Everyone has their favorite villain, but few are as iconic as Joker. The character has appeared in countless comics, shows, a number of movies, and video games. Joker has been re-imagined a number of times, but few stray too far from what the character is at his core. Joker's latest incarnation is in the current movie of the same name. Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the eponymous clown, has been the subject of much discussion online. The film will likely be on everyone's mind for years to come. With video games utilizing different forms of gameplay for storytelling, an adaption of Joker could be an interesting experience.
Joker In Gaming
Before diving into Joker's potential as a video game, it would first be a good idea to see how the character has been adapted in the medium already. With Joker being Batman's most popular nemesis, he has appeared in a number of early games such as Batman: Return of the Joker for NES. Jumping to modern-day, Joker has appeared in many LEGO titles. He has also appeared in fighting titles such as Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and Injustice: Gods Among Us and will be joining the roster of Mortal Kombat 11 in January.
Joker recently appeared in the Telltale Batman games, which includes one of the more interesting takes on the character. In the first game, he is known as "John Doe" and is incarcerated at Arkham Asylum. Despite that though, he doesn't seem that bad of a guy, and can even develop a friendship with Bruce in the second game. Depending on how players progress, the Joker persona will emerge in certain ways.
Joker's most famous video game appearances are from the Batman Arkham series. Here, he is constantly ahead of Batman, whether it be taking over the asylum or haunting the hero despite being dead. Arkham Origins delivers a compelling starting point for the two's rivalry.
The Tragic Story of Arthur Fleck
In the 2019 movie, Joker gets an in-depth origin story, and Batman has nothing to do with it. Arthur Fleck is a man with a disorder that causes uncontrollable bouts of laughter. Due to this, he is labeled as a freak and is bullied. During the film, a series of events leads to Arthur's downfall. His social worker can't help him, he loses a party clown job, and he is mocked on national television after a failed stand-up comedy routine. Eventually, Arthur loses it and becomes akin to the iconic comic book character.
Joker is a fascinating character study and provides commentary on the lack of compassion society has for the mentally ill. A video game adaption expanding on the story has the potential to break new ground.
Joker As A Video Game
A Joker video game should not be a standard third-person action title like Batman: Arkham Asylum. It should also not be a constantly violent game like The Punisher. See, the thing about Joker is that the movie is grim and the deaths are brutal. However, the violence is never there just for a gory effect. There are not a plethora of onscreen killings in the movie, but the ones that are there leave an impact on the viewer and show Arthur's mindset. Thus, a video game adaption should not seek to be overly gory, but rather it should have players explore Arthur's persona, from his tragic beginnings to his transformation into a villain.
With all that in mind, a Joker game should be more akin to a Telltale title or an interactive drama like Heavy Rain. It should be story-focused and needs to expand on the events in the film. Arthur's childhood is eluded to, so the game can explore that, as well as show how he became a party clown. Gameplay set in Arkham State Hospital would be haunting as the player traverses the white halls.
Arthur's state of mind is fascinating to analyze. One of the most shocking plot twists happens when it's revealed that Arthur imagined his relationship with Sophie. Illusions like this would be interesting to see in a video game. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, one of the most acclaimed boss battles was against Scarecrow and was due to its distorted visuals. This kind of distorted reality would work great inside the mind of Arthur. Batman: Arkham Knight also had a nightmare sequence in which the player becomes Joker and goes on a killing spree. This kind of nightmarish atmosphere would work extremely well in a Joker game.
At the end of the critically acclaimed title The Last of Us, Joel kills a surgeon to prevent Ellie's surgery. This kill is not optional. A number of players likely felt guilty about doing this, believing that it wasn't necessary. This type of guilty conscience could play a large part in a Joker game. As players are forced to kill certain NPCs, a wave of guilt might arise. It's one thing to witness it in the movie, but another to control Fleck in-game.
Joker has gone down as a controversial piece of cinema. A well-made game adaption would likely do the same. Nonetheless, many who have watched the movie understood what it was attempting to accomplish. Joker is not here to incite violence or glorify anarchy. Rather, it shows the tragic problem of the mentally ill being pushed aside by society and a person's breaking point. A video game adaption could further comment on this, providing unique, haunting gameplay.