Common Traits, Trends and Tropes In Video Games

Trends, tropes and traits are a fun part of our medium that makes games we love even better. Every once and a while though, it’s okay for us to poke fun at these things or even vent if they annoy us, Which is why it's fun to make a list about all of them.

Gaming, like all forms of media, has a few set story elements, character motivations or general environmental hazards that they like to use. After a while these things form a trend, traits and even tropes for gamers to refer back to.

They are a fun part of our medium that makes games we love even better. Every once and a while though, it’s okay for us to poke fun at these things or even vent if they annoy us, which is why today dear reader, I bring you a group of traits, trends and tropes in video games. Let’s take a look at some aspects of video games that we love, love to hate or just plain despise.

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More often than not, amnesia is used as some sort of plot device where the main character or the love interest finds who or what they are.   Typically it’s because the hero was the bad guy all along, they are apart of some super race with unspeakable power, wanted to forget the past or it’s because the writers didn’t have anything else better to write as a back story. It’s been used in multiple games to varying degrees of success and as long as there’s video games in this world, there will always be one character forgetting their back story.

Silent Protagonist

Link, Gordan Freeman, Crono, Mario, Ness and many others fall under this trend in gaming. Silent protagonists can be used to help get the player more immersed in the main character, inserting their own dialogue for certain situations without it actually effecting the situation at hand. It was a way for players to really think they were that particular character. Some people get annoyed with the lack of dialogue from their main character but others just sit back, don the green garb and go off to save Hyrule.

Let’s Split Up

In almost any RPG with a party, particularly a JRPG there will be a moment where the party has to split up. .  This happens in other games of other genres as well, but RPGs are the most notorious for it. On one hand, It can be for a logical reason like in Final Fantasy X where they had to split up because Tidus, Rikku and Wakka were the only ones that can swim.  Then again It can also be irritating after you’ve split up for the umpteenth time in a game like Tales of Symphonia. It makes you feel like you’re watching an episode of Scooby Doo.

Red Barrels Always Explode: If you’ve played any game where you can shoot things you probably already know this but red barrels almost always explode. One shot and these guys will spontaneously combust in order to wipe out a whole legion of enemies in fiery glory.  Always keep an eye out for these barrels they are just as useful as any NPC.

Orphans Save the Day: Your parents are dead? That’s great news! Wait stop crying and let me finish! Since your parents are dead, that means you are automatically the hero of this story. More often than not, any sort of orphans in video games will become some sort of hero. They usually seek to figure out what happened to their parents or seek revenge for their parent’s untimely death. No matter, what the reason, in a video game, if you’re an Orphan, you will more than likely gain some sort of great power.

Your Home is Gone: This is used in a huge portion of video games out there right now. Most RPGs use it at a motivation for you to get revenge on the main antagonist or to push you out of the starting town. In shooters, it’s usually used as a backdrop for your epic mission and typically for revenge of some kind.  If there’s a cheerful home town, the chances of it getting destroyed are far higher than the chances of  it making it through the first 30 minutes of the game.

REVENGE: Revenge seems to be one of the most common character motivations in video game history. Characters go on this for multiple reasons, but death of the loved one seems to be the most common. The biggest poster boy for vengeance is Kratos, taking down the majority of the Greek Pantheon for what they made him do to his wife and child.  While a common motivation, revenge appears to be one of the best motivations for not only the character but the players to get behind what their character is doing. 

Damsels In Distress: Speaking of Character motivation, here’s another one, Damsel in Distress! The young princess or young lady that is the apple of the main characters eye who just happens to be snatched up by the bad guy. It’s up to you to save her! This has been going on since the very beginning of video games and is the easiest of all motivations to write for a game that’s not heavy on story. You’ll see this in platformers more often than not, being an easy motivation as to why your little pudgy plumber needs to get from point A to point B.  What better way to motivate you than having you need to save someones life? I don’t want Princess Peach to hang out with Bowser unless we are going Karting, Playing party games or any of our favorite sports. He just doesn’t seem like a good guy for her to be hanging around with that spiked Collar. He’s probably a bad influence. 

Missing And Most Likely Dead Or Soon to be Dead Wife 

Allow me to spoil multiple games for you right now and say one thing . Your wife is probably dead and you are more than likely the cause of it. I’m sorry for breaking that news to you but it’s true. If your wife is missing at the beginning of the game and your character has no memory of what happened to her, she’s probably dead. Same thing goes with children.  While this isn’t always the case, sometimes your main character actually does find her and it ends happily, it’s somewhat unlikely.  This appears to be a pattern in Horror or Action games that have your Wife be missing at the beginning of the game but by the time you find her it’s too late. She could be brainwashed and crazy or she could be fused with your arm in a stupid plot twist.

Bionic Commando (2009) What is wrong with you?!

Water is Always Annoying  

Master Chief Can’t Swim, the earlier GTA Protagonists can’t swim and Sonic can’t stay under water for extended periods of time. All of these heroes and more know that water always equals death. Most gamers know that Water levels or water in general can spell out their demise within seconds of seeing it.  Or at least their imminent frustration of slowed down gameplay and floating controls. Some games can do it right and they pull it off beautifully, but some games just don't.  One of the more infamous water based levels that killed off many of inexperienced player’s sanity was The Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, causing frustration to gamers even years later. One way or another, gamers will stumble across some sort of water level in a game and t will more than likely cause at least one death.

Health Packs Heal Everything

You've been wandering around, bleeding from every orifice, nothing can save you now, nothing but the almighty health pack. Just use one of these and find yourself much better than you were before.  They come in many forms like hearts and potions but their purpose has always been the same.  These little guys have been in video games since the beginning. Even if you're crouching behind a wall to restore your shield, you’d easily be more set if you just had a health pack. No matter what wound you have, health packs will always patch you up straight away, evisceration or no. 

High Skills But No Stamina

This is more common in shooters than anything else. You are a top of the line soldier who can do anything and kill anyone…except for run more than a few seconds. It’s understandable that they did this for balance reasons or something of that nature, but it is still pretty humorous to see this supposedly “top soldier” get winded after a few seconds of running. Apparently cardio was not part of his super training. 

Swarms of tiny enemies

These enemies shouldn’t be a blip on your radar and most of the time, they aren't. You just sort of attack them and move on right? Well guess what, each attack from these little guys will wear your character down, slowly draining some precious health. These sort of enemies appear at the most inopportune moments, damaging you before you face a greater threat up ahead. Or they just swarm you so much you need to leave whatever area you were in to heal up using precious resources to do so. These sort of enemies haven’t changed over the years and will be more than likely annoying gamers for many years to come.

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Angelina Bonilla
Angelina Bonilla, also known as Red Angel, is a writer with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, as well as a passion for various other topics such as life sciences and psychology. Video games have been a big part of her life since childhood and she writes about them with the same passion that she writes about books.