"The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?" Hell, yes I am. Start! It might be hard to believe now, surrounded as we are by games that tell their stories with all the humor and lightheartedness of a Zack Snyder movie, but video games have a history of being goofy and unashamedly stupid. And I love it. I love the dumb fun of it all, the absurd logic that guides some of the most beloved creations of this industry.
Take Metal Gear Solid and Halo for example. These are two of my very favorite franchises in all of gaming. But the former is about a clone (or, depending on the game, the clone's "father") with a nanomachine virus in his veins who fights nuclear-equipped robot dinosaurs. The last game alone starred a man with shrapnel sticking out of his head, parasites that understand English, a dog with an eyepatch trained to use a knife with its mouth, a giant robot with a flamethrower robo-phallus, and a woman who breathes through her skin.
Meanwhile, Halo is about cyborg supersoldiers from the future who shoot aliens in the face. Oh, and another type of alien that basically makes space-fungus-zombies. Oh, and another type of alien that were essentially gods. Also, humans used to be super-advanced and space-faring, but the space-gods de-evolved us so we wouldn't be a threat to them. Also also, the space-zombie alien used to be the space-gods that existed before the space-gods, and holy crap, this just keeps going, doesn't it?
Let's be honest with ourselves: all of the above is straight-up dumb. These histories and lore read like something that came out of a highschool creative writing workshop where everyone put one verb or noun into a hat, and wrote a story using all of those words. Don't misunderstand though; I'm not being condescending here. When I say the lore is dumb, those feelings come from a place of love. I genuinely appreciate and applaud the silliness these games get away with.
See, stupid lore takes me back to a time when video games weren't everywhere. I'm glad that more people than ever before are playing games, but mainstream appeal requires a certain amount of watering down of your most outlandish ideas and behaviors. It's why most of that wacky Halo lore I summarized comes not from the games (which have to sell millions of copies to be profitable), but from books and comics (which can only sell thousands and still be considered a success).
As a general rule, the more mainstream you try to be, the less stupid you're allowed to get. And that's really too bad. Stupid lore might be… well, stupid, but it's also unique. It reminds me that I'm playing a game, and that games are unlike anything else. They're stupid, they're special, and they're ours.
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