Set in the DC universe of heroes and villains NetherRealm Studios has created a game that allows gamers to play as their favorite heroes or villains against all who dare challenge. This is a fighting game that focuses on the battle situations in different live arenas from popular locations within the universe from Gotham City to Metropolis. Underneath this simple fighting game is the idea of the lines between hero and villain being blurred and the public’s reaction to change. Society shows its inability to see this corruption due to its trust in those in power as well as lack the power to stop it, mirroring our own weakness when compared to those in power.
This game is based on the DC universe created in the 1960’s where there are multiple parallel time lines that contain various versions of each hero and villain. It is described as a “multi-verse” where every decision taken in the original world would create a separate universe where the person performed the opposite decision. Some of these worlds are very similar to the Earth where others are almost a completely backwards representation where good is evil and vice-versa. With the discovery that a universe exists where Superman has conquered the world the Justice League decides to intervene and sends a group of heroes to put an end to his tyrannous reign. When arriving in this parallel universe the battles ensue with each hero trying to discover what could have led to this occurring. They soon find out that a plot perpetrated by the Joker ended with the death of Lois Lane and Superman’s unborn child. This event proves too much for the alternate Superman to take and he kills the Joker and begins issuing martial law on the planet to ensure this never happens again. With the support of other various heroes the world becomes a place of peace with no faction daring to wage war with “The Regime” (Alternate Superman’s group of heroes) except for the “Insurgency” which is led by the Alternate Batman who could not stand to be a part of the Regime’s actions. With the world’s most powerful heroes no longer practicing the restraint they had once shown with little regard for the common man the population cannot help but cower in fear hoping to not fall onto the Regimes radar. Teaming up with unlikely allies as well as the Insurgency the Justice League fights the reclaim the planet for humanity but when pitted against the most powerful being in the universe what chance do they stand? It isn’t until Earth’s Superman arrives that balance is reestablished and alternate Superman cannot prevail learning of this Superman had succeeded where he had failed and managed to save Lois and his son without becoming a murderous tyrant.
Throughout most of the history of these comic book characters and what is displayed in popular media is a core separation between good and evil based on whose life they are interested in making better. Underneath all of the plots and plans there is usually a selfish goal that motivates these villains making them evil. Look at the most common criminal in pop culture or from cowboy movies, the bank robber, looking to steal from others in order to improve their situation at the expense of others. This concept shows two parts of a criminal’s psychology, the first is there placement of themselves before others, and secondly the lack of effort in which they choose to achieve their goals. The criminal wishes to be rich and powerful at any cost but wants it immediately. The hero is displayed normally as the polar opposite of these ideals with their hard work and tenacity to get the work done while placing the lives of others in front of their own. This is where this game begins to make its criticism of society in its idea of the blurred lines between good and evil. On alternate Earth the local Superman kills the Joker after having a tragedy occur, an event that most wouldn’t have blamed him for given the circustances. Then there is the fact of who was killed, a notorious villain who has killed thousands over the years and has no regard for others or the classic model of evil. With the intent of creating a world in which people will no longer lose their loved ones senselessly he forms a new type of group called the Regime which by definition is the “authority from above maintaining a planned system”. They are saving the world by taking crime and war out of the equation which would normally be viewed as an act of good since it would help others but with the way it is imposed the people also lose their freedom. There is also a fear of incurring the wrath of the new “authority above” which comes from the lack of due process. What can society do when their sacred protectors turn into the evil they sought to eliminate?
Another comment on society that a storyline such as this explores is the potential of corruption of those in power. The fears of the people that have been entrusted to protect society have a change of heart and begin to manipulate the system for their own gain. With the expulsion of the British monarchy from American soil there has been a constant fear of one powerful person looking to put an end to the liberty that this country has fought to achieve. With this turning of the protectors of our society to tyrants is just such a nightmare. In this game the tyrants are those with inconceivable powers that emphasize just such an event. This game plays on the fears of the system that has been built to ensure the safety of its people has been turned to controlling them. Even with this universe of little hope there is still a resistance that is called the Insurgency which attempts to fight this rising power. Although they seem to have little success until heroes from our dimension come they show the tenacity of the people to stand in the face destruction and fight for what they believe in. With the use of alternate-Superman as the person who subjugates the world it makes a comment on the absolute corruption with power, with his character always being the embodiment of power. Also his ultimate power cannot be stopped which possibly shows the weakness that society feels towards governmental power and the lack of ability to change the system by being only one person. Unlike life this game uses your ability to command super powered avatars to provide the power required to make a difference allowing one person to change the lives of many. With the general gameplay being stuck in the arena the movies and cut-scenes are where the plot unfolds and the player is given the feeling of a world controlled by a tyrant and the heroes desire to put an end to it. These devices help with the immersion of the player as well as allow the player to understand the gravity of the situation and the comments it makes about our own societal fears.
This games ability to make perceptions and play on societies worst fears certainly adds to the gravity of the games message. Although the player may not directly recognize these ideas while progressing through the game the player will gain satisfaction from restoring the balance of power to this corrupted world. It is this ability to change the world as well as the power granted through the super avatars that create the appeal for this game giving that one person the power to fight back and stand against evil even if it wears the mask of a hero.