Ambulance: The Game

Get out of the WAY!

Okay, so I had a pretty kickass idea for a video game the other day. Maybe it already exists, and it was one of the various options in the GTA games, but I’d take it a bit further. The idea was first planted in my by this student I had in my freshman composition class a few years ago. He had a confidence and maturity that far exceeded his fellow freshman. I came to find out that he was actually 21 and had spent the years since high school riding in an ambulance as an EMT. Once, he looked at me with a gleam in his eye and said, “my team and I never lost a call.” That is to say, every person their ambulance team picked up lived long enough to see the hospital. Awesome, and good for him.

If you think about it, being in an ambulance has got to be one of the most intense, stressful things anybody can do on a daily basis in the city. You think you’re upset by traffic? What about the guys who have someone bleeding to death in the back seat? I can only imagine the cursing. Well, I can only imagine how I’d curse, at any rate. Think of the video game you could make based on ambulance calls! Each mission would have you on a tight clock, racing across a busy city to get to a victim before he or she died on site, stablizing the person there, and then shooting them to the hospital before they died. I’d have each mission be bracketed by a story–the story of the person who you are running to save. Mission #1: little girl gunned down in gang crossfire at an inner city playground. You fail in the mission? Guess what the mission failed screen is: the girl’s funeral. Crying mom. People in black. Weeping multitudes. Do you want to see that? Hell no you don’t. Drive, dammit. DRIVE.

If you pass the mission, you get to see the little girl living her life. Ramp up the pathos, make you tear at the eyes. Feel like a hero.

This wouldn’t be GTA, though. You’re an ambulance–you can’t run people over, you can’t kill people. Yeah, you can bash up cars and drive on the sidewalk and break the traffic laws, but you’ve got to balance it with public safety. All the missions happen in the same city; you learn the roads, know the traffic patterns, figure out the best routes to the various hospitals. Make a wrong turn, and your patient dies. Get stuck in traffic, figure a way out. Kill somebody? Mission failed. Use the siren.

There’s more to it than driving, though. You’ve got a team in the back working to keep the victim stable. Figure that, with the driving, there will also be prompts for hitting certain buttons in certain orders to get the medics in the back working to top efficiency. The screen will have the victim’s vitals running; the longer you go, the more complicated it is to keep them alive. You’ll need fancy fingers.

Each mission ups the stakes. Start with the little girl shot after school. Move on to a mass casualty event–a bus accident or explosion–happening on a holiday. Icy roads. At night. Have one during city-wide rioting–now you’re not only dodging traffic, but angry mobs. Have another one during an earthquake or tornado. Alien Invasion. Zombie Apocalypse. The possibilities are endless. Keep an open-play option there, too–just drive around and make relatively normal calls. See how many you can get there alive, learn the city in the process.

Upgrade your ambulance. Pimp out its design. Custom sirens, decals, lights, hubcaps. Hire new and better team members–better paramedics, better EMTs, better drivers. Soon you’re driving the A-team of the ambulance world; the team that drives into the alien invasion and saves all the school kids from PS122. Badass. It almost makes me wish I were a game designer.

I’d play that game. I’d like, for once, to play a game where it wasn’t about being vicious or cruel or violent. It’s action, but it’s about saving a life. It’s about everything that makes humanity noble and good.

About aahabershaw

Writer, teacher, gaming enthusiast, and storyteller. I write stories, novels, and occasional rants.

Posted on December 21, 2011, in Gaming and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Bah! I’m waiting for the all-new Carmageddon game that is being made.

  2. GTA III had it for sure, not sure about the others. Of course, its version was not nearly as in-depth as what you are describing. The gameplay you describe, combined with something like Trauma Team, would be pretty amazing – where the surgery difficulty is defined in part by how efficient you were in transporting the patient to the ER.

    Like you wrote, it would be interesting to see a AAA title with the heft and storytelling of a Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect dedicated to that kind of setting – saving lives instead of ending them.

    Great post!

    • Thanks, Paul! I think it would be really neat for a change. I feel like video games are becoming far too repetitious, or maybe they always have been and it took until I got to adulthood to notice and be bothered by it.

  3. Auston, I think it’s a more gradual evolution than that.

    Pretty much all games growing up were shooters and platformers, with technology limiting what games were capable of. We went along with it because incremental improvements in graphics and game mechanics kept us hooked. If you remember, Sony won the console wars for a few generations because they did what Nintendo and Sega didn’t: began catering to that same first generation of video gamer by creating games that spoke to their older sensibilities. As clunky in gameplay as “Resident Evil” was compared to the standard Nintendo fare at the time, the kind of game it was spoke to the fact that we were older and interested in experiences that reflected that.

    Since that PSX/Saturn/N64 generation, technology allowed a relative explosion in gameplay types, with online capability adding to that variety. Now, though, with development and distribution costs so expensive, you are seeing companies choosing to fall back into “common denominator” mode. There is a robust indie game movement out there, but you don’t see the big companies – the ones with the best resources – trying to do much to change that. In a way, it’s hard to fault them – there’s too much money at stake on both sides of the equation.

    You could say that we are waiting for that next PSX-like revolution – for some console or game maker to cater to the fact that we’re looking for…maybe not a kinder, gentler gaming experience, but something engaging that breaks the mold as much as those mid-90’s game moved us out of the 8bit and 16bit eras.

    • Very possible, I suppose. I do find it odd, though, that when I’m playing video games these days, I’m usually playing things from before the turn of the century. With the exception of certain first person shooters and the odd platformer, most of video-gamedom has left me cold these days.

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