On the page and on the screen, Fleming's idealized universe of espionage feels like a clockwork mechanism waiting to spring into life only when Bond makes his entrance. All fiction relies on smoothing down some of the rougher edges of real life, but 007's narrative magnetism is tough to swallow. And yet, just like in a videogame, the player adjusts any realistic expectations and rapidly becomes accustomed to the way everything happens because of him. For Fleming, Bond's implausible effectiveness was a way of suggesting that Britain still wielded global influence. For gamers, it's just part of an assumed contract: I paid for this game so I expect to be the star of the show.
Since he came into being in 1953, James Bond has possessed something that gamers already utilize: a licence to kill. The double-0 prefix means that 007 can murder on a global scale without fear of legal reprisals, and that is the key fantasy exhibited by videogames. Many gamers slaughter people in the name of progressing through the game, and do not feel guilty because it's the call of duty. If that isn't the formula of the most popular of modern videogames, from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to Modern Warfare, then what is?
Nobody Does It Better?
Once you start to associate Bond with modern videogames, circumstantial similarities pop up everywhere. Both often feel clunkily written and/or slightly unfinished. Both regularly face charges of misogyny but do not seem that bothered by them. Both seem happy to trot out the same formulaic plots with minor cosmetic changes every two years or so. But while the evidence seems overwhelming, there is one particularly glaring difference between the two.
If James Bond was truly the first ever videogame character, with stylistic and thematic elements that should dovetail perfectly with the modern gaming landscape, why has there only been one truly great James Bond videogame?
Perhaps it's because while Bond himself is perfect for games, Bond stories are too linear, too predictable and too dull. GoldenEye is beloved because of its intense multiplayer rather than the single-player campaign. In the early 2000s, when EA attempted to transplant the Bond character into original plots - NightfireM, Everything Or Nothing - they felt like cheap knock-offs with self-parodic titles. Even when EA returned to the source with the slavish From Russia With Love in 2005, the game was roundly panned for being clunky and old-fashioned. Will the current license-holders, Activision, be able to do any better with their next attempt, due later this year?
Probably not. Videogames have already taken everything they need from the Bond mythos; iterating, improving and updating it to the extent that 007 himself has become superfluous. The movie credits used to customarily end with a cocky promise: "James Bond will return ..." In videogames, he's everywhere already.