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34 Cliches of Christmas
Red Exploding Barrels
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 24, 2007   |   Episode 33 (Show Archive)  

   

It's that time of year again, a time when Defunct Games celebrates the holidays by posting a daily theme article that should inform and delight gamers all over the world. This year we're taking a look at the video game cliche, the type of thing we've seen time and time again in all generations of gaming. Is this cliche realistic? Does it need to go away? These are the types of questions Defunct Games will be asking over the next month. Join us as we celebrate this joyous season with the 34 Cliches of Christmas!



Okay, so the barrels in Doom aren't red ... but if you shoot them they still go "BOOOM!!!"
As Seen In: Doom, Half-Life, Perfect Dark, GoldenEye 007, Gears of War, F.E.A.R., Red Steel, Resident Evil, Red Faction, TimeShift, XIII and every other first-person shooter on the market. I'm serious; it's hard to find a first-person shooter that doesn't offer some sort of exploding barrel!

What Is It? Now that there are literally thousands of video games on the planet, it's safe to say that there are a few conventions that gamers have come to see time and time again. For example, pretty much every 2D platformer goes from left to right. We also don't bat an eye when your favorite first-person action hero can hold dozens of weapons at the same time. And don't forget about all of those turn-based role-playing games we've had to put up with for thirty years. But there's one convention that stands above them all - the red exploding barrel. Because of years of training you know for a fact that if you shoot a red barrel, there's a 100% chance that it's go to explode and kill everybody around it. What's more, you know for a fact that there are going to be people just kind of hanging out around this dangerous-as-hell exploding barrel. This is just one of those things that every action game does, no matter where it comes from, who makes it or what system it's for.

Is It Realistic? Thankfully this cliche is completely false, red barrels are not as explosive as video games would like you to believe. That's not to say you should go around shooting red

Yes, a halloween costume CAN be a little too clever!
barrels, but the chances of it blowing up in your face are small. The good news is that you won't have to be tempted, because there aren't that many red barrels just lying around. Also, bad guys (people that kidnap young children, rob banks, write for lame video game websites, etc.) don't usually hang out around red barrels. Take it from me, when I see a red barrel in the real world I run as fast as I can away from it. There's no point in even taking the risk that there's some sniper out there just waiting for that moment when somebody gets close so he can shoot the barrel and cause lots of damage. I'm sure that's much more satisfying than just getting a headshot or something. There's no need to argue apples and headshots, the point is that your local neighborhood red barrel isn't as deadly as Doom would like you to believe.

Is It Overused? At this point I'm pretty sure video game developers put it in there just because they know they have to. People expect the red exploding barrel, and as a gameplay mechanic it makes a lot of sense. If John Woo Presents Stranglehold taught us anything it's that it's a lot of fun to blow stuff up around the enemies. We've done the whole shooting bad guys thing, the 21st century is about shooting around the bad guys so that you can hit explosive objects.

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