Why We’re Obsessed With Comic Book Video Games: A Theory

A few days ago, I was reading an article by one of our writers, Morgan Hampton, called “Give Us More Open-World Superhero Games, You Cowards!” It’s good. You should give it a read. It goes in-depth on the various reasons why superheroes and open-world video games mesh together so well. And after reading it over, I noticed something. As nerds, we have a thing for comic books and video games coming together. It got me thinking – why are we so obsessed with comic book video games? I have a theory.

Trust Me, We’re Obsessed

I think obsessed is the right word. There is a trend I’ve noticed when it comes to superhero games and it’s how much attention they draw. If DC and Warner Bros announced a Flash or Green Lantern game tomorrow, guarantee the internet would lose its collective mind. What if Marvel teamed with Bioware for an X-Men action-RPG? Best believe that shit is all we are talking about for the rest of the week. Don’t even get me started on when WB Montreal finally decides to stop teasing the next Batman game and just announces the damn thing already.

In the past, we’ve combed over every inch of any comic-book related video game. How does it play? What do the characters look like? Any Easter eggs, classic costumes, hidden characters or cameos? There is always so much to unpack. That’s usually how it goes with any type of media that is an adaptation of something else. However, with comic books and video games, it has always felt like it’s been taken to the next level. We over-analyze every last bit to see how faithful to the source material it is or whether or not something looks like it might do our favorite characters justice.

Plate Size Matters

Just look at the new Avengers game dropping later this year. Square Enix teased this game for years before making the final reveal. When the official trailer dropped early last year, it teased us with maybe 20 seconds, at best, of actual gameplay footage and more than two minutes of cutscenes and story. While it wasn’t much to go on at the time, that didn’t stop fans from obsessing over every last frame of that teaser from Cap’s Walmartesque riot gear to the dinner plates on Thor’s chest.

As of right now, that first trailer sits at 18 million views on YouTube. People looking over and over several 3-5 second clips just to get an idea of how this game plays. Even the trailers that would come out months later, showing more of the gameplay would be put under a microscope and talked about for days. Fans are divided between those unimpressed with the gameplay shown so far and others who are excited by the chance to play as their favorite Avengers and the game’s all-star voice cast. There’s something about superheroes that just pulls us in and gets us talking.

Modern Games Are Doing the Damn Thing

At first, I thought to myself “Well maybe we’re just looking at superhero games so closely because video games themselves have gotten better.” You know what, that’s true. Games are now more cinematic, their mechanics and gameplay have become more dynamic and their stories feature some of the best writing to come out of any medium. With that thought, the quality of superhero games has risen as well.

The next examples are obvious but you only have to look at the last decade of games to see how far we’ve come:

  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
  • Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • The Darkness II
  • The Walking Dead Telltale Series
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man

All great games. The Arkham and Walking Dead series are even considered to be some of the best games of all time. Hell, based on this list, I could even write an article on why comic books make the best video games. So, in this day and age, it’s pretty understandable to get excited about the prospect of any superhero, comic character or story getting a video game.

More and more developers and game designers are fans of comic books and treat the source material with care, using comics as a guideline of sorts. Talented studios are putting the work into things like making sure Spider-Man’s swing feels right or that Batman feels like the ultimate predator when taking down a room full of armed goons. There is definitely a lot more faith and excitement when game makers who know what they are doing tackle some of our favorite characters and their world.

Classic Theory Proves We’ve Always Been This Crazy

I want to say wholeheartedly that modern video games are the reason for our obsession but history says otherwise – we’ve always been obsessed. Now, this argument is solely based on my own personal experience but I’m pretty sure it mirrors most of your own. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t excited about a game with superheroes running around in them.

Looking at my collection of video games on the Sega Genesis alone, I had Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine: Adamantium Rage (that shit was creepy by the way), Hulk, Superman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and even Batman Forever. The funny part is that I remember playing these games more than any of my other Genesis games. Now, some of these games are classics, but others were just pure ass.

If You Code It, They Will Play

I’ve played the Superman game on the Genesis so many times that I’ve lost count, and not because it was any good. That shit was crappy. Bruh, you were literally playing as Superman on a rooftop WHO COULD ONLY FLY IN CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THE GAME. I could chalk this up to being an 8-9-year-old kid but that’s not exactly the case. I knew it was bad then but I kept going back to it over and over again. Keep in mind that just about 90 percent of all Genesis games didn’t have a save function. So I had to power that bonkers opening level over and over again (I was too lazy to write down save codes).

For me at least, there has always been a draw to play any superhero/comic book game, no matter how bad they would potentially be. When thinking about it, most games back then, from the late ’90s to the early ’00s, were mostly tie-ins. Expectations weren’t exactly high for quality but the chance to play as Batman Beyond or, say, Spawn was an opportunity I could not pass up.

That’s not to say the classic era of comic book video games were bad. In fact, some of those Genesis games I mentioned are classics. Not to mention games like Spider-Man 2, X-Men Legends, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and more have paved the way for great comic book video games. In fact, a lot of these games, whether good or bad, left an impression on our minds that I believe influenced our desire to see better made comic book games.

Power Fantasy

I left this theory for last because it’s pretty obvious. I mean, who doesn’t want to embody their favorite characters? As a medium, personally, I find video games to produce the most engaging type of content. Sure, movies bring characters to life and animation is the most visually impressive. However, video games are an interactive medium, allowing players to take full control.

It’s more than just playing pretend like when you were a kid. It’s the closest we will get to the experience of being our favorite heroes or fictional characters and living their complex and compelling lives. There’s nothing quite like grabbing a controller and being able to swing anywhere you want in NYC as Spider-Man or stepping into the world of Fables in The Wolf Among Us and influencing the lives of these dark and modern fairy tales.

Video games force players to participate if they want anything to happen. As far as I’m concerned, that kind of interactivity can immerse you more than anything else. It’s captivating and you are your favorite character. So, for this reason, I get why we are so obsessed. Why we overanalyze the smallest details like how Iron-Man flys or the combat in Batman games. Players don’t want anything getting in the way of that experience. That feeling of being drawn into a game is everything.

Sure, we can get a bit overzealous (seriously, some of y’all need to chill) but most of it comes from a love and respect for our favorite characters and worlds. Those high expectations for really good comic book video games are not going away any time soon. There is also an excitement to playing in these fantastic worlds and getting a type of experience we won’t get anywhere else. Now, with that said, if any developer is ever brave enough to make a Saga video game, just know that I might be in your mentions.

Did I miss anything? Why do you feel we’re obsessed with comic book video games? Sound off in the comments or let us know on social.

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  • Chris Aiken

    Staff Writer

    Chris Aiken. Writer. Nerd. Gamer. I often write about games & comic books (or at least try to). What can I say, I love this.

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