What do you see in James Bond?
For some, 007 is a suave hero - a white knight with impeccable tastes and enviable appetites, serving Queen and country by seducing exotic ladies and foiling evil foreigners. Others see a hopeless anachronism - a state-sanctioned sadist who crashes around the world drinking, gambling, seducing and murdering.
I see something else: James Bond is the ultimate videogame character.
If that sounds even more ridiculous than the space-laser climax of Moonraker, bear with me. Obviously, author Ian Fleming's creation of Bond predates the evolution of videogames - the first 007 novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953 and, even by the time of the Fleming's death in 1964, gaming was still taking blocky-graphic baby steps.
Yet if you analyze the DNA that has helped make 007 such an enduring archetype, it's jarring how much of his character and milieu matches up with what modern players would automatically expect from a contemporary videogame. Viewed through the lens of AAA blockbuster titles, Bond suddenly seems less a reactionary throwback than a tuxedo-clad prototype. He's the spiritual father - OK, grandfather - of every smirking, ruthless, egotistical FPS hero ever to have raised a harpoon gun in anger.
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First there are the broad similarities, the nuts-and-bolts stuff. Bond is always a man on a mission, a loose cannon charged with taking down terrorist armies essentially on his own. It's a situation with which all gamers are instantly familiar, and by which they are surprisingly unfazed, considering how unlikely it is that one person could effectively dismantle an entire enemy organization with little more than a pistol and a passing knowledge of current keycard technology.
Once you begin to consider the correlation, Bond's adventures seem like the design documents for any recent action game. Although he has yet to effectively dual-wield, Bond does have a signature weapon - the Walther PPK - but will often access upgrades in the course of his assignment, unlocking special devices and abilities by talking to research scientist Q. In fact, with his constant refrain of "Pay attention, 007," dear old Q functions as weapons shop, upgrade broker and hands-on tutorial, all wrapped up in one slightly exasperated package. The character customization options might be a touch limited - tuxedo, navy uniform, safari suit or scuba gear - but Bond still makes for a convincing avatar. True, he is yet to be given a recharging energy shield but the majority of his superhuman exploits leave him surprisingly unruffled after only a few moments to catch his breath (although the recent brace of Daniel Craig movies appear to relish roughing up their leading man).