Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Flip the Role

A lot of great video games let you play the good guys.  A few good games like Dungeon Keeper and Tie Fighter let you play as the bad guys.  What I really want is more quality games that show both sides of the conflict.  Not just in the sense of an abstract opposition faction with a re-skin of the same basic unit types, but rather a complete shift in priorities to reflect the cultural lens from which the world is viewed.  Here's a trio of examples to illustrate what I mean.

Wing Commander has let players fly for the Terran Confederation in every game of the franchise.  Only two shoddy spin-off titles, the plot deficient Armada and Arena, have let us fly as the Kilrathi.  That might not sound like much of a difference to care about.  After all, space combat flight-sims play fairly similarly regardless of which side the player is on.  The thing is the Kilrathi are a race of humanoid felines with social structors built around a strict code of honor.  Ritual sacrifices to the war god Sivar must be made, the emperor must be respected, and the clan's integrity must be preserved.  This might be jarring to players that have gotten used to just maximizing their kill score, but when you get down to it every sortie has it's mission objectives.  It just so happens that when the Kilrathi fly they have different priorities than the Terrans.

Gemcraft is, in my humble opinion, the best tower defense game ever made.  It has a lot of strategic and tactical variety, as well as a cool ambiance.  The storm ravaged landscapes, long abandoned ruins, and a faceless (yet ever present foe) grabbed me from the first entry in the series.  So, instead of plopping colorful gems into towers and pit traps, how about being the one who gets to send those insect-like waves of swarmers, reavers and giants?  The notion of flipping tower defense on its head isn't a new one.  The Anomaly series is basically built around the concept of a "tower offense" game, but it isn't a true reversal of the genre nor is it set in a fantasy themed world.

The Legend of Zelda has a long standing traditional of telling the story of the green garbed hero Link.  Recently, there's been a groundswell of requests for chance to play as princess Zelda (or a female version of the protagonist).  While I like the idea of a female warrior of humble origins rescuing a male prince of great import, I'd much rather take the concept in a direction different than what basically amounts to gender swapping.  Instead, I want to play as a young Ganondorf.  It would be easy to cram his quest for the tri-force of power onto the larger chronology by setting the game before Wind Waker.  Plus, the notion of this ambitious desert nomad wandering bandit infested dunes and plundering ancient tombs has a certain appeal to me.

The last suggestion might sound like a stretch since Nintendo isn't the kind of company that supports malicious gameplay...or are they?  Don't forget about Wario.  If he can get his own collection of games I don't see why Ganondorf can't get at least one storied adventure.

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