Duke Nukem Forever, a game that has been in development through the majority of my own time on this earth, has finally received it's long awaited release, spewing it's manly testosterone towards the hungry masses with their mouths agape just so they may have the chance be as awesome as Duke someday. I have played Duke's previous installments of over the top violence and nonsensical plot lines, while it was fun for me at such a young age it no longer has the same appeal to me. Today, I have no interest in Duke Nukem Forever, it no longer grasps my attention like the woman on the box cover desires to grasp Duke's gun... you don't see it? She's right there... no more to the right... yeah... that her, that one disembodied manicured hand just barely grazing his package, conveniently covered by what else but a gold plated gun. Compensating much?
Look at this thing! Sigmund Freud must be spinning in his grave!
My point is, this ridiculously over the top game has become a paragon of what has become a strange trend in video game wish fulfillment: Super bad ass protagonists.
Games that feature such protagonists are a type of wish fulfillment, a way for the player to enact feelings of grandeur as they play a super powered main character who can mow down an entire legion of enemies with a flick of his wrist. Several popular titles do this: Halo, God of War, Devil May Cry, Gears of War, ect. Basically any character that is put up to do impossibly cool shit almost all the time as if it were nothing but a trip to the grocery store.
The fact is... playing these characters can be all well and good, but today the idea has become so over used that it has reached the point of becoming boring and mundane. Who would want to play such a ridiculously over the top character all the time? Eventually you will need to expect them to push the bar higher on what they can do, but if they are expected to do such amazing things all the time it can be hard to top that. So you can flick your wrist and everything in a 5 mile radius has their organs rupture, that's cool, but after the 8th time you do it it loses it's luster, and it's going to be hard to find something more amazing than that.
Now consider a more moderate character: He isn't expected to do anything over the top very often, but when he does it's spectacular because it is so rare. With characters like this, it is more exhilarating to see them achieve something grand or do something spectacular because you know you put in the work to achieve it. This is why such sandbox games such as GTA or Assassin's Creed are so fun, because you start out on the bottom and work your way up, and when you do pull off some crazy stunt you took the time to plan and prepare for it.
A noteworthy character that follows this example is Gordon Freeman from Half Life. When you consider the fact that he's nothing more than a scientists who never fired a gun before, it makes his achievement that much more meaningful. It's also good to notice that he is completely silent, so he gives off almost no sense of ego, he is badass not because of who he is but what he has done.
To put it simply, wish fulfilling characters in games is like having your cake and eating it too, but nobody wants cake all the time. Consider the modest vegetable for your palate fr your next meal.