Roguelike deck-building game Nowhere Prophet will tackle tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre. The game, which features card-based combat, will take subvert the ‘white men in leather’ trope in particular, reveals Martin Nerurkar of developer Sharkbomb Studios.
Nerurkar also discusses why so many game developers fail to include non-white characters in their games.
Nowhere Prophet Dev on Diversity in Games and Building an Inclusive Roguelike Card Game
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, roguelike deck-building game Nowhere Prophet promises tactical, card-based combat, a world full of exploration opportunities, lots of loot to upgrade and improve characters and plenty of replayability. The game is also strikingly beautiful, with a style that so clearly differs from the likes of Fallout 4 and other games in the post-apocalyptic genre.
In an email, Martin Nerurkar, the creative director of Sharkbomb Studios, explains to me that this is partly down to the fact that the developer was “bored by the fact that so many post-apocalyptic stories are the same.” So for Nowhere Prophet, he decided to look at his own heritage (Nerurkar is Indian and German) for inspiration.
“[Nowhere Prophet’s world] is influenced by aspects of [Indian] culture,” Nerurkar tells me, though “the societies and religions of Nowhere Prophet are their own thing” to avoid “misrepresenting anything” and to gift the Sharkbomb team more “narrative freedom.” And, in addition to an Indian, electronica soundtrack, the influence is “very visual” too. This includes “skin tones, hair and clothing styles and color schemes” that are “clearly inspired by the Indian tradition.”
Indeed, another thing that stands out about Nowhere Prophet is how inclusive it is with many characters of colour (both male and female) being present in the latest trailer for the game. This is very much deliberate as “it’s important to see people that look like myself represented as normal. Not as the enemy or an exotic token character.” Nerurkar says that this is “one of the reasons why in the world of Nowhere Prophet non-white is the default.”
The developer also spoke of the ‘white guys in leather’ trope. While games like Horizon Zero Dawn (which has a female protagonist) do exist, what’s often witnessed in post-apocalyptic media is a white man, clad in leather as the protagonist. And although Nerurkar doesn’t think that the trope and the over-reliance on white, male, leather-wearing leads is due to “malice” he doesn’t “believe in the “it’s what the market” wants argument either.”
Instead, the Nowhere Prophet developer chalks this down to “inertia and self-perpetuating cycles on many fronts” as well as the fact that “people love to recreate what they’re inspired by.” He even says that “it’s difficult to get [the Nowhere Prophet artists] to go away from the standard angry white dude. They keep coming back to that template because it’s what they’re used to, because it’s what’s usually requested.”
“Breaking out of these cycles costs energy, and if you don’t have an internal or external force acting on you you’re just not going to expend that energy,” notes Nerurkar. “If you (or the world familiar to you) is being represented then you definitely have way fewer reasons to try and move away from that.”
With this in mind, it seems unlikely and incredibly that there will soon be an abundance of post-apocalyptic games that ditch the status quo and use the futuristic setting as a good opportunity to imagine a less homogeneous world.
But after successfully passing through Steam Greenlight (thus meaning that it will release on Steam), it’s clear that there is huge interest in a game that does things a little differently and judging from the footage already released of the game, Nowhere Prophet could be a brilliant spark to get the fire going.
Nowhere Prophet is aiming for an early 2018 release date on Windows PC, Mac and Linux. You can keep up with the game via the official development blog.