The Power of Cartoons

Since I got it on sale a couple of weeks ago, I’ve played 32 hours of LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes. I’ve had an immense amount of fun with it, and I highly recommend that everyone who reads this tries to snag it sometime (I imagine it’ll be on sale on Steam during the Summer, and maybe even this weekend with Age of Ultron coming out). But while playing LEGO Marvel, I’ve been subconsciously comparing it to my last videogame obsession: Team Fortress 2.

Deadpool takes 200 Gold Bricks (out of 250) to unlock, so I spent about 30 hours working towards that.

Despite being hugely different games, they have strikingly similar atmospheres. Finally, I decided this was because of the art style – both are cartoon-y, evoking a casual feel and nostalgic images of childhood. When I thought about it more, I found that the idea of cartoon-y or childish animation is actually a fascinating concept. Team Fortress 2, despite the art, is certainly not for children. In fact, the over-the-top cartoon gore, the dark themes and jokes, and the wholly inappropriate player base make for an intensely violent game that I would never show to a kid.

Why the art then? Is it just a gimmick, something to differentiate TF2 from other shooters? I don’t think so. I think the art is also reflected in simpler, joking aspects of the game as compared to Call of Duty or Battlefield. This all works together to create a sense that this game is not meant to be taken seriously. It doesn’t tell heartbreaking stories, or deal with serious issues. It’s just a fun shooter.

That said, cartoon-y-ness doesn’t inherently take out the serious. There are a whole host of comics with art styles similar to TF2 that are very serious indeed. The Walking Dead comes to mind, as does Watchmen, for me, but there are literally hundreds of other examples out there.

Cartoons? Yes. Light atmosphere? Hell no.

So it seems to me that in order to produce the atmospheric effect of TF2, or a LEGO game, it takes more than just a cartoon art style. Instead, the game has to be built from the ground up with fun-and-not-seriousness in mind. In TF2, this is shown by some of the almost absurd ridiculousness that you can experiment with. In the LEGO games, this is maintained by the medium of LEGO and – at least in LEGO Marvel specifically – a sort of silly, sometimes-slapstick, sometimes-bad-puns sense of humor pervading the game.

As always, this post doesn’t really have a point, but is rather just some of my ramblings put down on paper (well, not paper, but you know what I mean). I guess those are my thoughts on cartoons and silly games like Team Fortress 2.

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