I’m making a list of games with The Empire as an antagonist.
So far, this is what I’ve got:
- Secret of Mana
- Final Fantasy VI
- Anything and Everything Star Wars
Some list, huh?
Of course, there are also plenty of games that utilize the same sort of singular authority figure as a villain; Fallout and Half Life come to mind.
I cringe every time I encounter yet another game (or book, or movie) that uses The Empire as an adversary. In fact, some small part of me dies, which means I am now less than half the man I used to be.
So now of course I’m going to defend the practice.
Game content is limited. And while modern games don’t have the memory limitations of the older generation, they are still limited by the attention span of the player (among other things). Each second spent on dialogue is a second not spent on shooting things, more or less. Therefore, games can only take so much time to explain their setting, at least within the game itself.
The simple solution is to rely on a concept most players are already familiar with: an evil empire, a totalitarian state, a shadowy syndicate, and so forth. I’m sure some of you are clamoring for me to mention tropes. Hmm. Not sure that wikipedia article is all that useful. To me, a trope is essentially a story telling device that relies on using concepts the audience are already familiar with in order to avoid “needless” detail.
It’s almost a license for laziness. Almost. At their highest level, tropes tap into our shared universal consciousness to convey an idea with minimal effort.
I doubt anyone has ever reached that highest level.
Of course, once a trope becomes overused, it transforms into a cliche. At this point, I think it’s more than fair to consider The Empire as simply a cliche.
I’m going to leave my last question for another time: Should game designers ever rely on tropes to progress the story?
PS: I’ve been linking to wikipedia for the most part… but wikipedia sucks. I may start being less lazy with my links. Only time will tell.