. The potential for accurate and realistic preservations of the world we currently live in, ones that could never be taken away, is a powerful ability that technology can offer. With Days Gone, I see the smokestacks of the Old Mill in Bend, the snowy peaks of Mt Bachelor; and despite the post-apocalyptic setting, I see it in a way that I’m proud of because it’s just how it would be if I decided to drive over to those locations.
The untouched wilderness of Oregon can’t be experienced by everyone, and it surely won’t last forever. So, while you might look at Days Gone and see a generic zombie survival shooter; the story within Days Gone which promises to be about love, loss, and comradery is inherently effective against the authentic likeness of the Pacific Northwest. An authentic likeness of a place I call home.