There was a lot to soak in during Saturday's DC FanDome. Viewers were treated to new trailers for The Batman, Black Adam, The Flash, and more. TV watchers got to learn about what's next for DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, Stargirl, and more shows coming to The CW and HBO Max. Plus, there was something for the video game player, as well. There were fresh looks at the upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, Gotham Knights, and there was even a movie tie-in based on the DC League of Super-Pets film. DC also dedicated a segment to Wonder Woman's 80th anniversary. Yes, it's been 80 years since Princess Diana first graced the pages of comics and would become a pioneer for women in superhero comics. As I watched Wonder Woman movie director Patty Jenkins and the great Lynda Carter discuss everything that made the character so remarkable, I started thinking about Wonder Woman's history in video games. Then it hit me.
She has none.
Ok, that's not entirely accurate. She's been featured in games like the various Justice League titles, including Injustice, DC Universe Online, and others. That's the word that stands out, though, isn't it? "Featured." She's been "featured." Look back through history. Has Wonder Woman ever had a solo game where she was actually the main character?
I looked back through video game history. I've found Superman on the NES, Spider-Man across nearly every platform imaginable, a really fun game starring the Incredible Hulk (Note to self: Put a pin in that topic for another day), and Batman, Batman, Batman! Anybody who's ever seen YouTube videos from retro-focused content creators has likely learned that the early era platforms like the NES, Commodore 64, and Atari 2600 have games on just about everything. Every dumb license under the sun has gotten its day in the video game spotlight, no matter how ill-advised. Surely, there had to be a Wonder Woman game out there somewhere. And, yet, there is not.
After finding that out, it led to me to ponder the question: Why not?
Why isn't there a Wonder Woman game?
Even before Patty Jenkins put her vision of Wonder Woman up on the big screen, she's been dominant in the realm of pop culture. Generations of little girls have grown up with her as their hero. She's been presented as the heart of the Justice League for decades. She has always been the first name that came to mind whenever anybody brought up the topic of "woman superhero." Not only has she had staying power over an 80-year period, but the 2010s arguably saw her popularity peak, thanks to the aforementioned major motion picture.
So, then, why have game publishers never taken a chance on Wonder Woman as the lead character of her own video game?
While nobody can speak for the publishers themselves, it's reasonable to assume that the arguments will be the same ones that justified keeping the character off of the big screen for so many years. Let's look at what Jenkins herself said about why it took such a long time for Wonder Woman to grace theaters in a 2017 Sci Fi Now interview (via Cinema Blend).
"The only thing I can think of is that the genre became synonymous with young men, and so I think there was a concern that they wouldn't be as interested in a female lead and it's taken years for that to sort itself out. That's all it comes down to.
"For many years, I was asking the question you're all asking: Why is no one making this movie? In America, look at Halloween: there are hundreds of people dressed as Wonder Woman every year. She's got a huge fanbase, so why aren't we doing this?"
Like in the medium of movies, women are prevalent in video games. However, they're rarely prominent on the level of household names like Mario, Master Chief, Kratos, Link, Nathan Drake, and others. Characters like Samus Aran, who kicked off the month of October with the critically acclaimed Metroid Dread, get the occasional starring role, but in comparison to her male counterparts, this feels like more the exception than the rule. Notwithstanding, we've seen characters like Samus, Lara Croft, Aloy, and Jill Valentine excel in starring roles. They've proven that women taking the lead in action games can work. So why the hesitancy on comic books' greatest heroine?
At this point, it feels like a question that only the higher-ups at WB Games can answer. So, for now, let's focus on building upon the idea of a Wonder Woman game.
What would a Wonder Woman game even look like?
The next question to think about is, what would a Wonder Woman game even entail? Like her fellow DC mainstays Superman and Batman, she has decades of classic comic book storylines that are worth adapting. There are the Gods & Mortals and Challenge of the Gods storylines from the 80s, The Circle from the late 2000s, and also the compelling Eyes of the Gorgon from the early 2000s. Even the Paradise Lost storyline would make a great adaptation if a video absolutely has to mix Batman's universe in there. There's certainly no shortage of Wonder Woman stories to adapt, as evidenced by what Dimensional Ink is doing with the character in DC Universe Online.
Figuring out source material to inspire the game's story is just one piece of the puzzle. What would a Wonder Woman game look like, in terms of gameplay? The first part of that answer is fairly simple. Make it a 3D action game, in the vein of the other core DC titles. Anybody who has followed video game trends over the past decade has noticed the influence that the Batman Arkham games have had on other AAA action titles. It would only make sense that it have that same level of inspiration on a Wonder Woman title. However, since this is a first outing for Diana, maybe consider a scale similar to Arkham Asylum's. Don't make it an overblown open world just yet. There's plenty of time for that down the road. Take time to build the world first before expanding it.
Diana fits 3D action like a glove, thanks to her power set. Whether she's taking on men or monsters, the central piece of her arsenal is the Lasso of Truth. It's one of the most versatile weapons in comic books. For a 3D action game, it would be a dazzling way to execute and finish combos. Imagine mixing together a four-hit combo and finishing by wraping up a foe with a lasso and swinging him at surrounding lackeys. Picture being able to sequester one enemy, while hitting a combination of kicks at other incoming enemies.
Of course, the golden lasso is good for more than combat. Wonder Woman creator William Marston is also recognized for creating the early lie detector, elements of which are folded into the Lasso of Truth. There are ways that this idea can be integrated into a game. Think about a scenario in which Diana has to defuse a bomb or infiltrate a locked area. Perhaps a henchman knows the combination to proceed. At that point, create a combat sequence, in which the goal is to wrap that specific henchman with the Lasso of Truth. The player would be challenged to clear the room of enemies until only that one foe remains. Similarly, the player would fail if they accidentally knock out the target. Think of it as the Riddler challenges from Batman: Arkham City, where Batman would have to spare one thug in order to get the information he needs.
The other major piece of Diana's arsenal is her magic bracelets, a.k.a. the Bracelets of Submission. In every piece of pop culture, Diana has been able to deflect bullets and light arms fire with her magic bracelets. This would be a fun idea to incorportate into a video game, where players need to judge which enemy fire they can deflect, which they can't, and potentially level up the mechanic so that other types of projectiles can be deflected. The only real challenge would be injecting a limit on the bracelets' power, because in their current form, they're nearly unstoppable.
Put together, all of this can create a compelling Wonder Woman video game that's set either in "man's world," on the island of Themyscira, or back and forth between the two locations. All that's left is to figure out who the right developer is for the job.
Who should create the Wonder Woman game?
This is hard to answer, because like every DC property, Wonder Woman falls under the umbrella of Warner Bros. Games. That narrows down the scope of possible developers significantly, because there are only so many that are under the WB purview. Fortunately, there is one studio that could make this work.
Over its more than 25 years of existence, Monolith Productions has taken on challenges across numerous genres. People remember F.E.A.R., they remember Condemned, and they remember the No One Lives Forever games. For the task of Wonder Woman, the studio would pull from its experience on another pop culture phenomenon: the Middle-earth franchise.
Not every piece of the Middle-earth formula would necessarily work for a Wonder Woman game, but it's Monolith's experience in creating captivating battles and bringing life to exciting fantasy storylines and characters. The studio knows how to craft multi-dimensional combat and could capture what it means to fight as Wonder Woman. They also know how to capture the scale of Diana's fights, whether they be in man's world or in the mythological world of gods and monsters. Could they blend it all together? It wouldn't be easy, but out of every developer flying the WB Games banner outside of Rocksteady Studios (who are sort of busy these days), I would count on Monolith being the right people to make this work.
Champion of truth and love
Having written out my thoughts, it's still amazing to me that we live in a world where Wonder Woman doesn't have a single-player video game. It's not like this is a medium where women in action roles don't resonate. We're celebrating the 25th anniversary of Tomb Raider this year, after all. Nor is it like Wonder Woman as a video game character doesn't work, as has been evidenced by her supporting roles in games like Injustice 2 or DC Universe Online.
Remember how many years it took to get Wonder Woman a major motion picture? When it finally happened, it became an instant blockbuster, grossing millions at the box office, and becoming a favorite among a crowded parade of superhero movies. One thing to note about it is, as much of a breakthrough moment that it was for women of all ages, Wonder Woman proved to be a character with universal appeal. Nobody is more aware of that than Jenkins, who commented on it in a later interview with Sci Fi Now.
"She’s a universal character. That’s what I went for more than anything. She’s all of us, because everybody has wanted to do the right thing before but not known how to do it, or how to be stronger or be good. That’s kind of what I think has been so powerful about the other superheroes before is when they can really hit that button like Superman did for me. I tried to just ring the bell of mankind instead of any specific person. But hopefully everybody will relate to the struggle to be a better person."
The same way that 2017 marked the time for Wonder Woman to finally get her due in movies, I feel like we're at that same moment in video games. Just putting Wonder Woman out there as the lead in her own single-player game would get the level of hype and excitement that the film got among moviegoers. It's not like WB Games is particularly afraid of experimentation. Let's remind everyone that the Suicide Squad is getting their own video game.
In the spirit of truth, peace, and love, I call upon the gods to give Wonder Woman the best 80th anniversary gift imaginable. Whether it be inspired by Batman Arkham franchise or by the God of War titles, introduce Diana of Themyscira to the world of single-player video games. It's been long enough.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Wonder Woman's 80th anniversary demands a single-player video game
I think a Wonder Woman game would be awesome. There's plenty of things to pull from the comics and games like Assassins Creed and God of War have already dipped toes in the brutal combat and mythological creatures stuff. A story that gives Diana time to shine with some of the other WW like Nubia and Yara Flor would be awesome. Great feature Ozzie!
I want a video game about this https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/wonder-womans-kinky-feminist-roots/380788/ , but we'll probably wind up with some dumb mobile card or match-3 game. :P
I've been beating this drum for awhile!
And you're totally right!