I have a confession to make. Despite my gender-neutral childhood with Polly Pockets and Tonka trucks, I never got invested in superheroes growing up. Maybe it was my aversion to fantasy. Outside of Harry Potter, the same old fairy tales I heard again and again, and medieval movies (ahem, Princess Bride), my favorite pieces of fiction were all based in reality. Instead my full-blown mania was caused by what I sub the summer of Batman.
Three summers ago, I was broke. The mother of the kids I nannyed for cut my hours, and I was paying bills with barely any left over to live off of, only a step above scraping by. With unexpected free time, I was so bored I replayed Final Fantasy XIII and played all of XIII-2. If you know anything about me, I was pretty desperate. I needed something new to throw myself into. Something all-consuming.
I picked up the Game of the Year editions of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City for PS3 during a crazy summer blowout! I had two straight weeks where I had once again been told the kids were at their dad’s and not my responsibility. After looking online, I mainly bought it for the combat system and stealth sections. Unexpectedly, I fell in love.
Before this game, the only encounter with Batman I had ever had was the Adam West series. I remember watching it as a kid during the summer–incredibly appropriate considering its level of camp–but I never got caught up in the character; I just thought it was funny. When The Dark Knight came out back in 2008, Many people told me I had to see it, oh my goodness, it will change your life, you won’t believe it, I was immediately turned off. For me, it was less of a conscious effort not to show an interest in anything popular but instead a problem with authority. No one had a good reason for me to watch it besides saying it was a good movie or life-changing. So now I was, left at nineteen, with a clean Batty slate.
I still remember starting the first game vividly. I came home from the store, popped it into my PS3. It was late afternoon at this point, and the house was already getting dark. My boyfriend was hesitant to turn lights on until you were likely to break a leg in the darkness. The lightning off the title screen lit up the entire loft area, startling me. In no way was I prepared for atmosphere, but on the initial walk through Arkham Asylum, I learned that style was a strong (Bat)suit.
But as a newbie, I had so many questions.
- I love that he doesn’t kill people, but he is very okay with concussions and possible brain hemorrhages in this game. As someone whose had ten or so brain surgeries, I can’t get my head around that. If I was a bad guy who probably doesn’t get medical insurance from the Joker, I might just want to die.
- Can he anonymously lend some of his gadgets and armor to the military? Bullets might take him down faster, but he sure deals with them a lot better than a cop in your normal bulletproof vest. Also, imagine everyone with grappling hooks. Everyone.
- Does Gotham City not have capital punishment? Some of the people housed in the asylum seem the type to have earned the death penalty at some point.
- Explosives. Murder bad. But…explosives.
- Gotham should look into outsourcing their city employees if the rich man who never worked a day in his life is the only who can properly enforce the law. Really, are there any competent workers in town?
Despite so many conflicting logical fallacies in the lore–some of which are probably answered if you look deeper than these games (really, I’m not even trying to answer my own questions)–I loved the gameplay. The combat is simple but so fun. The stealth bits are puzzles of where and when it is best to use which gadgets and skills. The side quests are original and fun. The Riddler challengers are my favorite. From collectibles to actual brain teasers you must solve, they are great. And as you figure them out, you hear him get increasingly more irate. Gotta love getting under the skin of a smug smartypants.
After finishing a majority of both of the games in a matter of weeks, the summer was coming to a close. I was miserable at work with a boss wrapped up in her own life, and all I wanted to do was quit. At this point I was working two jobs to try to make ends meet and never knew when I was working for her. For the first time in my life, I quit. It was no way related to Batman. I probably still would have up and quit my job if I had not picked up the games, but having done so, it adds some vigilante-style poetic justice to my actions.
Since that summer, I’ve definitely showed a lot more interest in superheroes in general. I don’t want to list my credentials though disclaimer: I am sadly not a comic book reader since I wouldn’t know where to start. But all the summer blockbusters are an excellent gateway drug. Any suggestions other than that (movies, books, comics) are welcome! Other than that, stay tuned.