Yeah, I know I am going to get a lot of flack for writing this, but I think it needs to be said. Clichés are not all that bad. In fact, without clichés, a game would probably be boring and dull. Why do I think this? Well, let’s think about this for a second…
Many games use the exact same clichés every single time a new sequel is released, but instead of decreasing in sales, their sales rise. Why is this? Why is it that we are on Gen VI on Pokemon, and people are still not tired of the genre yet? Each subsequent Pokemon game brings little more to the table outside of maybe a couple new features and slightly enhanced graphics. Right now we are Parading the release of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, which is simply a remake of the previously released Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, with enhanced graphics and slight alterations otherwise. Playing Pokemon Omega Ruby will be almost exactly like playing Majoras Mask 3D or Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, a facelift and little else to go by.
The Legend of Zelda series is hardly different with this approach, each game bringing very little new to the table besides new dungeons and graphics and perhaps a few new skills, same with the older Final Fantasy games, but these game sell more than anything, despite being riddles with clichés and stereotypes. Link finds out he is the chosen one and then goes off to rescue the princess or someone similar from the clutches of some evil bad guy of varying names. Link remains an empty vessel with no voice or personality (not including Skyward Sword, which did indeed portray with with much more of a personality) for the player to control. The world is once again threatened. Etc. If written down it’s be a Young Adult novel like Harry Potter. People might even blast it for over-using various clichés and stereotypes. But these games are what make it to the top of every consoles bestsellers list.
Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and Grand Theft Auto are some of the bestselling games across consoles. And what all of these games have in common is their fluid use of clichés, sometimes even in a satirical manner, to sell games. GTA is using clichés and stereotypes about living as a gang member, for instance. Many highly beloved titles that don’t always make the top selling charts but have a high fan following among gamers are MegaMan, Starfox, Mother, Kirby, Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, The Sims, all of which rely heavily on certain clichés and stereotypes.
GameTheory made a video with a similar topic in March of 2014. From looking at sales records and what consumers buy, he concluded that consumers beg for innovation, but buy videogames which are not innovative at all. Such as buying Mario games which stick to the 2D platformer style, instead of innovating to games that incorperate new innovative ways of paying, like Mario Galaxy. Consumers seem to rather enjoy the same old clichéd tropes and stereotypes.
Now that is not to say that adding them on purpose will automatically make a game good. In fact, too many clichés is generally a bad thing for a videogame, as it makes the game look too childish. But clichés in and of themselves are not something we should try to abolish in videogames. Yeah, some clichés are widely overused. But they will continue to be so long as we continue to buy the games that use them. Most gamers do not seem to mind these clichés as much, and I personally think even the most annoying clichés work as a challenge in the game that I must overcome, my own personal annoyances.
I personally think the issue is not with the cliché, but the way the cliché is enacted, and portrayed. Which is why one cliché can seem likable on one game, but annoying on another. Like the Escort Quest cliché that most people hate. In Zelda A Link Between Worlds, there is an escort quest that you must protect the Thief Girl from various monsters while trying to get her to safety. That wasn’t that bad, and in fact, I have heard no moaning from players over this part. But once an escort quest goes from possibly annoying to downright irritating, like in the case of Ashley Graham from resident Evil, then a cliché starts to irritate people. But remember, The Last Of Us is basically one long escort quest, and it comes at Number 2 in the top purchased PS3 games.
The thing is, we should not bemoan clichés on their own, we need to properly input them into the story so that it flows with the game without being a hinderence to the players perception of how fun the game is. I love seeing many clichés in games, so long as they don’t make the game too frustrating or unplayable. What is the one cliché that gets on your nerves the most?