Have you ever noticed how most games share a lot of things in common? This is usually due to imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, not to mention the fact that there’s no better way to guarantee success (or increase the chances of it) than by taking somebody else’s success and building off it. However not everybody picks up on all the details that came together to create the originator in the first place, and certain design aspects are ignored. This is how we ended up with the “dark and gritty” comics of the 90s which tried to copy that aspect of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen“, ignoring the other things those books did which set them apart. This is also the same reason why Michael Bay keeps getting to make movies.
While the imitators of those comics failed to pick up on the deep characterization and storytelling just to get that “darker and edgier” appeal. Video games are often victims of the same crime, copying a certain feature or aesthetic design to the point of redundancy. Thankfully, they also have one saving grace which has thankfully been handled with care thus far and when used appropriately leads to instant success: poop.
The number of games featuring fecal matter as a primary design element is incredibly brief, and the number that actually use it to their advantage even more so. Toilet humor is often regarded as one of the lowest forms of comedy, and indeed if not treated with respect will blow up in your face. However, if approached with the proper dignity the fecal art form requires, it can lead to instant gold.
Take for example 2001’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day — a platforming adventure game like no other. The game actually features an incredibly deep storyline involving Nazi-esque evil bears, a drunk squirrel, and horny wasps, among other things; but one character is always remembered above the rest: the Great Mighty Poo. The character only made a very brief appearance in the game, but is one of the most loved villains of all time. Having a super catchy song doesn’t hurt things.
The first Saints Row game was unleashed to a world overflowing with Grand Theft Auto clones hoping to make a name for itself. While reviews were fairly positive, at that point it hadn’t done much to set itself apart from the other clones out there and was in danger of becoming another forgotten attempt. Enter the sequel which decided to fully embrace the over-the-top attitude the original touched on, and come 2011 one of the most anticipated games of the year for many gamers (myself included) is Saints Row the Third.
Whenever you’re describing Saints Row 2 to somebody unfamiliar with the series, one mission is going to get brought up every single time: Septic Avenger. I know I personally convinced a few friends to give the game a chance upon hearing that there’s a mission where you drive a septic truck around spraying excrement on houses.
As they say, sometimes less is more and that’s one of the core design elements of The Binding of Isaac. The game is packed to the rim with different enemies, weapons and items to collect all of which are randomly generated creating a different experience every time you play the game. However, one thing remains constant: there is poop everywhere. It’s quite possible to actually shoot more turd piles in a room than you will enemies, as they occasionally contain money, bombs or other items.
Not content to just leave the poop totally random — there are even two items that add to the fun. One just lets you place a pile of poop down upon use; the other is a poo hat that you wear as an item. Let me repeat that: a poop hat THAT YOU WEAR. I’d love to include an image of that one, but unfortunately I’ve never found it myself at this time.
Let me get one thing clear: I’m not saying every game out there needs to re-think their design and add in a poop monster of some kind. As a matter of fact, I’m saying the opposite…treat the feces with respect as you have been, saving it only when appropriate. The last thing we need is some sort of Rob Liefeld equivalent in video games, putting us into the Brown Age of gaming with shit just strewn about without care.
But I must applaud the industries delicate handling of the brown nectar and hope it continues to get the respect it deserves. Poop is not to be taken lightly, and I’m glad to see it being placed on the pedestal it deserves.