Cometh the hour, cometh the plumber?
Does heroism come as a result of natural aptitude, or do circumstances play a part too? Its the old nature vs. nurture debate that has raged amongst psychologists for decades. Do certain personalities and lives just happen, or are they also shaped by their environments and opportunities?
For instance, would Churchill have stepped up to greatness had World War 2 not happened? Would Batman even exist if Bruce Wayne had had a perfectly happy and pampered childhood with parents who were resolutely not dead? Its an interesting question. So I started applying it to video games. Just how would life be for some of gamings biggest heroes if the seeds of their adventures had never been planted? Let us explore some alternative possibilities, shall we?
Master Chief, disgruntled grunt
John-117 hated Noble Six. He couldn't put one jolly green finger on exactly why, but that guy got right on his Mjolnir-enhanced nerves. Ever since he'd made it onto the Pillar of Autumn with that AI from Reach, the new guy had grated on him. John certainly couldnt criticise the way he'd turned around that last stand. Few soldiers--few Spartans, even--could have survived that attack, let alone made it off-planet afterwards. But damnit, that guy was irritating.
Why did everyone like him so much? John conceded that his own title of Master Chief sounded silly--a little like 'Captain Boss'--but Six? People treated him like Lord fucking Awesome. Because he'd killed a bunch of Covenant? Chief could do that. He had done that. Okay, not as dramatically as Six, but that's only because he hadn't had the opportunity. Same with the AI escort mission. John could easily pull it off, if they gave him a chance. But they never did. Because Noble Six got all the cool jobs. John never got to do anything. Here they were on this amazing, inexplicable, ring-shaped world, and what was he doing while Six and Cortana were gallivanting around the countryside? Guarding the rations locker. For fuck's sake.
Kratos, hen-pecked husband
Kratos was fuming. Not unusual, of course. He'd never been the same since that disastrous campaign against the barbarians. That one was too close. In fact he'd nearly died. Battered and laid out on the ground, he'd have been crushed by a warrior king's hammer had that gull not dropped its guano in his opponent's eye at that merciful moment, giving the Spartan General time to act. But it had been slim victory. Kratos had survived, yes, but since that day he had never been entirely sure he was living.
Injured too badly to continue his glorious military career, he'd left the army with a past full of honours, but a future filled with boredom. Spending his days at home, half-crippled and getting fat, what had once been a somewhat aggressive but well-balanced marriage--his wife had long been the only match for his single-minded fury--Kratos' forced passivity now put him on the back foot. 'Kratos do this. Kratos do that. Kratos take the kids to school. Kratos I don't care how bad your back is, I've made dinner every other night this week. (And maybe if you lost a bit of weight your spine wouldn't be under so much strain)' By Ares' name, he could kill her sometimes.
Mario, just some plumber
Mario gazed sullenly into the toilet. This was not, he had to admit, the life he had imagined. Yes, he had his own business. And yes, Mario Bros. Plumbing was pretty successful. But hed expected the company to be bigger by now. Maybe it would have been, if Luigi hadnt talked him out of that city council sewer job in the early '80s. Cleaning out that wildlife infestation could have made their name. But no, Luigi was worried that they weren't up to it. He was scared that if something went wrong, their lack of zoological qualifications would have left them uninsured. The coward.
Mario had expected the high life by now. He'd thought he'd be driving fast cars, and taking tropical beach holidays, and maybe having the time to take up a hobby, like painting or golf or tennis. But no. Night after night he just found himself staring up at the stars (he always found himself drawn to them in times of weakness), wondering what might have been. Suddenly, Mario realised, once again, that he'd been wistfully gazing into a stranger's toilet bowl for several minutes. 'Snap out of it', he thought. 'Get back to the job, get the money, go home. There's nothing but pipes, shit, and the odd reptile down there. And you're certainly not going to earn any coin that way'.
Nathan Drake, fruit seller
Nate sighed under the fierce Columbian sun, as he bent down to pick up the oranges, spilled from their bucket by another rambunctious kid playing in the marketplace. Why were they always messing around near his stall? As he stood, of course, he was fully aware that his irritation was about more than spilled produce. It was more the fact that the kid skipping away into the crowd, so full of energy, reminded him of his former self.
He'd been just like that in his younger days, running around, yelping and getting into scrapes. But eventually he'd had to settle down into a sensible job. That's why he'd offered to take over the fruit stall a few years ago. The way he'd been living, the day-to-day opportunism, didn't have a future. Except maybe in jail, and he certainly wasnt going there. Nate thought back to that day in the museum. That crazy scheme he was cooking up. Good job he never went back. It was a quiet life now, not a bad one. He didnt travel much, but that was okay. He'd always had a weird aversion to public transport--planes and trains just freaked him out for some reason. As he leant back against the wall, a waft of cigar smoke prickled his nostrils from somewhere in the crowd. What was it about that smell that he liked so much?
Leon Kennedy, bored beat-cop
Leon had requested a position on the Raccoon City Police Department straight out of the academy. He was young, fresh, maybe a little green, but even at that embryonic stage of his career he had serious and specific ambition. The unsolved killings in the Arklay Mountains had been public knowledge for months, with no visible progress made on the case. And perhaps partly out of naivety, Leon had been sure he could make a difference.
Turns out he couldn't. Turns out that the RCPD doesn't assign fresh-faced rookies to the biggest cases on their books. Turns out that no PD does. The case was quietly dealt with by some spec-ops team the day before Leon arrived, and since then he'd remained a standard beat-cop, unable to shake the label of 'the new guy'. He wasn't sure why. The haircut probably didn't help. No hardened bank robber was going to be intimidated by a SWAT member who looked like Macauley Culkin. It was all very wearying. Maybe it was time for a holiday, Maybe somewhere in Spain. Maybe he'd get a haircut while he was over there, and come back a new man. Yeah, something severe off the top would help
Marcus Fenix, party boy
Despite being born into privilege, Marcus' life after childhood had not been easy. He'd had scuffles at school. He'd rebelled against his parents' wishes for a university education. Hed butted heads repeatedly with his father over his decision to join the military as a grunt rather than an officer. He'd fought long, hard battles and seen far too many friends die. But with the Pendulum Wars over, and Sera was finally nearing peace, hed realised something about his years of struggle. They were a total bloody waste of time. What the hell had he been doing? He was rich! His dad had been right all along. Screw getting shot at for a living. He was going to get drunk. And probably get a degree along the way. Probably.
Fortunately, not much happened after the Pendulum Wars ended. No new threats, no new conflicts. In fact life on Sera became pretty damn peachy. Freed from a forced pre-occupation with violence, the quietly cultured Marcus could unleash his appreciation of the finer things in life. Sera's bizarrely beautiful, entirely intact architecture. Its eclectic wildlife. Science. Culture. Beaches. Sunsets. He might even go on a cruise. He'd always fancied spending a bit of time at sea. It looked great fun, and what was the worst that could happen? He might even invite Dom. Dom appreciates a good sunset. You know, as buddies.
Earthworm Jim, a worm
Crawling along, eating the soil, pooing it out again, eating some more. Crawling along, eating the soil, pooing it out again, eating some more. Crawling along, eating the soil, pooing it out again, eating some more. Crawling along, eating the soil, pooing it out again, eating some more. That was what Jim did. He was an earthworm.
One day, a shockwave rattled through the dirt above him. A great impact, as would have been created had, say, an advanced suit of power armour crashed into the ground. But Jim couldnt consider such possibilities, He was just an earthworm. So he hardly noticed, and instead just carried on pooing the soil out. It was what he did.
So those are the logical (and rather depressing) fates of game heroes who missed their shot at glory. Thoughts? Are you reconsidering the relatively positivity of world-threatening cataclysms and megalomaniac villains? Yeah, sometimes they're for the best, aren't they? And of course, drop any other alternate spins and thoughtful speculations you might have in the comments.
And staying on the subject, why not check out a more visual treatment, in Solid Snake doing mundane, unexciting jobs. And then have a look at What if video game characters were sold in a pet shop?. No real reason, but why the hell not?