The Danger Superiority Narratives in Games

One of the greatest draws of a game is that, in nearly every single one of them, the player takes on the role of a hero. Someone who is capable of feats that no one else around them is able to achieve. They are exceptional and thereby, you the player, are exceptional as well. No one else can save the world, no one else is going to try and save the world.

For instance, in almost every installment of the Legend of Zelda, you can piss away what amounts to, probably, months and years exploring the world in-game, while a great evil looms over your head. Though everyone keeps telling you, you must hurry, you actually don't.  You know Ganon isn't about to destroy Hyrule and no one is going to defeat Ganon before you. The glory has been reserved for you. Once I become the Elite Four Champion in Pokemon, in all but one installment, no one is going to challenge my title. That's a bit absurd, right? That only one person in the entire game universe would be capable, or even willing, to try to achieve greatness But hey, a game is a fantasy and that's what a fantasy is designed to do, make the one fantasizing feel important. I don't even really think that's a problematic idea on its own. It's not so bad to feel important every once in a while, especially in a world that tells us, so often that we are not as important as we feel we are. but there are dangers in fantasies of exceptionalism.  And to see them you have to identify a few things. For one thing, who is exceptional. and for another who around them is made inferior by way of their being exceptional? Well, let's get into it.

The first thing is, there is a truly staggering proportion of games which have a boy or man as protagonist of the story to games that have a woman as the protagonist of the story. So usually men are being raised up as exceptional, secondly these are usually men with light completions. Now insert the whole range of genders, and races of people who exist in the world. It's troubling to set up a universe which constantly privileges white men as  the saviors when they are surrounded by other capable people, who shrink in order to leave room for the boy protagonist. Take for instance the incredibly popular, Farcry 3 in which, you play as a boy so white his name is literally, Jason Brody. Who comes as a tourist who comes to an island populated by indigenous warriors who are under attack from vicious pirates. HHis friends are kidnapped, some other shit happens and then the islanders realize he is the chosen one ordained to save the island. The indigenous people give him their magical warrior powers and proceed to teach him how to fight. It is one hell of a white savior narrative. The brown people of the island who have literally been fighting since they were young willingly give their fates over to a white boy outsider. No. Conceivable? Sure, likely?

And the suggestion is a bit absurd, right? And yet, it's common place in video games for you, an outsider to roll into the town and save the whole population from a threat they've been dealing with for a long time.  Usually even in a place where there are capable warriors, the outsider is the one. You see it in Mass Effect as Shepard hops from planet to planet solving problems the residents were overwhelmed by, with a wave of Shepard's magic wand.

Even in Breath of the Wild, in a game where we are told the warriors of the various races of Hyrule were incredibly powerful they were defeated by enemies that Link doesn't even really have to bat an eye at to slay. Those warriors are unessential. You don't even have to utilize their powers to defeat Calamity Ganon if you don't want to. And I've only named a couple of games where the protagonist flies solo. The dynamics created when your immature boy protagonist is surrounded by other party members is even more problematic. Because though there are at least two people in the party, the boy is given the lead 

For all of my love of the Persona games it's really pretty odd how your character is picked to be a leader of whatever Scooby crew is being cobbled together and it says everything I'm about to lay out in just a couple lines of dialogue usually. One of the side characters says, "Hey, why don't you be the leader? Because you don't say much and I've only known you for a couple of weeks but I just have a really great feeling about you and want to be lead by you." That bit of dialogue really gets at the rub of this entire conversation. In reality it takes a lot to be a leader. It takes a ton to be considered an exceptional leader but, typically, in video games you play as someone inexperienced. They don't necessarily have the experience or the right to be the leader and yet everyone just believes in his potential right off the bat. There is the danger. 

This returning trope of the chosen one when left without comment builds towards a false feeling of superiority. It reinforces the societal narrative that some boys are just special and there potential trumps the proven skills of another person or even that just by nature of existing a boy can just suddenly be exceptional. While again, it isn't a bad thing on it's own, this controlling narrative of superiority exists primarily for men and white men at that, and their superiority is measured against women and people of color even when it is stated that those people surrounding the protagonist are just as, if not stronger than he is.

There has to be some diversification of the chosen ones.