Game launch events are an easy going environment full of like-minded people chatting about games, eating the complimentary pizza, and participating in raffles and game tournaments.
They vary in size depending on what game is coming out, from a few awkward shuffling fans to a packed house.
This time, the crowd was large. After all, Batman Arkham Knight was coming out, and no cultural figure brings more people to the table than Batman.
People were in costumes, ranging from simple bat ears — or cat ears in a few cases — to capes and cowls fashioned from rubber or plastic.
A variety of merchandise was offered, from strategy guides to the game (the standard edition of which has a misspelt title on the spine — bang up job printers), replica baterangs, action figures and pop figures, and a display case with a Joker statue designed by famed Japanese game artist Tetsuya Nomura.
Expectations for the game are high, to say the least. This is Batman were talking about, he’d accept nothing but the good stuff, and neither will his fans.
However, people vary in what they’re most anticipating for the game.
Many voiced their excitement to drive the Batmobile, Arkham’s central feature. As one patron put it, “It’s not really Batman without the Batmobile.”
Well said, my friend.
Store clerk “Hawkeye” on the other hand was most looking forward to the story pack focused on the Red Hood, the Robin who was killed by the joker, was resurrected, and then became a murderous foil to his former mentor. Got to love comics and their soap opera goodness.
Others were simply looking forward to embodying Batman in all his glory.
“I just want to be Batman,” a superfan said, garbed in her Black Canary costume and wig.
There was much discussion at the launch in regards to the game story. What role would each character play? Who was the mysterious new villain, the Arkham Knight.
“It’s probably the Joker,” a small boy of about seven said, who along with his father was dressed in mounds of Bat-logo memorabilia. “He’ll yank off the helmet and say ‘It was me all along!’”
The kid did a mean Joker impression, albeit in a voice about a dozen octaves too high.
He and his dad also showed particular interest in the costume skins offered in the game, which include a skin from the 1960’s Adam West batman series.
Others speculated the Knight could be anyone from Jason Todd, to Azrael, to Talia Al Ghul or her father Ra’s. A big ol’ helmet and a voice modulator make it possible for you to be pretty much anyone.
A topic that came up rather frequently, buzzing in the background of conversations, was the season pass for the game, which will allow access to six months worth of upcoming DLC for the game.
The price is set at $40, and contains story packs for Nightwing, Robin, and even Batgirl.
This, like most season passes and DLC these days, has earned itself a fair amount of controversy. DLC is great, but many feel its content should have been included in the game, and that Warner Brothers, the publisher, is simply carving content out of the game in order to sell it back to us.
Reactions to this were all over the place.
Some reacted with grumbling acceptance, seeing it as one of those aspects of the gaming business that we just sort of have to put up with.
Others were more accepting. One patron said it was a lot of content over a half year period, so the price tag made perfect sense.
“Let’s see what they offer,” another patron said. “If it’s good stuff, I’ll put my money down.”
“It’s definitely something you want to get eventually,” the Black Canary cosplayer said.
Another point of contention, and one that started a mild debate was the series evolution into an open world game.
Arkham Knight, like its direct predecessor Arkham City, is a large open world game. Many fans enjoy this, but others preferred the metroidvania style labyrinth of the original Arkham Asylum.
Such a tight, narrow focus allowed for a more streamlined narrative that involved most of Batman’s greatest villains in some way, with an environment drenched in references to the comic source material.
“I want the game to be smaller,” one fan said. “Making things too big makes it unfocused.” He later acknowledged that this was unlikely, seeing as the game takes place over the majority of Gotham City.
At ten-till midnight, the conversing mob moved away from the shelves and lined up at the back door, where store employees started unboxing crates of shiny new games.
Not everyone is going to find their expectations met, but getting together was a fun experience. Batman is one of those characters that brings people together like few others can.
Now if only he could stop being so gloomy himself. But hey, without brooding, he’s not really batman.