16-Bit Boy | Baddies
By Michael Sterrett
“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.”
So said Marcus Aurelius back in the day. My grandmother once told me that a change is as good as a rest, which is also true. Yet some changes I welcome more than others.
24 hour licensing laws and degrading hardcore pornography available at the touch of a button are undoubtedly welcome additions to any right-thinking individual’s existence. Unfortunately for me, the significant change of looking into the mirror every morning and seeing what looks like a bloated Shylock ate the young me is most definitely a change for the worse. And I can’t help but feel that the world of gaming has followed suit in one specific area.
To my aged eyes, a healthy majority of modern games seem to have dispensed with the classic end-of-level baddie set up. Instead, they have opted to create richly textured and realised environments that focus primarily upon the game’s protagonist solving a series of challenges or completing convoluted tasks of some description. These sequences are often linked together by wooden and ball-achingly tedious dramatic scenes that bring to mind a particularly shite edition of Hollyoaks – you know, the episodes where one of the identikit foetuses has to deal with an “issue” like going cold turkey from smack or coming to terms with being a gay.
What modern gamers are denied by this adherence to new realism and scope is the inherent bloody satisfaction of dispatching an end-of-level baddie like Bowser or Dr. Robotnik, a feeling I can only imagine is akin to the cathartic endorphin rush one would experience after delivering several short tight punches into comedian Michael McIntyre’s smug, round moon-face.
Take, for example, Mortal Kombat’s quadruple-armed nightmare machine Goro. This walking affront to sanity pummelled the bejaysus out of me like Ray Winstone wielding a snooker ball in a sock for what seemed like an eternity, until one magical night I managed to best him with a crafty combination of outright cowardly avoidance and uppercuts. A feeling of euphoric relief swept over me, a sensation I would experience again many years later as Jeremy Kyle informed me that the DNA results proved I was not the father of little baby Tyler.
Not all great baddies necessarily pop up at the end of a level. In fact, some of my favourites are simply part of the fabric of the games themselves. I have a sneaking admiration for the obese, knife-throwing chef from Medal of Honor: Frontline, plus its host of white-coated Nazi scientists. And to be frank, it is almost a pleasure to have your paper round scuppered by the too-cool-for-school break-dancer from NES classic Paperboy.
Of course, what makes all these pixelated rotters so endearing is the fact that, despite the projected smokescreen of invincibility, they are essentially beatable. No one wants to pour blood, sweat, tears and often in my case spunk over a game that ends with frustrated capitulation to a fictional robot or giant toad. By that virtue, it is often end of level/game bosses that retain a special place within our consciousness, and not the squeaky clean good guys.
If only real-life enemies were as easy to dispel. I, for one, would be quick to hunt down a plethora of PE teachers, school yard tormentors, builders who shout abuse at me from white vans, and the Hollywood executives who have repeatedly turned down the script for my magnum opus ‘Dr. Dog’ – the tale of a brave, formally educated Dachshund that battles against the odds and the straight laced medical establishment to become a highly respected surgeon.
Well, one can only dream. Until that day – Take that M. Bison!