But after self-parody, the second stage in the death of an icon is when the parodies stop being funny and the property owners start getting too protective. Which I suspect may have happened with Paper Mario Sticker Star. Maybe the owners of the character are getting paranoid that the star is somewhat on the wane, so they go into lockdown. The character will remain preserved forever in the state they are currently in, the prized possession of a corporate hive mind no longer concerned about emotion or growth but about ensuring that nothing associated with them is portrayed in anything that could be interpreted as a negative light. The alternative is unthinkable: they might turn into nothing but the thin shell of parody that used to surround an actual person. They become William Shatner.
So the stagnation begins. Mario is now an inmate at Spandau prison, allowed out of his box only under the strictest protective conditions for a brief walk around the exercise yard. No kind of life, this. No more game changers for him. Just an eternity on children's pajamas and ironic collectibles.
Maybe it goes further than that. Maybe we are living in a post-mascot age. For some reason, my thoughts lately keep turning to Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. What its presence actually represents rather than the qualities of the actual game (which I still can't be arsed to play). Smash Bros Brawl, its clone father, was a property based entirely around nostalgia. As in, that was the only reason for its existence and the carbon from which its entire chemical makeup was composed. It was about seeing all your favorite faces from your childhood interacting, which is always fun. It's like finding out that one celebrity or artist you really like is best friends with another one you really like.
But can PASBR claim the same thing? One could certainly claim to like Nathan Drake or Cole McGrath or the games from which they originate, but they're not exactly icons, they're just two white blokes in jeans. They can't be said to have nostalgia working for them because they've only been out a few years. An exercise in celebrating them has a rather disagreeable taint of cynical marketing about it. But maybe that's the age we live in, now. Maybe that's what Sony's trying to tell us. We don't need to work at building a relationship between you and our characters anymore. We're just going to dictate what you like. Whether or not a character proved popular is no longer relevant, we simply act under the assumption that they are. I mean, Fat Princess? Seriously?
And then there's the matter of including Dante from Devil May Cry as a character, only it's the new Dante from the DmC: Devil May Cry reboot. The one that isn't even fucking out yet. How does it make sense to put a character who doesn't yet formally exist in a popularity contest? What would you even call that? The assumption of success? Pre-nostalgia? Whatever the case, perhaps this world is just getting too frightening for a fat little cartoon plumber.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.