UNITED STATES—The State of California has exerted a considerable pull on the popular imagination for some time now. From the sun-drenched vistas of Raymond Chandler novels to massively popular TV shows like “Buffy,” “The OC” and too many reality shows to count, there’s something about the United States’ most famous Western state that just makes sitting the ideal setting for pop culture. Video gaming of all sorts are certainly no exception to this.
An Early Pioneer
When it comes to California-related video gaming, there is an early title that still resounds in the hearts of gamers everywhere. “California Games” by Epyx debuted in 1987 and was eventually ported to many home computing and console gaming platforms. Eschewing more mainstream sports, it focused on contests with a particularly Californian charm: surfing, Frisbee and skateboarding to name a few.
California in Online Slots
Online gambling combines the chance to strike it rich, as in the old-school California gold rushes, with the convenience of modern technology. “The Big Lebowski” slot machine, based on the widely admired movie of the same name, lets players enjoy bowling with “The Dude” in Los Angeles while “Hollywood Star” conveys some of the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. Playing a glitsy slot game based in California allows people on the East Coast and even further afield to indulge their fantasies of a Californian lifestyle.
Kick Ass and Chew Bubblegum
First-person shooter “Duke Nuke’em 3D” was developed by 3D Realms and hit the market in 1996. Based upon the groundbreaking gameplay of “Doom” from a few years earlier, this title featured destructible objects, an arsenal of interesting weapons and half-cheesy, half-awesome quips from the player character. It was set in a fictional Los Angeles that was in the process of being invaded by aliens, and the much-maligned LAPD was lampooned in-game as LARD.
GTA Courts Controversy
“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” released by Rockstar Games in 2004, took place in three fictional cities, two of which were based upon Los Angeles and San Francisco. The game, like other installments in the franchise, drew praise for its open-world gameplay, wide variety of missions and challenges, and the ability for players to control a multitude of vehicles. Like previous efforts in the series, it also gained notoriety for its violence and amoral ethos. Outrage on the part of parents and lawmakers increased several-fold when the infamous “Hot Coffee” mod became available.
A Step Into the Past
2011’s “L.A. Noire,” also by Rockstar Games, placed the player in the shoes of an LAPD officer in the ’40s. Oozing the kind of atmosphere popularized by the Humphrey Bogart flick “The Big Sleep” and the works of Raymond Chandler, the game sold 5 million copies on the strength of its animation technology and compelling storyline. It was a novel take on the tried-and-true adventure game genre, which had been languishing for a while before “L.A. Noire” came along.
Playing a game based in California is an activity beloved by both console and PC gamers alike. Many commercially successful games have relied upon the Golden State for inspiration and as a setting. Looking forward, we can expect this to continue because of the unique culture of California as well as the fact that it is the most populous state.