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Idea Share - Cliches in Video Games (Part 2)

Updated on May 28, 2013

History always tends to repeat itself one way or another. In the video game industry, designers and producers tend to repeat character design, storytelling themes, conflicts, and features. I previously covered a list of clichés, and some of you have written to me suggesting others to mention. So I’m writing a second list of overdone themes of games, character design, and gameplay ideas.

"Red Dead Redemption" cover art feat. protagonist John Marston
"Red Dead Redemption" cover art feat. protagonist John Marston

1. Not being able to swim

Open-world games allow players to explore the environment and complete quests at their leisure. They can discover new areas, paths, stores, and items along the way. They see a lake with beautiful, sparkling water and decide to walk towards it. The character walks into the water and suddenly drowns, making the screen fade and the character respawn outside of the water seconds later. Several open games don’t allow the characters to swim, but it makes players tempt fate to see how far into the water they can make their character go.

Example: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

I know this is set in Western times, but someone could have at least taught John Marston how to swim. It would have made exploring the world more fun. I discovered the hunter’s lack of swimming abilities by accident, and when I played online, my friends and I would have contents on who had the best drowning death.

Marcus Fenix fighting the Locust Horde
Marcus Fenix fighting the Locust Horde | Source

2. It’s the end of the world as we know it… (inspired by Sarah Christina)

to save the planet has become a very old storyline. Almost every game in
existence today has the player fighting to save someone or something. The
majority of the time, the world is in grave danger and must be saved from
terrorists or aliens.

Example: Gears of War (2006-2013)

The Locusts are an underground alien force that are hell-bent on taking
over and destroying the world of Sera. The entire world is in ruins, and
civilization has nearly diminished as people turn on each other. The Gears
fight together to rid their destroyed world of these creatures. In the end,
Sgt. Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad manage to save the world all on
their own, killing the Locust Queen and ending their race for good.

Chris Redfiled's sailor costume in "Resident Evil: Revelations"
Chris Redfiled's sailor costume in "Resident Evil: Revelations" | Source

3. Male characters aren’t exploited enough. (Inspired by TNT Husky)

I mentioned in my last list that female characters are often exploited to boost sales, or for no reason whatsoever. Many gamers have come to accept it or even get annoyed by it. In a conversation I had a few months back, TNT Husky asked, “What would be so wrong with exploiting a male character the way they do so to females?”

Honestly, I don’t think there would be.

Example: Chris Redfield (Resident Evil: 1996-2013)

Fan-favorite Chris Redfield has been through hell. Fighting zombies, facing and eventually killing Albert Wesker, seeing his long-time partner and assumed love interest Jill Valentine supposedly fall to her death, and meeting Wesker’s son and admitting the truth of the death of his father. In the fifth installment of the series, one of Chris’s alternate costumes, the “Heavy Metal” costume, shows Chris in black leather pants, two leather straps with bullets crossing over his chest, and spiked shoulder pads. Many fans thought that the outfit was unusual for Chris, and some thought it made him look even tougher. With the latest installment, Resident Evil: Revelations, Capcom revealed secret costumes just days before the release. Chris’s costume makes him look like a “fruity sailor,” as a friend of mine called it, with short white shorts, a tight, also white sailor t-shirt, and an anchor tattoo on both biceps. Many female and gay male fans commented on the game’s Facebook link of the photo with excitement, stating that they had been looking forward to seeing something like this on Redfield.

An example of the world of "Fallout" ("Fallout 3")
An example of the world of "Fallout" ("Fallout 3")

4. “Abandoned” doesn’t mean it should be explored.

Many games have an abandoned ANYTHING somewhere in its world, and there is most likely a mission that requires players to explore this said place. Be it space stations, buildings, towns, or even entire worlds, seeing something that is abandoned is always a bad sign.

Example: Fallout (1997-2010)

Fallout really takes the cake with abandoned settings. The entire world is nearly destroyed by a nuclear attack, and survivors make cities in the ruins of their homes or other towns depending on the nearby damage. In the game, when players are sent to a city that was more damaged than where they came from, and the NPC says, “That town is truly abandoned; no one has been there since the incident,” you know that something will happen when you get there. Sure enough, when the player arrives, gangsters and raiders are there waiting to ambush you.

"Super Princess Peach" cover art
"Super Princess Peach" cover art | Source

5. Damsels aren’t always in distress…

Princesses and/or love interests usually end up getting captured. And most of the time, the main protagonist succeeds in saving them. Very rarely, the roles get switched, making the girl save the guys from harm.

Example: Super Princess Peach (2006)

Princess Peach is widely known as a damsel ALWAYS in distress. It has gotten to where the only games where she isn’t captured by Bowser are the spin-offs such as the Kart or Party series. In the 2006 DS platformer title, the princess had to save the heroes! She had help from Perry the parasol, and ultimately saved the Mario Bros, making it the first time I truly had respect for the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom.

Barrels of "Borderlands:" (from left to right) shock, corrosive, fire, explosion
Barrels of "Borderlands:" (from left to right) shock, corrosive, fire, explosion


Doom started the exploding barrel idea, and almost every first person shooter title has incorporated them since. Many fans enjoy them, others tend to hate them; I can say that I am in the middle. I enjoy using the barrels when I know I can use it to hurt or take out a group of enemies that are far enough away from me. However, sometimes I sigh in annoyance when I spot them.

Example: Every FPS game (but Borderlands [’09-‘12] will be discussed)

Borderlands actually made the barrels somewhat unique to their series. Weapons in the game can be normal or powered by one of these four elements: explosion, fire, shock, or corrosion (acid). With the weapons, barrels throughout the world can be filled with these elements and can be destroyed by a few bullets. Shock counters an enemy’s armor, corrosive deteriorates their flesh, fire burns them, and explosion sends them flying a few feet while damaging them. These effects are temporary, but are always helpful; especially when paired with an elemental weapon from you or a teammate to increase the damage done on those who stand in your way.

An ECHO Device is one of the many things you look for in searching/collecting missions.
An ECHO Device is one of the many things you look for in searching/collecting missions.

7. Scavenger quests

In role-playing games, non-player characters tend to lose tell you that they have lost something in their travels or that it was stolen. They are often too lazy or scared to go get it themselves, so they send you to do it. Also, the majority of the time, the item is in a completely different part of the world. And, after you get it, you have to go ALL the way back to the NPC to return it.

Example: Borderlands (2009-2012)

Borderlands is a guilty offender of sending you and your team all over the world to collect things such as weapon pieces, ECHO diaries, and crystals, and on one occasion, brains. The developers made up for it by letting you take a vehicle almost anywhere to get back to where you have to go. Unless you first received the mission about five worlds away. Thank goodness for the Fast Travel system…

Gordon Freeman
Gordon Freeman

8. Silence isn’t always a virtue

Sure, not speaking much would make a character look badass, but sometimes talking can be pretty important. In older games, mute protagonists were the norm, but now, players believe that the silence must be broken.

Example: Gordon Freeman of Half-Life 2 (2004-2013, depending on platform)

Freeman is one of the most popular video game characters of all time. He has seen the aliens first appear in the Black Mesa facility, and fought the Combine out of Earth. And through everything in the saga, Gordon Freeman never said a single word; not even a sigh or a grunt. Despite this, he is seen as one of the most badass characters in gaming history. He is definitely an example of a character that can be amazing without saying anything at all.

Watch all around you; either someone from the enemy team can kill you, or it can be one of your own...
Watch all around you; either someone from the enemy team can kill you, or it can be one of your own... | Source

9. Why is it called “friendly fire?”

Playing online can be a lot of fun, with or without friends. That is, until someone on your team starts going around and shooting his teammates. At first, you think it’s an accident, and they are just having a hard time with aiming. However, they start shooting you and beating you until you die. Why did they do that? He, and other players who commit friendly fire, ruin the overall gaming experience.

Example: Halo (2001-2012)

Halo is definitely one of the best shooting games to play online. However, many players sometimes spend their time going around betraying their teammates by killing them. Sometimes they do it because they were separated from their friend who is playing on the other team and they try to end the game sooner by letting their friend’s team win. Others do it for the reactions of their teammates. With Halo’s online play, the system will sometimes give you the option to boot the offender from the team if it seemed like the betrayal was done on purpose.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" cover art
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" cover art

10. Call of Duty

I feel like this will make some of my readers angry, but it’s true. Every game is the same: the story is spent with figuring the antagonist’s motive, tracking him down, and eventually killing him. Then you move on to online player with the same maps, weapons, level of skill in the teams, trash talkers, and kids that are far too young to be playing the game in the first place.

Example: Every title after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Every single game in the series has been a broken record to me. I only got Modern Warfare 2 (2009) because my friends begged me to. I played the story first, and then played online. The multiplayer is not bad at all; it’s actually fun with friends. I hate the people who play it, though. I mostly got a lot of sexist comments from guys and ten year-olds or thirty-something year-olds trying to hit on me. (YUCK!)

After watching the Xbox One reveal with the premiere of Call of Duty: Ghosts, however, I feel like this might be another title that I might actually enjoy. The story looks compelling and the graphics and details are beautiful. I am especially looking forward to the character customization; maybe they will let players make a female character? My hopes are high for this one.

Shameless plugging time!

Grab a Controller is now on Facebook! Here you will be able to see what I'm planning for my next hubs, leave ideas and opinion, or even share pictures. If you have an account of Facebook, please check it out! :)

Opinion time!

Which of these cliches are the most annoying?

See results


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    • Grab a Controller profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Largo, FL

      Exactly!! Hopefully if they make Borderlands 3 there won't be too many missions like that...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Uuugghh I HATE the scavenging missions. Especially when they're just filler objectives, like is there nothing better you could have come up with? You guys came up with this whole, most of the time awesome, game & all you can think -of is a search and find. Booo XP


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