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Ten Gaming Clichés

hances are, if you play many video games, you’ve noticed a few gameplay elements pop up over and over again. Bad guys have a habit of congregating near barrels—barrels that explode when shot. Mine carts and slippery ice levels were tired platform-gaming staples even back in Sonic’s heyday. If you’re beating up gangs and feel weak, you can expect that trash can to contain a delicious (and invigorating) turkey dinner. During one of our office chats, the subject of games popped up. Imagine that. As the conversation wore on, we started blurting out our favorite game clichés. We took out the obvious picks—hearts as life indicators, weapons in crates, effeminate Final Fantasy protagonists—and were left with a pile of played-out gaming conventions. Here are our favorite 10, in no particular order:

You’ll know you’re there when your character bumps into an old lady and gets an earful of f-bombs. Every other woman is a prostitute in Vulgar Town, every driver a maniac. In-game ads and radio hosts gleefully make “outrageous” boner jokes. If you’re going to go after that coveted mature demographic, you may as well aim below the waist and let the expletives fly. Grown ups dig that kind of stuff.

Hmmm… Which one should you choose? The slow guy does a lot of damage, but it takes forever for him to attack. The pathetically weak speedster sounds like a solid pick, aside from the “pathetically weak” part. There’s always the jack of most trades, though he seems a bit bland. If it’s a fighting game, expect to see the sexy seductress, bestial monster, bizarre fetish model and recent Bruce Lee Academy graduate. Balanced gameplay doesn’t have to seem so derivative, does it?

Wait, what? You should have seen it coming a mile away, young hero. The cape, the evasive conversations—it all makes sense now. The whole time you were working toward your goal of saving the world, the one person you thought you could depend on was actually undermining your efforts every step of the way. If it makes you feel any better, he’ll say all kinds of nice things about you after you defeat him. “You…were like…a…son….” Awww.

Let’s see… You’ve plowed through countless henchmen and killed the boss. Everything’s cool, right? Not so fast, hotshot. That screen-filling, pulsing red glow and distant siren can mean only one thing: It’s time to backtrack through the entire level before the onscreen timer counts down to zero. It’s not going to be easy, either, since the whole place is falling apart! Note to big bosses: Move your operations to a nice bungalow. They’re cheap, and they’re also easy to evacuate.

It doesn’t matter if you’re saving damsels in Ye Olde Englande or dinking around in a post-apocalyptic wasteland—sooner or later, you’re going to have to kill some rats. They could be in an NPCs basement. They could be lurking in a cave. You may even just find them chilling out on the road. Only a few things are certain: They’re usually brown, they are effective disease vectors and they squeak more than a dog toy under a rocking chair. Until developers stops caving in from pressure from kitten-industry lobbyists, rats will remain the only small, furry thing heroes call kill with impunity.

In gaming, even the most mundane activities can become a thrill-a-second killfest. Take elevators, for example. Just when you thought it was safe to go from one floor to another, along comes the bad-guy waterfall. Your unsuspecting hero hops on the giant platform, presses the up button and waits. As the lift slowly creeps along, streams of enemies hop into view from who knows where. Where do they come from? Why don’t they notice that this plan never works? That’s not important. All you need to know is that you’ll reach your stop the moment the last baddie exhales his final breath. Whew.

There’s nothing quite like starting off an adventure with a complete set of high-end gear. Don’t get too used to that sense of power, however, because it’ll be gone before the first level’s over. While it’s fun to see what your character is capable of early on, it certainly is a downer when you go from destroying bosses to getting killed by clams in the span of  a few minutes.

Ok Lyle Swordslasher, so you’ve just been awakened by the sounds of birds chirping but what’s this? You don’t know who or where you are? Uncanny! Would you believe us if we told you that you can cast epic spells and wield a huge sword? Don’t worry though; this happens a lot to other teenagers.

Good job soldier, you’ve just taken down an entire room full of bad guys. Go on through the door to move on. But what’s this? You need the Blue Keycard! Argh! Time to start backtracking through the level. Oh good, you’ve found it, go on through. Wait, it’s just a small room full of more bad guys! And for what, some bullets? You really need the Yellow Keycard! Argh! Maybe if you hit the “use” button on it enough, it will just open. We’ve all tried it.

Apparently when the Cold War ended, so many Soviet mercenaries were out of jobs that video games become the hot place to work. If you’re on a mission that involves shooting, there’s a good chance your enemy has an AK-47 and loves Yakov Smirnov jokes. We’ll see you in the warehouse level, comrade!

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