In “The Sacred and the Profane”, Mircea Eliade constructed a unique theory upon modern society. He admitted that, although the laic element had long ago substituted sacred rituals, the transcendent is still to be found at the very roots of existence. And that it sometimes springs at the surface of life in the most unusual ways, stunning the human mind in the moments of its manifestation.
Furthermore, Eliade was convinced that the human being really needed the presence of the Sacred, because it had a regulatory function. The Sacred could restore equilibrium into Chaos and reshape the sense of existence. While, in ancient times, the sacred could be found in myths and legends, passed on through storytelling, we can also find the same archetypal stories in our present everyday lives. The only difference is that nowadays, their form is abstract and much simplified.
Please note: you may find this introduction unsuitable for a game as superficial as LEGO Batman: The Videogame. But the review written by Zuluf for LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures and especially the comments it roused, made me want to explore a fundamental fact: why do we, as adults, play games in general, or kiddie games, in detail?
Coming back to Eliade’s study, it shapes up the following conclusion. Any story is, in one way or another, the echo of a mythical scenario. And, because books don’t seem to tempt many people anymore, stories now come to us in the shape of movies, newspaper articles and, why not, PC and console games. I think it is to no surprise then to admit that any adult has the right to play. This gesture, the reminiscence of ancient rituals, gives coherence to the days that will come.
Games that are exclusively based on story, as well as those that don’t have an explicit plot, contain deep mythical themes. These range from the super-human figure (think about The Sims and the way you created perfect alter-egos), the theme of Genesis (Spore), the theme of the Forbidden City (BioShock), the figure of the Exiled (The Witcher) or even the theme of the Apocalypse (Fallout series). It’s certain that no game lacks such substance.
And kid games are probably, from this point of view, the most valuable. They offer myths in the purest form possible today. An “adult” game is at many times forced to mimic reality, to at least stick to the rules (starting with what we all call Gravity) and to the forms, so the story it depicts can be credible. That’s why many games are rated mainly for their graphics. But a child is never upset if he is told that a couple of brown LEGO blocks represent a dog and another pink one actually means a sweets shop. Kid games are highly abstract, so they can better mirror the abstract in myths.
Behind grimaces and parody, the LEGO series tackles with one of the most well known myths, which can be found in any culture: the opposition between good and evil, white and black, Yin and Yang. Good always triumphs in the end, whether it’s represented by the Light side of the Force, or by the professor of archeology that ruined Nazi plans. And this triumph reestablishes the balance in the game’s own world. The same rule is followed in the third title of the series, which features Batman and his faithful sidekick Robin. Still, the game is a little bit too abstract for its own good.
The developers had given up following movie scenarios, as it had been the case in previous games. Instead, they chose a simple story in which the villains of Gotham manage to escape Arkham Asylum (the maximum security prison of the city). The Batman-Robin duo will simply have to capture their eternal enemies and send them back to where they belong. A natural effect of this storyline decision is the fact that the parody is not as flavored as in the former LEGO titles. I used to laugh because I recognized a scene in the movies that had been reduced to a kindergarten play.
Now I have to force myself to smile while contemplating the image of ridiculed heroes. Unfortunately, the Batman in this LEGO game is neither the one from the movies, nor the one in the comics. It is the generic Batman that everyone knows or seems to remember and all the pranks in the game target this superficial level of knowledge. The Batman made of LEGO pieces is funny because his serious stance deeply contrasts the size of his head. And the LEGO Robin reminds us of a clumsy, yet enthusiast, adolescent.