For one reason or another, there are a few familiar situations that crop up in video games again and again. Be it beyond us to question a successful formula, particularly when you consider the non-exhaustive long list of ideas that have been churned out throughout generations of consoles – ideas that have evolved from ‘navigate this ambiguously naked yellow blob through this maze’ to ‘make devastating, life-changing decisions that will shape the world and the people before you.’
The infamous pitfall of the trope is something that all entertainment mediums suffer from. Movie tropes include estranged family members and enormous explosions. Television tropes include identical twins and catchphrases. Musical tropes include basically any song by Kesha.
Some of those lurking in gaming could certainly stand to be shelved for a little while, however, because they’re about as fresh as that expired milk lurking in the fridge that you keep pushing for just “one more day.” Spoilers lie ahead! Including BioShock, Bloodborne, Prey and the shocking ending to Super Mario Bros 2. It’s hard to be coy when you’re talking about narratives, after all.
It was all a dream
You’ve just spent the last few hours guiding the protagonist to glory. You’ve overcome obstacles, bested enemies who stood in your way, always striving for victory. You deal the final, satisfying blow to the final boss, who erupts in a flurry of colorful flashes. The screen turns white, and…
Cue shot of the main character in bed. Subcon didn’t exist, Gehrman didn’t actually just decapitate you, and your surly next-door neighbor didn’t really try to kidnap your dog. So please don’t sock him one in the eye, it’ll make the next social gathering really awkward.
This is particularly displeasing in games with heavy morality decisions, and as a result, the twist at the end of Prey left a bit of a foul taste in a lot of players’ mouths. After the game is over and the credits have rolled, you wake up in a laboratory, where your presumed brother, Alex, reveals that you were, in fact, a Typhon test experiment using Morgan Yu’s memories. Your final choice is whether to form an alliance and take Alex’s hand, or lay waste to the entire room. As loathe as we are to adhere to unfair stereotypes of alien violence, he probably deserves to die for wasting your precious time.