I just returned from spending the weekend at my older brother Alex’s place. My younger brother Adam was also in town from Montreal, and it was good to have a long weekend with all three of us together. One thing I did a lot of this weekend was play Batman: Arkham City with Adam. I had tried some of the challenge stages a few weeks back but this time around I started a file and began the story-line. If you don’t know, this is the only game I have had any real urge to play in the last while. It came out while I was travelling and such was my anticipation to see/play the game that I watched a 25-part walkthrough of it on youtube while staying at my cousin’s place in Italy. A couple weeks after that I dreamed about the game while sleeping/freezing near a highway on a cold November night in Turkey (see “Turkey by Thumb,” 16 November 2011). Basically, I had a raging boner for this game, and it didn’t disappoint. You can basically do whatever Batman does. And the sheer variety of moves allows you to be very inventive and deal with problems like Batman would.
But anyhow, this isn’t a review of the game. As the title suggests I learned a few things, both from the game and from the conversations me and Adam had while playing the game. Allow me to share:
Revenge is Not Sweet
A substantial portion of the game revolves around Batman infiltrating the Gotham Museum to free Mr. Freeze from the Penguin, as Mr. Freeze is the only person who can concoct a remedy for the sickness which The Joker afflicted Batman with. As you make your way through this part of the game, the Penguin is there at every step with his Guy-Ritchie-gangster-movie voice taunting you, killing cops in front of you…
As the coup de grace, he forces you to fight Solomon Grundy, a fucking Superman villain, before submitting to Batman and a well-deserved slap-fucking.
Perpetuating Cycles of Violence
The in-game combat system is both easy to learn and challenging to master, and the animations for the fight scenes are equal parts brutal and beautiful.
However as I dealt out punishment to the denizens of Arkham City (an area of Gotham City quarantined for the purposes of incarcerating the inmates of Blackgate Prison and the now-defunct Arkham Asylum) I began to wonder if the beat-downs I was doling out were really what these ne’er-do’wells needed most. I don’t doubt for a second that knocking them unconscious is the most expedient way to deal with them in the context of a crisis, but Batman’s 1-2 special of fisticuffs & incarceration seems to be a throwback to earlier times when (abnormal) psychology wasn’t understood as well as it is now.
For example, while prowling the rooftops you can overhear the conversations between groups of thugs. One particular conversation stuck in my mind as very telling of the motivations of violent criminals. One thug alludes to how his mother got up to no good at her prom. The other thugs, thinking he is alluding fuck-making, start to bust his balls about hooking up with his mom. When he sees the misunderstanding, he explains that his mother actually killed a bunch of people at her prom and has in fact gone on subsequent prom-night massacres, including the thug’s own prom. Given this type of upbringing, do we then really wonder why this thug is here in Arkham City, doing dirt for one of the various super-villains and generally waiting to get his ass handed to him by the Bat? I don’t.
Now I’m not sure if in his capacity as Bruce Wayne, Batman subsidizes any kind of programs to rehabilitate criminals and alleviate poverty (the Nolan films allude to the Wayne family nearly bankrupting themselves to better Gotham), but from the very day he decided to don the cape and cowl, his whole M.O. has been striking fear into the hearts of “evil-doers” and punishing them. Surely, someone as intelligent as Batman (often touted as “the World’s Greatest Detective”) would realize that he isn’t stopping crime by beating the fuck out of people and turning them over to the authorities. The criminals just get more inventive and brutal for the next cycle of escape-crime spree-capture.
Ironically, Batman’s one cardinal rule, to never kill, would, if broken actually see a reduction in crime. It’s weird to see his progressive stance on killing juxtaposed against his barbaric beat ’em up and let ’em rot in jail attitude. However, this is not intended to be an essay on Batman’s efficacy and complexity, just what I learned from the game. And what I learned in this instance is that as much fun as punching, kicking and bataranging (sic.) bad guys is, I don’t see it as a solution to crime.
Inexplicable British Accents are VERY Hit or Miss
While playing the game we lauded how they had used the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (Batman and the Joker respectively), as these two had done the voices in Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. Then we must have got to talking about other classic Warner Bros. cartoons because Animaniacs came up.