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Article - 'Pro's & Con's of Clichés' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Feb 24, 2004


Angroth analyses clichés.


Following on with my Pro’s & Con’s of Realism is this article which hopefully offers some nice alternate insights into how clichés can help you game out but also increase its change of being torn apart by other people.

Firstly I’d like to distinguish just what a cliché is (for anyone who doesn’t know what it is). Basically it’s something that has become dull or silly from overuse, we can usually make stereotypes out of them. What some people class as clichés other people don’t and in this day and age it’s probably quite possible to say almost everything is a cliché, which maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

Now we all know what one is we can see how it can hinder your game. Firstly it has the power to render your game predictable and therefore boring. How well it do this? Well if you have some guy who’s village is burnt down and sets of to get revenge, meets a woman and falls in love then…. No offence to people with that story but from the onset it puts a shady opinion (at least I think). Unless there’s some good twists in the story, a plot like that has been done enough before and is unoriginal and uninspiring, we can see the likes of this plot dating back to Conan the Barbarian, a 23 year old movie and to books that predate the movie by centuries. Also, not only is it dull and lifeless but clichés will make people think you have no creativity and are stealing ideas from things around you, which isn’t particularly good either. Finally, if your game is labelled a cliché game or a game riddled with clichés then it tells us that its no more than an average game, which probably won’t make us download it.

Now, on a lighter note, clichés can be used to your advantage surprisingly enough! But personally I would try to avoid them as getting any benefits from them is harder and not worth it in the long run, but here’s some nice things to calm you down if your game is cliché ridden. As starters, it will make the player feel more familiar with your game, if they don’t care about clichés or are a little slow they’ll just think your game is nicely reminiscent of other games they’ve played. Some people might enjoy the game and think that the hero’s best friend dying is the most hilarious thing they’ve seen in a quite a while. The best possible way to use clichés is to include them in some comic way, they could easily make your game more funny but throwing in some over the top sequences of the hero falling in love or a friend dying, try it and see what happens, you never know.

So as you can see, not in all instances is your clichéd game a failure. Now I’d like to talk about the cycle of how a cliché comes around. It always starts with one good idea, which soon people like to try and use to their advantage to get money, so they copy this idea. Before you know it, loads of people are doing whatever this idea was until its cool factor fades away and people stop liking it. Only when the cool period is over will people begin to laugh back at it sardonically.

The following is a list comprised of what I think is clichéd, but they still appear in many things to this day, which is why they still are clichéd….
- Young / naïve hero. (in almost everything)
- Hero falls in love for princess type lady. (Robin Hood, Matrix, Conan)
- Princess lady or best friend dies. (Mortal Kombat Annihilation, Robin Hood)
- Hero gets revenge for his family being killed. (Gladiator, Conan, Mortal Kombat)

Well I think they are about the worst of it. Would want to see much more of that unless there’s some nice innovations in it. And yes, take note that most of the movie examples I’ve used are the same.

Well, hopefully I’ve clarified things for you a bit more on the topic of clichés, if I haven’t then maybe I just made you re-think about it, which should hopefully warn you about what you do in your games. If nothing was of interest, new or worth reading here then you probably wasted 5 – 10 of your minutes, never mind.