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Telltale Games’ Batman: How Childhood Reflections Shine New Light on the Dark Knight

Movies, games, books and even comics often have a way of reflecting some of life’s experiences in an entertaining way. Whether those reflections are positive or on the negative side, the microcosm of entertainment often gives us fresh insights into the macrocosm of our existence.

Evidence of this mirroring capabilities emerged recently thanks to gaming company Telltale. The latest team of entertainment experts to take charge of the Batman brand, Telltale Games has created a point-and-click adventure game where, unlike previous offerings, we get an insight into the back-story of Bruce Wayne.

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Because Batman has been fighting crime in comics, movies and TVs since 1939, we know pretty much all there is to know about the man in his present form. Mysterious, emotionally guarded but with a desire to fight crime on all fronts, Batman the man is open book by now. However, what about Batman the boy?

 

Telling a New Tale

We know Bruce Wayne was the son of Thomas, but what Telltale Games has done is rewrite the history to make the dark knight appear a more vulnerable hero. In the third installment of the company’s Batman games, we learn that his father wasn’t an innocent victim of an assassination. Because Thomas unjustly sent a dozen people to Arkham in order to advance his own position, Thomas became the target of those seeking the revenge.

Learning this, Batman has to reconcile his childhood recollections of his father with what he knows now. Through the game’s vignettes and in-game interactions, we see the unmasked Batman in a new light. Although the player gets to choose the dialogue and, essentially, determine how Batman deals with his own personal grief, the overall thrust of the action is that we see a more “human” side to the main man.

When it comes to the loss of a father, young men (and indeed older men) often struggle to deal with their emotions. Although some, including Batman, struggle to utter the phrase “I miss my dad”, it’s an essential part of the healing process. In Telltale’s game we basically get to see Batman go through a grieving process that any normal man would go through.

 

The Grieving Process Opens Up New Possibilities

Indeed, feeling numb, fear that the negative feelings will never pass and a lack of motivation are all common feelings during the grieving process. For some, the way to deal with these feelings is to seek help. Whether it’s a spiritual reading to gain some sort of connection to a departed father or counseling, there are ways to come to terms with the death and feel more positive.

For others, like Batman, the way to overcome the pain is to channel it into something else (known in psychology circles as displacement). While most of us don’t go out in a hi-tech latex suit and fight crime, it’s Batman’s method of choice. Now, in years gone by we would have said that this seems to work well for Gotham City’s protector. However, thanks to Telltale, we are now led to question whether or not it is working. As Batman learns more about his past, his current persona starts to unravel and he starts to look decidedly unsteady.

For the man himself, this emotional turmoil isn’t much fun. However, for gamers, it poses some interesting challenges. Indeed, adding a new wrinkle to the story of Batman isn’t easy. Because the franchise is more than 60-years-old, there’s not many storylines to be explored. However, by removing the mask (both figuratively and literally) on Batman’s father, Telltale has exposed a few chinks in the comic hero’s armor and it’s within these chinks entertainment can thrive.

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