The Dark Knight’s Many Stories: Arkham Video Games as Transmedia Pathway
Keywords:transmedia studies, video games, fan service, Batman, superhero franchises, agency
This article examines the Batman Arkham video game series (Rocksteady/WB Montreal, 2009-2015) as part of a wider transmedia franchise that encompasses comic books, films, merchandise and multiple animated and live-action television series. It will be posited that the video game series is a successful entry point for non-fans into this ever-expanding transmedia universe. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), the first of the series, was critically acclaimed and established the gameplay, mechanics, and rules for the sequels Arkham City (2011), Arkham Origins (2013) and Arkham Knight (2015). Gameplay mechanics are linked to ‘player agency,’ i.e. how the user controls the avatar within the game environment. Player agency is somewhat restricted in the series; however, this will be argued to be a benefit for audiences. There are somewhat ludic conditions that can either be beneficial or detrimental for the player, to ensure they learn from failure. This essay will further argue that players accumulate a wider understanding of the Batman universe by collecting artefacts as they deviate from the central narrative. The player unearths character biographies and interview tapes that are based on the character’s extensive history and, thus, provide a gateway into the transmedia world of Batman.
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