Okay, so I didn’t actually have a chance to play Evil Dead in the past two weeks. Reviews have backed up on me, I haven’t played the game in a while, and I’ve been busy with personal stuff you don’t care about. It happens. But rather than leave you with nothing, I wanted to write up a little something just to kind of let everyone know I hadn’t forgotten about them and I haven’t died.
I warn you now: here there be spoilers. If that bothers you, see you in two weeks. Sorry.
So, from about the point where I began playing video games until about the end of the sixteen-bit era, I can count the amount of games where plot-important characters died in the game, and stayed dead, on two hands. Phantasy Star II (Nei, and your whole party presumably), Phantasy Star IV (Alys), Snatcher (Random Hajile, Benson Cunningham, Harry Benson), Vay (Pottle), Final Fantasy III/VI (Leo, Shadow if you’re impatient), and Warsong (Baldarov) are the ones that come to mind, but I know there are a handful of others, and in a lot of games, even dead characters could be brought back (Chrono), ended up coming back to life in later games (Zero) or pulled the TDH (that didn’t happen) card and lived through the endgame (Max).
I mention this because, in the past five years, I’ve played more games that killed plot-important characters than I played in the first ten, and I’m kind of wondering what the hell happened.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A good plot-important character death can move along a story nicely, and when it’s done right, it can make the bad guys even worse and the good guys even better as characters, but does EVERYONE need to kill a character anymore? Jesus Christ, people, at this point I was more shocked when Persona 4 DIDN’T kill anyone off than I have been when a character died in the past few years. It’s gotten to the point where I learn about a character in a game and I actively just assume they’re going to eat it to avoid getting attached to the character.
Mass Effect did it. House of the Dead Overkill did it. Persona 3 did it TO THE MAIN FUCKING CHARACTER. Gears of War 2 did it. inFamous did it. Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando ReArmed both did it (though, since the dipshits at Grin invented one of the characters just to kill them off in the first place, I wonder if that even counts). Obscure Aftermath did it over and over and over again, and don’t tell me that was a horror game, that’s no excuse. Alone in the Dark subverted this by possessing one of the plot-important main characters with Satan, which is more or less the same thing for the purposes of this article. Dead Space did it. Grand Theft Auto 4 did it. Prey did it. Damnation did it. Digital Devil Saga did it. Shadow Hearts Covenant retroactively did it to the continuity of Shadow Hearts, and lemme tell you, I LOVED booting up the game and finding THAT out. The Darkness did it. Sixteen games in the past five years that I could come up with off the top of my head essentially killed off plot-important characters, and that’s not even including games like Shadow of the Colossus, Fable 2, The World Ends With You and Prince of Persia where the game pulls (or can potentially pull) the TDH card to undo a plot-important character death.
When I’m looking at a game like Prototype, where the main character is a murderous amoral douchebag and the city is infested with freakish and violent infected monstrosities, and I’m saying, “Wow, they managed to avoid killing off anyone important in a game where it would have made perfect sense”Â, when I’ve played at LEAST twenty games in the past five years where the opposite was true? That seems kind of messed up to me.
Now, look, I’m not saying, “don’t kill anyone ever”Â, but can we maybe tone it back a little? Do I have to look up game spoilers for every semi-dramatic game I’m considering purchasing to know if someone’s going to eat it? I’m fine with the occasional character death, but when someone important dies in about a game a month anymore, at what point is the surprise factor ruined? And frankly, I don’t even LIKE this sort of a plot point. Have you ever played a game and said to yourself, “Y’know, that guy really should have died there,”Â and abandoned the game entirely? Because I can assure you, people have had the opposite reaction. I don’t think it’s REALLY necessary for a secondary or tertiary heroic character to eat it in every third game I play, or for a love interest to be introduced and developed only to be offed halfway through the storyline. I mean, I get that you guys want us to hate the big bad of your game, but there needs to come a point where someone says “Hey, y’know, ten other games this year did the exact same thing… people might see this coming,”Â and DO SOMETHING ELSE.
Yes, it’s 2009. Yes, games are more “adult”Â now. That doesn’t mean you have to turn into Warren Ellis and pretend your story is G.I. Joe, alright? Resident Evil has managed to make it through most of the core franchise titles without killing off anyone important, and while that’s wholly unrealistic, VIDEO GAMES are often wholly unrealistic. Not every game needs to be a tear-jerker, not every death needs to mean something, and sometimes the good guys deserve that hard fought, not at all bitter win, because video games are fiction, and for most people, fiction is escapism. Sometimes it’s nice to have a happy ending in a game that doesn’t list Nintendo as the developer. Just a thought.
Anyway. Evil Dead in another two weeks. I promise. See you then.