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Welcome to what may be the dawn of a new generation of gaming — and no, despite the announcement of the Wii U, we aren't talking about consoles. This is a generation that seems to consist solely of reboots, HD-remakes, and sequels without a whole lot of new to offer but with plenty to watch slowly disappear.
At E3 this year, we were treated to Nintendo and their 3D rehashing, a new look at an old heroine with Lara Croft's new Tomb Raider, and the return of Master Chief to helm the ship of 343 Industries. Then in the last two weeks, gaming moguls Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, and Volition — each responsible for creating such iconic names like Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Spyro the Dragon, and Red Faction, respectively — have either announced themselves or their publishers have announced the discontinuation or halting of those same series.
|Sorry Crash, but that witty wink and winning smile won't help you this time.|
Now, while I can't complain because this means no more rehashing of old series or countless sequels, it got me thinking. If Uncharted 3's Assistant Producer Victor Harris can come out and say, "Naughty Dog is a one franchise per-console company and PlayStation 3 is Uncharted," and if THQ can just trash Red Faction because one title didn't sell well, who is our next generation of heroes and heroines going to be?
Obviously we still have Mario (and probably will for a long time), but with Crash gone and Master Chief and Lara Croft having to start discovering themselves all over again (if at all), that doesn't leave much hope for the "old class."
So then, who makes the cut for the "new class"? Let's take a look at the line-up.
|He's relatable and armed.|
First, we have Uncharted's Nathan Drake, now in his third installment and soon to be a movie star.
Drake was designed to look like a hybrid between Johnny Knoxville, Harrison Ford, and the heroes of pulp fiction (the actual stuff, not the movie). Taking this everyman feel, he has been said to be the new mascot for the PS3. And he is known for his relatability — constantly recognizing the absurdity of his adventures and occasionally realizing that saving the world can be awkward and dirty work at times. Generally received well by critics, everyone seems to agree that he is a lovable jerk who manages to avoid being brash.
The only person to voice any kind of serious criticism of Drake was Double Fine's Tim Schafer, commenting on Drake's ability in the first game to have a shirt that is both tucked and un-tucked at the same time (better known now as the "half tuck").
|Our name is Commander Shepard, and this is our favorite article on the internet.|
Next, we have Mass Effect's Commander Shepard. Whether you rock the MaleShep or FemShep, it doesn't matter — Shepard has won a place on the next-gen team.
Saving the galaxy like nobody else can, Shepard manages to unite unfriendly species from across the universe to help him defeat an ominous foe who nobody wants to admit exists. With the in-depth customization to make him or her look exactly like you, Shepard adds an element that no other character does: the ability to feel like you are Shepard. This, unlike any other "mascot," makes your attachment personal, and that isn't something we've seen done too well in the past.
Unfortunately, Shepard's adventures are coming to a close early next year — and just as the old superstars were on their way out. Hopefully, he (or she) will have some staying power; otherwise, we'll be hearing that iconic "I should go" in the near future.
|This would make for one violent family reunion.|
Landing in third is Assassin's Creed's Desmond Miles and his ancestors, including Altair, Ezio, and whoever we'll meet down the road.
While I would probably just give the third team slot to Ezio Auditore de Firenze, I don't think it's entirely fair to discount his lineage since they are partly responsible for his success. Yes, Altair's experience in the first Assassin's Creed was an awful grind…and yes, Desmond can be about as likable and relatable as cardboard at times, but they are all one-in-the-same…sort of.
Regardless, the experience of roof-running and righting ancient wrongs with the slick and stabby skills of a true assassin have translated well to the video-game medium. The series is now entering its fourth installment, Revelations. Like Shepard, Ezio's storyline is coming to a close in the next installment, but it will take a lot for Desmond's next ancestor to bump Ezio off his throne as the next-gen ambassador of stabbiness.
|The Batman and Joker–of science.|
Finally, repping for the female side would be Portal's GLaDOS and Chell.
Unlike the others, GLaDOS and Chell are two different characters, but splitting them up would be like separating Laurel and Hardy, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, or Lady Gaga and people who actually think she's worth listening to. The combination of Chell's mute stoicism and GLaDOS' humorously heedless homicidal tendencies just wouldn't be the same if we split the pair apart.
If anything, they will be known for not only being a great comedic duo (both when starched and not) but for completely reinventing the first-person shooter genre by combining it with puzzling elements and doing it…well…for science. You monsters.
So there you have it, folks. Let's give a big round of applause to the next generation's most-likely mascots! Remember, this list is just my best approximations, and who better to tell me if I'm right and wrong than you, our fans and fellow game players!
Do you think this list is complete? Let me know if it needs some additions or subtractions.
If there is one point we can agree on, then it is that humanity will always need heroes. So, as we take a moment to wish Crash, Jak, Daxter, and the members of the Red Faction adieu, we can only hope that their replacements can find that space in our hearts that will so desperately needs filling.