Editorial: Game Characters – Aging Well or Not at All?

By John Keefer

I’ve been playing games for almost 30 years. In that time, I’ve played a ton of games with iconic game characters. Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older, my reflexes have slipped a bit and my endurance isn’t what it once was so those characters – heroes all – have succumbed more often because of my lessened dexterity.

And as I come face-to-face with more grey hairs in the mirror, I realize that these characters I have grown up with haven’t aged. Granted, the likes of Mario, Sonic and Mega Man aren’t really designed to age. They will forever be leaping, jumping, running and collecting, but what about the rest?

Samus Aran started collecting bounties in 1986. I’m sure her power armor can hide a multitude of sins, physically speaking, but sooner or later the toll of age should be showing even with the armor. The Master Chief is young by comparison, but he’s been fighting the Covenant since 2001. How long until his genetic engineering breaks down and he’s a split second or two slow in dodging a lumbering Elite?

And don’t get me started on Lara Croft. She raided her first tomb in 1996. I guess all those treasures can afford a lot of Botox, implants and spider vein treatments.

Gordon Freeman, who survived the Black Mesa incident back in 1998, gets a pass because he was in stasis all this time. In the words of Church Lady, how convenient.

Only Solid Snake, who first faced off against the Metal Gear in 1987, has aged considerably. His look in Guns of the Patriots surprised many when the game was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show in 2005 and it was explained that his premature aging was caused by a genetic flaw in his cloning process. No matter what you call it, Snake resonated with me last year because, like me, he was getting older, but still able to do some spectacular things.

As the early generations of gamers age, why are there not more heroes that we can identify with? Yeah, many of these icons have had graphical makeovers, but overall the characters stay the same – a constant reminder that we are mortal and I really don’t need that regular kick in the ass.

I’m hoping more developers like Konami won’t be afraid to show an aging hero still up to the challenge.

Now where’s my Geritol? It’s time for my nap.

(Originally published in EGM magazine, 2010)


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