Thursday, March 1, 2018

Game tropes

There are just some things that pop up all the time in games. While tropes might be defined as writing-related and not really mechanical, I'm going to use this as a blanket term for certain recurring elements that I see and happen to like.

Top dog, under dog, super dog

You might start the game as an all-powerful badass, but then you hit the wall, meet the boss, get sent back in time, or experience some other kind of trauma that makes you lose everything. The majority of the story is spent getting back to your beginning state, just to surpass it and get (overpowered) vengeance. This trope rules because you get a whiff of your character's potential, and it really maps out your skill progression. Super Metroid is a great example of this.

The Endgame choir

After losing an important character/city and spending hours catching up with the final boss, the time has come for you to face the greatest challenge of all (hopefully). The reckoning is usually accompanied by a unique music track, and how much better is it when there's a choir involved? Bonus points if there's another boss stage/form with more intense music. Final Fantasy games do all of this amazingly.

Press X to keep from dying

People diss quick-time events, but shame on you for putting the controller down in a God of War game! Sure, Heavy Rain has ridiculous moments like shaking the controller back and forth to shake your shaving cream, and then taking broad strokes with motion control to shave. However, dodging the titan's fist, running up his arm to stab him in the eye--if you get the timing correct--adds extra satisfaction when you could otherwise passively watch a cinematic. I just ask that the games be consistent and not have sporadic QTEs in a game that has none.

Dem gainz

I don't have a fantastic body, but if I'm already in the fantasy of playing someone who can jump two stories high, hold a rocket launcher with one hand, and shrug off a bullet like a cold breeze, then I don't mind being a mega-babe or hunk. Sure, body image is a thing, and there are just as many 8-pack-wielding men with perfect asses as there are zero-sag DD-cup leading ladies. Get over it and onto kicking perfectly-sculpted ass! Though that does remind me that while the DOA games overdid it with tit physics, apparently none of the graphical designers have ever seen a nice female butt before. People talk about Miranda's butt from Mass Effect, but it doesn't even look very good, nor has any physics to it. The part of me that's an ass-man has always been offended that such talented game designers are missing such an important feature of the physique!

Black bars

Barn door opening for levels, black bars at the top
and bottom inside buildings. Games were cinematic 30 years ago!
When I play old games, I like to think about what the gaming climate was like when they were released and how relevant the titles used to be. Gears of War was a big deal because you could smoothly stick yourself down behind a wall, pop out and gun down your unfortunate adversaries. Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time were both amazing transitions from 2d to 3d and the latter title had a really cinematic feel to it. Remember at the end of the first dungeon in the Deku Tree when the cinematic black bars lock your controls, the door behind Link gets barred, and the camera pans over to Gohma? Regardless of if there are too many cutscenes or not, the black bars drawing your focus as if you're a squinting observer are an awesome addition to games. Kudos if you noticed this in the original Legend of Zelda on the NES!

Saving Private AI

AI teammates are the shit. Usually invincible and full of indispensable quips and banter, they provide a great distraction for the bad guys. In the case of Elena Fisher from the Uncharted series, they can also be deadly and quite smart. Also related is your squadron radio chatter, especially with over-acted dying pilots and soldiers screaming, "RPG!" Star Wars Battlefront and Call of Duty games feature this.

What are your favorite and least favorite tropes in games? 

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