Replaying Batman: Arkham City, I realised just how flawed Batman is. And not in a grungy, misunderstood superhero way.
I would like to start by saying that I LOVE Arkham City. It’s my ‘annual game’, the game that (I assume) we all have, that we play once a year or so because we love it. It’s always one of the first games that I install on a new computer (or fresh Windows install, or whatever).
To be clear, Arkham City didn’t ruin the game series for me in any way, but it kind of ruined the Batman character for me. I was able to continue enjoying the games because I am a horrible person who is emotionally stunted, much like Batman himself.
Cool, that opening paragraph should put all the Batfans at ease and show them that I’m going to treat him fairly. Nailed it.
The Journey Begins
All jokes aside, Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of the first Steam games I ever bought. One of the main things I enjoyed about Asylum was that it takes place solely in Arkham Asylum (I seriously hope that someone wasn’t paid big money to think of the name of that game).
You were in the lair of the enemy, you were in their world. Sure, it was their prison – but they were running it. And someone had to stop Joker from jokerizing (yes that’s a real word) everyone in the city, so it was up to me.
Well, it was up to Batman to protect the city, I should say.
Also, ‘jokerizing’ is a stupid word and I feel undignified using it. There. I said it. Moving on.
If you’ve never played a game in the Batman: Arkham series, the most important thing to know is that they’re very immersive. They make you feel as though you’re actually ‘the real Batman’. Which, for me, made Arkham Asylum awesome, but completely ruined Arkham City for me. Here’s why.
Be Glad This Isn’t A Podcast
As mentioned before, Batman: Arkham Asylum is about protecting the city, and – what with being Batman and all – you’re basically the only one who can do it, and you do it in a way that makes sense.
City, ironically, is a different beast to Asylum, because it’s not about protecting the city, it’s about protecting criminals. For those who don’t know, Arkham City (the place the game is named after) is ‘one giant penal experiment’ – also, be glad this isn’t a podcast because I am physically incapable of saying that phrase without giggling.
The authorities have simply walled up the worst parts of the city, and basically just left the prisoners to their own devices (or to Batman’s devices too, if you leave any batarangs lying around, I guess…).
Also (SPOILER ALERT) it’s ultimately also a secret death sentence for every criminal in there, which Batman prevents. (SPOILER OVER)
Well, unless you give up and stop playing, I guess.
Point is, I think it’s kind of weird that Batman is ‘protecting criminals’ in City by punching the living Batf*ck out of them.
When I was much much younger (puffs on pipe, leans back in rocking chair), a bunch of friends and I made up a game called “Superfaces”, probably because we were, like, 6 or whatever. The idea of the game is that we were all about to play make believe together, so you’d say which superhero you wanted to play as, and why. Nobody would ever argue about the reason why, but you had to give it or you couldn’t play with the group. For example, I’d usually pick Aquaman (OH SHUT UP) because I always wanted to breathe underwater (yes, I am aware of SCUBA gear now).
As we matured, so did the game. It eventually turned into ‘which superhero do you think you’re the most like, and why?’, but without all the play-acting afterward.
Try it yourself. Right now. Seriously.
“Which Superhero are you the most like, and why?”
An Accidental Lesson In Cognitive Dissonance
Here’s the thing that bothers me, the thing that kind of ruined Batman for me.
Before I continue: I feel it wise to mention that I would be highly surprised if it ruined him for you as well, or else I wouldn’t have shared the idea. Hey, I’m an animal – not a monster.
Anyway, this happened to me because I am a terrible person, and I’m sure you’re not. I’m sure you’re lovely! Unless you’re Jeff from HR. SCREW YOU MAN, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID COLLECTION OF 90S MEMES. See? I’m a terrible person.
Now, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t be a superhero. I wouldn’t even be a super-villain, mainly because all the really cool themes (and also most of the really bad ones) are already taken up.
SIDE NOTE: I’m not going to look this up until I finish writing this piece, but I would lay down good money that there’s at least one character in at least one of the major comic companies called ‘Keyboard Warrior‘ or something like that.
No, realistically, I’d be a henchman, and not even one of those lieutenant-level ones, just a lowly grunt.
I would be the target audience for Batman’s Travelling ‘Break Your Body’ Circus Of Batfun.
And even if I SOMEHOW survived my broken body in the most-likely-disease-ridden environment, I’m out of work for the next 6 months or so, while my body heals. How am I supposed to eat in that time? Who’ll give me a job? The gangs, that’s who.
Not ‘our man Bruce Wayne’, that’s for sure – he has more important things to do than ‘help financially stabilise the city that made him rich’. He hasn’t ‘saved the city of Gotham’, he’s ‘locked me into criminal activity for life’. The statistical chances of escaping such a life, and I would love to continue this sentence, but I already said ‘statistical’ and now I’m bored with it. Something something ‘I guess I’m a career criminal now’ something.
Please note that I am not saying that Bruce Wayne is under any obligation to fix the city. That’s a different and way more boring topic than this one, which has already been covered by far better writers than I.
But I am saying, considering that he’s literally made it his life’s work to do so, if he wants to save the city of Gotham, maybe he could consider not punching so much of it directly in the face. Like, he hasn’t even considered it. Ever. Not that I know of, at least.
He quit when his dead dad asked him to (don’t ask, comics are weird), but he’s never thought, “Maybe I should hire all of the henchmen so that the villains don’t have a god damned army of thugs every time I have to deal with them”.
I fail to see how that could possibly cost more than the combined annual payments for the research, development, production, maintenance and restocking of every single Bat-thing ever.
He also paid for the Justice League Satellite, which is basically ‘the Starship Enterprise but it can’t move out of orbit and also has more aliens on it somehow’. I think he can afford to hire a few thousand extra people, or whatever. If Bruce Wayne was a real person, Elon Musk would call him and be all like “Dude, you are too rich, you’re just being silly with how rich you are, stop being so rich, just stop it, you’re just embarrassing yourself”.
Bruce Wayne has, as my kids say all the time, ‘mad stacks’.
(My kids have never said that.)
What if he’s already won?
The thing is, I think Batman’s already achieved his goal, and if you do victory laps for too long, it’s called ‘taking the p*ss’, and if you’re rich, it’s also called ‘being a foppish maladroit’ (I mean, only by me – but still).
To elaborate: Batman didn’t come into existence because Bruce Wayne was ‘too sad one day, and then a bat flew into his house’, or even ‘because Bruce Wayne wants to fight criminals instead of dealing with his grief’.
In the comics, Batman originally came into existence because Bruce Wayne knew that most of the Gotham City Police Department were corrupt. That’s why he and Commissioner/Captain/Whatever James Gordon became a team – because he knew Jim was the only straight cop with any real power.
Given that ‘the GCPD being corrupt’ is rarely a major part of modern Batman mythos (no matter how many unwanted reboots that DC foist upon us), his justification for existing is now, frankly, weaksauce. Now it actually is because he wants to fight criminals instead of dealing with his grief.
So there we go, ladies and gentlemen. Definitive proof (because I defined it as proof, just now, and yes I know that’s not how that actually works) that this happened to me because the Batman character is a terrible person and most certainly not because I overthink all the wrong things when I play a fun video game.
But, more importantly than any of that drivel up there: I couldn’t find any superheroes called ‘Keyboard Warrior’, apart from some random stuff on Pinterest. So, you know – get onto that, internet.
Meanwhile, you can ignore everything I’ve said and have a read through this article recapping every Batman: Arkham game so far, and details about a new game.