The Goon comes in many different flavors. First there's your basic dumbass Goon, the straight up chaff found in Perfect Dark and Half-Life. These guys are basically target practice, jumping in front of your gun just for the sake of it. Then there's the melee Goon. Like the henchmen in Arkham City or the militia in Assassin's Creed, these guys are consummate professionals of making you look cool, sacrificing their jawbones and ribcages for the sake of your combo chain. Then you've got the guard Goon, a nosey bugger generally found in Splinter Cell and Hitman. Unlike his FPS cousins, the guard Goon won't play shootout, preferring instead to hit the alarm and spoil your fun. Smart, curious and often frustrating, the guard Goon is an acquired taste, but take the time to learn his nuances and nothing is more rewarding than getting the drop on this fella.
From stealth-'em-ups to platformers, the Goon is a gaming mainstay, always at the ready to be shot, bludgeoned and exploded for the sake of our gory thrills.
You've also got the gangster Goon, who rears his shootable head in pretty much every crime sim you can think of. The ones in Saints Row aren't bad - plentiful and dim-witted, they're easy prey for your airstrike-wielding avatar. But for true gourmet gangster goonery, you need to head over to Red Dead Redemption. Here the Goons are as mean as they are many; stay too slow on the trigger and they'll take you out with a sharp shot to the Stetson faster than you can say "draw." Plug them first however, and the subsequent euphoric death ballet is as good as it gets.
Lastly is the soldier Goon. Well-armed, wily and totally disposable, these plucky rent-a-troops have been stuck in the limelight ever since CoD conscripted first person shooters into the war genre. The product of off-screen respawn points, this lead-loving jarhead usually comes charging at you with twenty identical buddies. You'll likely put down a hundred of these Goons on every level, but don't take them lightly: What used to be a fumbling comedy Nazi has evolved to use flanking manoeuvres, covering fire and M203s. Get too close, and he'll stick you with his knife. Throw a grenade, and he'll throw it right back. It takes a certain level of military cunning to successfully counter the soldier Goon's programming, but land a few good M4 rounds and he'll keel over like the rest of them. Unless he's got Last Man Standing, in which case you'll need to kill him again.
Of course zombies are fun; there's nothing quite like punching a flesh-eating fat bloke to second-death with a gigantic foam hand. But most stock enemies can't hold a flame to our faithful Goon. You get the odd star - Resident Evil's chainsaw wacko, Fallout's Deathclaws, Dead Space's Pack - but even this ensemble cast of mutants, freaks and aliens has nothing on the Goon. From stealth-'em-ups to platformers, the Goon is a gaming mainstay, always at the ready to be shot, bludgeoned and exploded for the sake of our gory thrills. Where robots drop dead with a half-hearted spurt of bolts and sparks, the Goon sprays blood and flails his limbs. Where aliens and mutants attack with predictable single-mindedness, the Goon picks his path, takes his cover and forces us to earn our kill. There's plenty of buzz in jamming your energy sword up a Hunter's weak point, but you'll never get tired of taking on the Goon; you've been doing it for years, and he's been right there with you, perfecting his act with each new console generation.
So the next time you go joyriding through GTA, or globetrotting around Modern Warfare, spare a thought for gaming's most faithful antagonist - the Goon. From Wolfenstein 3D to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the Goon has been at the center of your videogames; adaptable, versatile and constantly in the firing line, he's an enduring part of every gamer's history. Half bad guy, half stress ball, today's Goon represents the ideal balance between challenge and good fun. Whether he's swinging at you with his two-handed mace or cutting you down with suppressive fire, the Goon deserves our upmost respect. So flip on your console, grab your akimbo sawn-off Dragunovs, and go pay your tribute in the most violent way possible.
Ed Smith is an aspiring writer looking for all the work he can get. You can usually find him drunk and mumbling to himself on Twitter @mostsincerelyed.