Are Superhero Fantasy Games Immortal?

Every year, there is some new superhero game to play. In 2019, people had Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and even Control, the latest adventure from the Alan Wake creators. DC Universe Online continues to thrive. Marvel’s Spider-Man is turning out to be one of the best-selling and well-reviewed PlayStation 4 games. People still rave about the Arkham line of Batman games. But why? Well, superhero games let us be greater and have control.

Remedy’s Control is one that plays with the idea of super powers. Jesse, the game’s heroine, is essentially an outsider who suddenly has these unknown abilities due to an interaction with a thing called an Object of Power, which gives her the ability to close doors to different dimensions with Polaris. She is a newcomer and random, ordinary person, like us. She suddenly gets to be let in on this huge secret, getting to know about the Federal Bureau of Control and the Altered World Events that can offer entirely unexpected experiences. 

Jesse gives us the chance to go from ordinary to extraordinary. Suddenly, we’re on the inside. A key element of all superhero games is that there is another world we’re unaware of in our daily lives. People who have powers, who are chosen, get to know everything. They get to be part of everything. They can participate in events that change the world. It’s a common thread in any superhero game and ties into something we all want. We all want to be included, to be in control and to have the sort of knowledge and power to influence things around us.

With something like DC Universe Online or Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, there is the concept of having some wide degree of choice over what you can or can’t do. There are so many different superpower possibilities. You have a chance to be a part of a team. There is a genuine opportunity to make this bigger difference and be larger than yourself. We often lack control in our own day-to-day lives. Most of us will never achieve the same degree of notoriety as a celebrity.

But with both of these games, we get that opportunity. We have that chance to be bigger and greater. We can pick the ability we have always dreamed about and have it. We can take on titans. There are no negative repercussions. There is no situation we can’t tackle. We have this self-assuredness and moment where we get to be what we always wanted to be. It is pure wish fulfillment. 

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Even a game like Mortal Kombat 11 plays into that superhero power fantasy. All of the human characters who get caught up in the battle to protect Earthrealm are essentially normal people. They are ordinary cops, criminals, stars and warriors. Yet somehow, they have the ability to shoot energy, defeat other people who are giants with four arms and save not only our own world, but perhaps others. It’s yet another example of a power fantasy where we get to be “it.” You can be faced with evil, something unbearably powerful and godlike, and rise above it.

Superhero games are the very heart of escapism. People crave the ability to feel like they are on the inside, in control, popular, perhaps even loved and capable of dealing with anything. They want to feel special and important. Every superhero game offers this kind of opportunity, be it a conventional one like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 or something more unexpected like Control or Mortal Kombat 11 can take people away and make them feel special.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada

Writing Team
Date: 09/03/2019

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