How Aaryn Flynn’s Survival Game Nightingale Avoids Colonialist Pitfalls

How Aaryn Flynn's Survival Game Nightingale Avoids Colonialist Pitfalls

When Aaryn Flynn left the role of BioWare’s General Manager, no one really expected a game like Nightingale to be his next project. The survival adventure game is a far cry from his previous work on series like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, titles that more or less built his reputation, so I have been approaching Nightingale with trepidation. While I still am not sure whether I’d personally jive with a survival game, everything Flynn has been saying has made me more interested.

A trailer for Nightingale aired recently at the Summer Game Fest and Senior Managing Editor Steven Strom dug it. When I sat down with Flynn to ask what someone like me could get from the game, he had a pretty simple answer: Worldbuilding.

“There’s a lot to see and explore in this world,” Flynn tells me as he points at a trailer for the game playing on a TV screen in front of us. “What’s the deal with that guy? Why are these enemies hunting you? How do you turn a hostile world into a habitable one?’

All of those are good questions that do make me want to seek out answers. The character and monster designs of Nightingale do a lot to make me curious about what their deal is; presumably, Flynn is eager to make sure those mysteries have interesting conclusions.

Nightingale

But one common trope to survival games, especially one where you have to build your own town or community up from nothing, is that they’re somewhat colonialist. This can be a loaded term that immediately puts a lot of people on the defensive, but it’s more descriptive than incendiary.

In a lot of games of this nature, people show up in an area that already has some form of intelligent life living there and immediately start chopping down trees, killing animals, and generally just bulldozing space to increasingly make space for themselves and others. It’s the surviving part of survival games, but it is by definition colonizing an area that does not belong to you rather than integrating into it. How does Nightingale avoid this?

“That’s something we have had a lot of conversations about,” Flynn says. “The first major thing is there is no displaced population in Nightingale. You are not creating a town where people already live and work and you’re not forcing anyone out. That’s key.”

Flynn points out that the narrative and world of Nightingale are carefully considered to avoid falling into the survival game traps. To that end, he points out the Realm Cards, which allow players to enter a portal to find whatever item or resource they’re looking for.

“Moreover, all these Realm Cards create areas out of magical content,” he explains. “You aren’t going to a nearby swamp and killing ten frogs to build whatever. When you use a Realm Card, you’re creating something wholly new that does not actually exist.”

There’s a lot to see and do in Nightingale, and it’s heartening to know that the team at Inflexion Games is thinking about it from usually glossed-over perspectives. We’ll get to find out for ourselves when the game comes out on Early Access on PC later this year.

Play Days is part of Fanbyte’s Hot Game Summer 2022. That’s where we bring you recaps, commentary, and just our general opinions on this summer’s game presentations — such as the Xbox & Bethesda showcase, the PC Gaming Show, and the all-encompassing Summer Game Fest hosted by Geoff Keighley. If you’re interested in seeing all of Fanbyte’s coverage, check out our Hot Game Summer 2022 hub!

Disclaimer: Nightingale developer Inflexion Games was bought by Tencent in 2021. Fanbyte Media is also owned by Tencent. I have never met anyone from Tencent and probably wouldn’t cover anything in any direction they told me to, anyway. When taking this demo, I even told the PR agent that I would have to write a disclaimer, so if they had a problem with that then we shouldn’t even bother. I write this disclaimer so that you know I’m aware of it and because it’s important for ethical reasons. 

Author: Deann Hawkins