Please, stop! Part 1

Clichés so worn the lining shows. Characters so laughable it’s a tragedy. Gimmicks so hollow their desperate echo drowns out otherwise meaningful experiences.

I’d like to talk about some of the flat and tired tropes the games industry keeps repeating, seemingly almost compulsively. Because maybe, just maybe, it will keep my blood pressure in check whenever another AAA budget is wasted on one of these atrocities.

Depending on your point or view, or perhaps your mood, this is either my plead to the games industry or just another rant. But I beg you.. You’re hurting us. Please, stop!

Wizards and dwarves!

Let’s start at the very beginning, with the most overused and abused genre. Yeah, you guessed it. Fantasy. I don’t need to say anything more, I’m sure, but I can’t stop myself. We’re only wasting time and electrons here.

You know, I like what Tolkien wrote. I like fantasy. But just as I haven’t read most of the me-too fantasy novels about yet another fellowship on some quest, I’m happy to not play the countless ultra-generic fantasy games out there. Elves aren’t that interesting, mate, and calling them “dark elves” doesn’t make you edgy or “mature”.

Perhaps the idea is that the races themselves are so fascinating that no further characterization is needed. But we’ve seen it all before. We’ve also seen the conflicts, the drama, the relationships and the overly simplistic and naive idea of morality of Tolkienesque worlds, and frankly, it’s boring.

It doesn’t even have to be all that new, just stop reheating the same old leftovers again and again! If you don’t have anything fairly interesting to say, then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing the writing.

Shoulder pads of Doom!

Look at my armor. I am so powerful!

I completely get why 12 year old boys think that these big, strong and emotion-less space marines are cool. It’s a great manifestation of the male power fantasy, occupying a great deal of many boys’ imagination as they’re about to mature into adults. What I don’t get is why grown men think it’s ace.

Game after game with almost identical space marine aesthetics. Someone has to be buying it. A lot of people, in fact. Plenty of designers must still think that the metal shoulder pads, and what must be the heaviest helmets ever conceived, are the best thing since… well, fantasy.

Covering characters in armor and then not allowing them even a hint of emotional tension is not a terribly good recipe for storytelling.

Zombies? Mein leben!

Zombie is the new Nazi. Ok, so it fulfills a need of endless waves of completely dehumanized gameplay targets, so I get why it is popular among content creators. What I find annoying is when otherwise serious settings all of a sudden explode into some sort of zombie apocalypse.

World at War, supposedly taking the terror of World War II seriously, has a zombie mode. Red Dead Redemption, an epic adventure in the Wild West, has a DLC add-on that sees zombies invading the prairie.

Come on. We can’t expect to be taken seriously if we just add whatever we feel like to any setting because “it’s cool”. Spielberg didn’t have alternative scenes with zombies on the DVD of Saving Private Ryan, and Clint Eastwood didn’t duel the undead in the director’s cut of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Tentacle faced horrors!

Did you know that you can make anything interesting by quoting a few Lovecraft stories? Your material will magically transform into something fascinating and dark, and you will be seen as a great designer – just add tentacles to something’s face and you’re good to go! Man, your intellectual property just got so much cooler! Well done, you artistic genius.

Truth to be told, Lovecraft hasn’t been used nearly as much as Tolkien or the space-marine-oh-my-is-that-testosterone-coming-out-of-your-every-orifice thing (yet), but it has become a staple whenever a game project wants to add some otherworldly horror into the mix, and it’s getting old.

So, game designers everywhere – there are other ideas out there. You don’t need to remake the same setting over and over again.

It hurts. Please, stop!