What we could learn from Star Trek

I just saw the new Star Trek movie a few days ago, and I have to say that it was pretty fun! Sure there were some ridiculous plot holes, and Kirk manages to get choked to near-death 3 times in one day and is still running around, but that’s not important. What is important is that the movie is fun, and makes Star Trek feel new and exciting again.

But how? One of Star Trek’s biggest problems is that it is mired in this crap canon built up from decades of series. The entire goddamn Star Trek universe history is laid out for some 200+ years, and between the books, tv shows, and movies it is almost impossible to write new material in this universe without either contradicting canon or making the story especially lame. The film does a great job of bypassing all this by inserting some useful time travel and effectively declaring that we are now in a new Star Trek universe, which while similar to what you’re used to, is an entirely different entity and capable of new, original story lines. Bravo, writers!

So what could video games learn from this? We’ve got a bunch of brands (Zelda, Metroid, Warcraft, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest, etc.) which are now long running series with largely derivative sequels due to built up expectations for what the game should be. This is the game equivalent of canon, IMO. What if the new versions in these series bucked these expectations through some smart twist (perhaps time travel?) and clearly stated that we are in a new universe where there are new rules for the series? It could make an old series really exciting, and allow it to actually innovate. I’m not holding my breath on the big names though…

*Update: Sharat has pointed out that the Zelda series is probably not the best example, as it tried to reboot with Majora’s Mask and didn’t really succeed so well.

One Comment

  1. Derek

    King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity and Mario 64 both take the series in a new direction while staying true to the basic premises of the franchise.

    However, Mario 64 was followed up by two duds (Luigi’s Mansion and Super Mario Sunshine), and KQ: Mask of Eternity didn’t get a follow up at all.

    Once the franchise is established, people who are expecting one thing might be turned off by too different of a game. And, people who didn’t like earlier games but would like the new version often won’t try it because of their previous experiences.

    With Mario and KQ, both had some exceptional games leading up to them: Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, and KQ 5 and 6 (7 kinda sucked). Successful franchise resets, like with Star Trek, Batman and James Bond have worked because the series had already been run into the toilet. The producers are free to announce that they’re cutting ties with the old series, thus tempering the expectations of the current fans, and inviting non-fans to come into the fold.

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