FGC #006 Batman: Arkham City

Shway viewThere are many things that I want to do, but know will never happen, and one of those things is be cryogenically frozen.

Hey, you’re gonna dream, dream big.

I am, and have always been, someone who believes the future is only getting better. I don’t believe the apocalypse is just around the corner, and I don’t believe we are experiencing some low point in human history due to the propagation of violence, low morals, and Taco Bell. I am about thirty years old, and I look at what the world was at my childhood, and where we are now, and I am blown away by the simple fact that myself, my children, and my children’s children will never have to waste their entire lives trying to remember who played the wife in Beetlejuice (Geena Davis). I would love nothing more than a guaranteed, one way ticket to the future, if only to see where this whole humanity thing is going, and experience the inevitable leaps in technology and information and maybe jetpacks.

And while the “technology” of the future (would someone from the early 1900’s even identify social media as “technology”?) would be more than worth the price of admission, I would be genuinely fascinated by what culture from today has survived or even thrived in the hearts and minds of future generations. I just recently discovered that the novel The Giver was published in 1993. I read The Giver in, I believe, 1995 or 1996 or thereabouts, as part of the grade school curriculum, and assumed, at the time, that it was an ancient tome on par with most of our reading assignments, some of which were written well before this century. Well, that century, at least. It is intriguing as an adult to learn that something you assumed to be classical literature as a child was, in fact, contemporary, but has now become classical literature. I would love to see what comes in the future, whether Harry Potter or (God help us all) Twilight grows to be promoted to the same “whaddya mean we have to read this now” echelon as Shakespeare and Mark Twain.

I got people to saveThen we have the sick, sad world of pop culture, and what will survive for generations, seemingly in spite of itself. Detective Comics #27, featuring the Batman, was published in May of 1939. At the time, no one, not even creators Bill Finger and Roger Meyers, could have predicted Batman would still be a cultural juggernaut seventy-six or so years later. Despite my letter writing campaign, Batman is not taught at schools or universities, he is not the popular mascot for a local sports team, nor is he ever in a tv show that lasts for more than four seasons. Batman perseveres, for some peculiar reason, despite being just a dude in a Halloween costume in the funny papers.

Everything about Batman is depressing. From the macro, like the fact that kid Batman can’t even go to the movies without acquiring a lifetime bout of PTSD, to the micro, like how even just a year into his one man battle against crime, Bruce Wayne is just riddled with scars and injuries that will guarantee a very cranky retirement (sorry Terry!). Even peripheral Batman characters are left without a bottle of bat-prozak: Batman has a virtual army of fellow orphans at his disposal, and Barbara Gordon, either as Batgirl, Oracle, or Battumblr, lives in an eternal state of lying to her doting father.

And Sad Man lives in Sad Town. Clowns are supposed to make people happy, not make people fleshless. Penguins are adorable flightless birds, not notorious gangsters. And crocodiles… okay, I guess crocodiles in the sewers are always bad for property values. Depending on what continuity we’re subscribing to this week, the entire city of Gotham was founded around the prison of an evil warlock that radiated bad vibes, and that barely even cracks the top 20 of horrible crap to befall Gotham City before it was even founded.

Don’t even get me started on The Clench.

All this adds up to a hero that is the darkest pile of dark in the darkest pit of darkness that, somehow, perseveres to the modern day.

Remember when he used to hench for Pharoah Man?Batman: Arkham City is the apex of that darkness. This is the story of Batman, Dark Knight, venturing into Arkham City. What’s Arkham City, you ask? Well, Gotham City had such a criminal problem, that it decided to wall off an entire section of the city, a section including homes, highrises, a historical district, and an entire museum, and just give it over to the criminal element, and call it a jail. This idea was contributed by little Sally Stemberger, age 6, who invented the idea while playing with one of her father’s snowglobes. She was asked for further details about how this would work, but, unfortunately, she had already moved on to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by that point, so her contributions to the project were minimal.

We’ve got Batman in Criminal Freak City trying to save the world in the middle of a snow storm during an eternal night. Folks, this is using your onyx crayon on a piece of taupe construction paper.

But it’s here, smack dab in the heart of darkness, that you realize exactly why Batman has persisted all these years. Despite theoretically being the most depressing concept for a depressing ongoing story in the most depressing setting against horridly depressing villains, the reason Batman has captured the hearts and minds of generations shines through.

The strange secret of Bruce Wayne?

About ten minutes into Batman: Arkham City, you’re going to shout, and that shout will sound like this: “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

It’s fun to be Batman. No one wants to be an orphan. No one wants to fight an unending war against a concept that has existed, according to nearly every major religion, since the dawn of humanity. No one wants to actually wade through a sewer to fight a murder clown. But I can tell you what everyone does want, and that’s a grappling hook that denies any and all laws of physics and launches you into the air whereupon you release your crazy batcape and gently glide to another rooftop, or, if you spy criminals, slam down to the ground like an avenging, one-man earthquake.
Batman Arkham City is wall-to-wall violence, misogyny, and depression (There’s a point in the game where it’s strongly implied that Batman beats a pregnant woman into submission where it’s all three at once!), but that’s not what we (want to) remember about the experience. Ask your average gamer about Batman: AC, and they’ll describe gliding over the city, sliding down from gargoyles to surprise brutes, or just playing with all of Batman’s magnificent toys in crazy combinations until Thug #4,621 explodes just from Batcontact.

And you better believe that’s what keeps Batman eternal. In the end, it’s never about the rogues gallery, or the pathos, or whatever the hell Gotham starring Ben McKenzie is about, it’s about that simple joy of freedom, that while Batman is a man that is trapped by his compulsions, he lives his life as a man who isn’t even bound by gravity. Batman’s villains have a body count approaching the population of French Guiana, but Bats is never going to be among that number, because, despite chasing a completely deadly hobby every night, he just dances through bullets like you or I survive a light rain. Batman is freedom incarnate, and that’s going to appeal to anyone who happens to be a human being, no matter the epoch.

This makes zero senseSo if I ever get that voucher to the future, when I wake up in another five hundred years, I have no doubt there’ll be an officially licensed ComDisney-Mart Batman comic waiting for me in Dr. Belthasar’s waiting room. And, as the children of the future hook their holovids into my datastream, I’ll tell them all of the time I was The Batman, and flew through Arkham City on wings I controlled with the press of a button.

I won’t mention the bits about Hugo Strange, though. That never went anywhere.

FGC #6 Batman Arkham City

  • System: PS3 for me, Xbox 360 for you? Maybe PC if you’re some kind of weirdo
  • Number of Players: 1. 2+ if you count the inevitable audience this game accrues.
  • Longest Combo Chain: Does the game log this anywhere? I can see I got that 50+ combo trophy, and I remember being pretty proud of that.
  • Get all those Riddler Trophies? I didn’t get all of them, but I got enough to punch that dork straight in his dorky face. Punchin’ knowitalls: another Batman staple.
  • Did You Know? This should be the last time we ever hear Batman The Animated Series’ Mark Hamill’s The Joker. Mr. Hamill has claimed this is was his last stint as the character, and that should remain accurate until a mob of nerds take over the Hamill Compound and force the poor guy to record audio for appalling fanfic scripts. If you would like to participate in this event, please contact Debbie at her usual email address.
  • Would I Play Again? This is one of those weird “being an adult sucks” things. I absolutely would love to play this game again, but I would feel like I’m re-wasting the hours I poured into the game in the first place, just to experience a plot that I know is only going to drive me further insane, and rediscover/solve riddles that I know I already solved once. If only there were a way to experience the same joy of playing the game, but with a new plot and environment to explore. And maybe I can drive the Batmobile, too? Well, a man can dream.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Rygar for the NES. Set shields to deadly! Please look forward to it!

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