Superhero Games: Branding Triumph or Something Deeper?

Superheroes are currently going through another golden age. Since The Dark Knight Trilogy [1] and numerous Marvel films having massive box office successes, new waves of games have surfaced. Like their TV and film counterparts, these have become hugely successful both in console, casino, card, and board game formats.

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So why is this? Is the success simply a successful superhero branding exercise, or is there something deeper and psychological about superheroes which talks to us?

Back story

As well as a theme song, superheroes have back stories. As a superhero fan myself, this is one of my favorite aspects of the genre. Normally, this involves a transformation due to suffering a loss– often the death of a loved one or loved ones, if luck will have it. It can also be factors such as loss of, or gain in, status. From this point our hero often undergoes something of a paradigm shift in their way of thinking, often influenced by a dramatic change in their circumstances or experiencing something horrific.

The superhero’s powers which are granted either by design, infect our hero by chance, or developed through force of their own will; help the hero overcome adversity to triumph. According to Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and author of several books on the psychology of superheroes, the back story provides us with methods of coping with adversity, and finding meaning in loss. Something nearly all of us experience at one time or another and subsequently relate to. Often, we become stronger as we learn to cope with it.

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Games are more than just kapow!

Although on a corporate level console, board, card, and online slot games are about generating revenue, there can be little doubt that the creative forces behind the better ones are clearly fans of the superhero genre.

Batman Arkham Knight, together with two of its three prequels delves into the psychology of arguably the most well known superhero of all– Batman! The games have won widespread critical acclaim for capturing the DC world and lore. Arguably, as we can merge into this world and experience it, we do not just understand the psychology of superheroes, but become one with it.

This underlines the fact that there is more than just game play at work here, as the game creators have taken time to bring not just the heroes and villains to life, but the thinking that has gone into the original creations.

Another gaming element where this is evident is in online slot games such as this Ironman slot from Mr Smith Casino. Online slot games are huge money spinners for casinos, and have a whole psychology of their own. From a superhero perspective they use powerful imagery from the life of the superhero to entice us to play. This is a clever move. A superhero fan will probably want to play a Batman slot game, rather than one based on a horror franchise.

Board and card games have brought superheroes to life in unique ways. Again the themes of triumphing over adversity are evident, and the good ones engage us. Like superheroes we often develop our own strategy to play these games to defeat our enemies. I’m sure this sounds familiar!

It is clear that the psychology of superheroes is not so much a match with the superhero inspired games, but a match with our own psychology which seeks to triumph over adversity.

Ghost Writer

Here. There. Everywhere. Punished soul that usually watches what nobody wants, but sometimes gets lucky.

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