Anyway, Jeff Green started this off a couple weeks ago with his top 5 video game characters, and now it’s my turn. So, leaving aside in-house favorites such as Zombie, Bjorn, and/or that guy from Pizza Frenzy, let us begin.
In no particular order:
Being a man of a certain age, I love me some Star Wars. I also love LEGO. Then somebody put them together and, for a moment, I believed in an ordered universe. There is a lot to love about the LEGO video game franchises but I have a special fondness for LEGO Chewbacca from LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (best not to try parsing that ridiculous name). It’s a little bit because when he puts on a Stormtrooper disguise, the helmets don’t fit so he wears them at a rakish angle and still fools Death Star security, but it’s mostly because when enemies get too close for him to use his bowcaster (a needlessly stylish weapon), good ol’ Chewie just rips their arms out of their sockets. Just like Han Solo warned C-3PO about when R2-D2 beat Chewie at Dejarik. And before I slide any further down the nerd hole, let’s move on.
The Ship from “Asteroids”
Asteroids is the second video game I ever played (after “Puppy Pong” – a pong game installed in a dog house in the waiting room of my dentist’s office). It remains one of the most frightening video game experiences ever. Who is piloting that ship? Why is it out there? Does it know it’s doomed? All it has are some finicky thrusters and a “hyperspace” button that it must know will eventually teleport it into the middle of an asteroid, but it’s out there. Fighting. Never resting. Just trying to live for a few more seconds. Why? WHY? Even as a young lad I was full of existential angst. Fight on little triangle… fight on.
Sometimes he’s a pack animal. Sometimes he rides a motorcycle. He has a tiny shell on his back and wears hiking boots. He’s just dang cute. And for my money, there can’t be too much of that in video games. I am less interested in “realistic” games (I get plenty of reality in reality) and would rather spend my time playing a game that gives an adorable middle finger to physics and just goes bananas for the sake of fun. Yoshi has a power set that is as fungible as it is mighty. You’d probably drive yourself mad trying to explain how any of it works. So just enjoy the cute and always ask yourself, WWYD? Yoshi! Yay!
Wikipedia says that “Q*bert is an isometric platform game with puzzle elements where the player controls the titular protagonist from a third-person perspective.” And that is why I never use Wikipedia for anything.
Anyway, not unlike Asteroids, Q*bert was an early video game treatise on the meaninglessness of existence. You find yourself in a strange place where nobody understands you. You have a job to do but are never told why. There are a lot of people out to get you – they hate you – but you never find out why. You just keep repeating and repeating and repeating the same task, while avoiding those who would do you harm and trying not to slip over the edge into the void. And what do you get for surviving long enough to complete your duties? You get to do the exact same thing all over again, but the next time it’s harder.
I wish I could remember exactly which iteration of Major League Baseball video game I first noticed him in. I played it a ton on my Nintendo 64 and poor ol’ Dale was always ALWAYS on the “available free agents” list. He was mixed in there early on with a bunch of other bench warmers but by mid-August he was all alone on the list. And I would almost always sign him because he seemed so lonely. And he was always terrible and I wondered why I signed him. And then Dale stopped showing up in video games and I started to see him in real life (meaning “on TV”) as a coach for the Red Sox and then the Brewers and then he became the manager of the Brewers and now he’s the manager for the Chicago Cubs. It’s actually a similar arc to Q*bert (‘keep working hard and the work will keep getting harder!’). Despite my early impressions of him, I think he’s done all right. And as he travels the country, managing one of the greatest baseball franchises in history, and I look out of my darkened cubicle into the bank parking lot across the street, I hope he knows he’ll always have a place in my heart.