With all of the calls that gaming has become stagnant and that new IPs are as rare as an honest politician, one has to ask why Batman games continue to be popular. It seems that with every new console generation comes a new series of Batman titles for gamers to purchase. Why does this IP have such an evergreen history?
I think a large part of it is that beyond being one of the most iconic superheroes ever, Batman’s also one of the few realistic ones. Batman’s only “superpower” is in essence, being rich and having nearly unlimited resources, as well as the will to use them. It’s everyone’s dream to be a hero and with Batman we have a look at how a real world superhero could operate. Batman’s only gifts are training, high technology and determination – all of which exist in this real world. Sure, more than a few are unrealistic but most are plausible.
This leads to where the modern games really come into their own. With the recent Batman: Arkham VR and the Telltale Batman series, gamers truly get to be Batman. The VR game puts gamers into the cowl like no other game ever could, by immersing the player in a VR world as Batman. The Telltale games allow players to use their wits to succeed as Batman, just as he has for decades. Instead of the combat focus of the stellar Arkham series of console games, the Telltale games make the player use brainpower, not muscle power to conquer crime.
The Telltale game style is a perfect fit for the World’s Greatest Detective. Their games are about branching paths with choices that affect much of the later game, and about thinking critically to achieve goals. The player is encouraged to be a detective instead of just an amazing martial artist/ninja. There is nothing more dangerous than the human mind, and the Telltale games encourage the player to exercise this.
Obviously, Triple-A video games aren’t the only places where Batman inspires creation. A cursory examination of your average online casino shows that Batman has made his appearance in their online slots machines, which is actually a sound strategy for them considering this character has a huge fanbase. The inspiration goes further as many superheroes can be pointed to as copies or outright rip-offs of the Dark Knight. To many, the very idea of a superhero in their mind is either an expy of Superman or Batman. That is to say, that the very archetype of a superhero is partly based upon the classic version of Batman. The caped crusader has permeated nearly all facets of our collective pop culture.
Batman’s most dangerous weapon is not technology, but his intellect. There’s a reason why Batman is called “the World’s Greatest Detective,” and it shows. Batman often survives a deadly situation using only his smarts, not his toys. The elevation of cunning and wits over tech and weapons places him in a category of his own. This works into the training element of why Batman can exist. Presumably, with the right training anyone could handle themselves like Batman. I’ll leave that to the reader to decide the truth.
“Where does he get those wonderful toys” is a legendary quote. Batman is well known for his Utility Belt of gadgetry to aid crime fighting but that is just part of it. While some adaptations went too far into sci-fi, most are well grounded in military or police technology. Instead of otherworldly powers, physics breaking magic or other fiction Batman just uses the high tech of his military holdings. What’s very interesting is that Batman eschews firearms, preferring nonlethal weaponry. After all, someone who just runs around shooting bad guys is no different than any 80’s action movie.
In the end, no matter how many more game console generations are to come, it is expected that Batman games will be right there with them. It takes a special kind of character to break the mold of the typical superhero, so it’s only fitting to see him in so many adaptations. By encouraging the idea of using more than just fists, Batman has earned his place in the pantheon of pop culture icons.