While outfitting Chuck Greene in some of the costumes that can be found all over Still Creek in “Dead Rising 2: Case Zero,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of “Quantum Leap,” the NBC time-traveling drama that put Scott Bakula in all sorts of absurd, out-there outfits, ostensibly for dramatic purposes. (Hey, the guy won an Emmy.)
Like Bakula’s character, who dressed that way because he was actually inhabiting the bodies of other people, Chuck ends up wearing some gender-bending get-ups no sane motocross champ would be caught dead in, such as a 1950s-style waitress uniform. And just as the supporting cast of “Quantum Leap” interacted with Sam as if he were totally normal, so too go the non-player characters in the “Dead Rising” games.
This similarity between a TV show and a video game released two decades apart got me thinking that “Quantum Leap” offers a great model for a new gaming franchise.
In “Quantum Leap,” Bakula’s character, Sam Beckett, traveled through time, jumping from person to person. In each episode, he’d inhabit a different body and try to correct some sort of historical wrong.
You could easily play with this kind of convention in a video game. In one game or downloadable episode, players are, say, a soldier charged with helping liberate a town. In another, they’re a doctor trying to save a little girl’s life, or a race car driver. Tie them all together with some sort of meta-narrative and execute competently, and you’ve got a video game on par with Italo Calvino’s genre-bending literary tour-de-force “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.”
Certainly, there’s no need for a video game publisher to run out and secure the rights to make a game based on a 20-year-old TV show that many gamers don’t remember or aren’t aware of. What’s important is that a “Quantum Leap”-style narrative, featuring a protagonist who can jump from person to person, would allow for some amazing storytelling and compelling characters that wouldn’t be tied to a specific genre or gameplay conventions.
It’s an idea the makers of the “Assassin’s Creed” games, which force a modern-day everyman to relive the memories of his ancestors, have toyed with, but it’s one I’d like to see taken further, within the context of a single game or downloadable episodes.
Whether the body-inhabiting character were a time-traveling scientist with partial amnesia is largely irrelevant. The action could center around a parasitic, mind-controlling worm, a demon or even a common item that passes from each chapter’s hero to the next. It’d be a heck of a challenge from a game-design standpoint to hop genres so readily, but what’s life without a little adversity?