I love summer. I know many don’t, but I love it anyway. What I don’t love? Allergies. Guess who doesn’t have allergies: video game characters. This can not stand.

Image: Art: Leslie Hung

Sometimes I try to avoid taking an allergy pill, if only because dosing my body with anti-histamines everyday doesn’t seem like the wisest decision. I’ve been lucky this week and hadn’t needed to take one for Monday or Tuesday. However, today I guess nature had another idea because instead of letting me off easy because my allergies hit me hard: runny nose, itchy eyes and plenty of sneezing. No.

Then I thought about video game characters. Do video game characters have allergies? Have I ever seen an instance of game characters having allergies as part of their package?

The answer is a resounding “no”. (Post-edit: as Aiden Ryan points out in the comments, Valkryia Chronicles featured allergies. It’s been too long since I played it)

Sure, a few bullets or sword swipes and a character might be down for the count, but pollen? Dust? Ha! They laugh at such inconveniences! Ha ha!

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Yet I’m starting to think that adding “allergies” as another character trait could have interesting implications, especially in strategy RPGs (SRPGs). Games like Disgaea use a grid system for its battles, and it already has a built in system where tiles may have specific special properties. Adding allergens to this system would be really easy and add another layer of “strategy” to the game (wherein the strategy is how to use the tiles). For example, pollen-genic tiles could affect a character that has the “hay fever” trait. They would sneeze randomly or have itchy, watery eyes that impacted their ability to aim.

I don’t think it’d be that out there to add such an element to SRPGs. Heck, why limit it to SRPGs? We could also add it to almost any game genre. RPGs for example, could have areas that have pollen clouds that would impact any battles that take place in those areas, with the same if not similar negative effects. Action games could use the system as well; do it during certain levels or environments that really mess with the player character’s actions.

The industry is continuously trying to make games more exciting or enjoyable, further propagating the idea that video games are an enjoyable escapism from the pressures of reality. The real world is harsh and miserable, but in video games we can be someone else, we can follow another person’s story. Save the world! Save the princess! Be a hero! Be the perfect version of you.

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Maybe that’s not what the industry should be pushing though? Maybe video games should start being a bit more cautionary, a bit more about facing reality instead of running away from it. There are many indie games that deal with sensitive topics and do it well, but what about the AAA games that do the same? Sure, some games like Persona 3 touch upon mortality and what it means to live life to the fullest, but the message is covered up by teenagers with guns fighting demons, looking good while being tough. Give players opportunities to be vulnerable, make players feel vulnerable, make them step into the shoes of another and learn what reality is for other people.

Or just keep being awesome - no allergies to stand in the way.