Our theme for the month of March is “monsters.”
I play video games every day, whether a couple hours on the Xbox or a couple minutes on my phone. I read articles about gaming. I browse gaming subreddits. I think about games in the shower. They’re a fairly major part of my life. And so, inspired by Annaka’s recent piece and in no particular order, nine of the worst villains, enemies, monsters, and ne’er-do-wells in some of my favorite games:
Yikes. If you think Jynx looks a whole lot like a woman in blackface, you’re not alone! Nintendo changed it to be purple after huge backlash, which, uh, is I guess better? Either way, looking at it makes me deeply uncomfortable. More Nigel-Thornberry-looking Pokémon, please.
Mass Effect: The Citadel Council
What could go wrong when hundreds of species spread across vast swaths of the galaxy are ruled by a single Council of three (later four) beings with wildly differing beliefs and motivations? Well, let’s just say that in Mass Effect, inaction via gridlock despite overwhelming evidence of an imminent catastrophe turns out to not be a great strategy—a message that I’m certain has absolutely no relevance for today’s political institutions!
Breath of the Wild: Weapon Durability
Breath of the Wild is an incredible game. It’s easily among the best games of the last decade. It just feels good to roam Hyrule, uncovering shrines and hang-gliding off cliffs, always finding something new. The game also gives you powerful swords and bows and a variety of other weapons that are satisfying to fight monsters with—until they break. I’m sorry, a legendary club named Boulder Breaker just falls apart from time to time? Hyrule needs itself a new crop of blacksmiths, because a sword that shatters after killing six bokoblins isn’t forged so much as, presumably, a loose collection of metal fragments held together by spit and a prayer.
Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS) is a sarcastic, cruel AI who oversees ever-increasingly creative ways to test and taunt you, her human guinea pig. She eventually ends up inside a potato. She is my muse.
Overwatch: Everyone But Me
Don’t let my average-at-best stats and inability to aim straight confuse you: I am extremely good at Overwatch, and any game I lose is the fault of my teammates or possibly a bad internet connection.
The Third Age: Writers
The premise of the 2002 game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is that there is a group of adventurers who are not Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, but are nonetheless a human ranger, elf, and dwarf (plus another human from Gondor who is not Boromir), who follow the Fellowship on their journey to destroy the Ring. They are somehow in regular contact with Gandalf, including helping him fight the Balrog (??), and show up at most major battles of the series. They end their quest by repeatedly stabbing Sauron in his big eye (????) until Frodo, Sam, and Gollum destroy the Ring. This game is not good. I played it a lot.
Skyrim: Everyone in Charge
Okay yes, Skyrim has all sorts of monsters like dragons and zombies and zombie dragons and the sacred Riverwood chicken. But hear me out. Pretty much as soon as you start the game you’re asked to choose between supporting the Imperial government or the Stormcloak uprising. “Sure,” you think, “I’ll talk to the respective leaders and make an informed decision.” Talk to Jarl Balgruuf? Super racist. Ulfric Stormcloak? Super racist and a nationalist. The elven council? Secretly fomenting war between the two racists. Nothing for it but to shout them all into Oblivion.
Halo: UN Space Command
The main character of the Halo series is named Master Chief. His real name is John, but he goes by Master Chief because it’s cooler. John is a Spartan. Spartans are genetically-enhanced super soldiers originally created by Earth’s military for the purpose of putting down colonial rebellions on other planets. Turns out Master Chief’s just a tall redcoat with bigger guns.
Age of Empires II: The Taunt-Reading Guy
There is quite simply nothing more devastating than watching your villagers be slaughtered to the incessant chorus of “All hail! King of the losers!”