A Defense of Chaos

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re playing a video game. Barring glitches, it’s a world with rules and while sometimes those rules get broken it’s always in ways you’re prepared for. The controls get reversed, your character becomes inhibited, things like that. It’s not a world where chaos is welcome and most games even pride themselves on allowing careful planning and strategic movements in order to defeat your foes and win the game. Now imagine that there’s a move or character whose sole purpose to disrupt the order of things and sow chaos and while you’re ostensibly controlling that character you can force them to unleash anarchy upon the video game world.

I stole this from Bulbapedia.
I stole this from Bulbapedia.

Role-playing games seem to be the ones that enjoy this chaos the most with some having entire character classes dedicated to up-ending your experience. My earliest encounter with this phenomenon was in Pokemon Red with the Metronome move, which allows the Pokemon to use any move that’s been programmed into the game which seems like something that would severely upend the game’s balance, but this is the beauty of the random move: as often as it’ll help, it’s much more likely to hinder. Metronome, for example, could allow your struggling Pokemon to use a move that would defeat an opponent in one hit, but it could also simply offer a weak status change or do nothing at all. It may even kill your Pokemon, and so the random move is high risk but may also offer high rewards.

I stole this one, even though I didn’t have to because I could have just opened the game.

The character classes steeped in chaos are rarer, but they still exist. Baldur’s Gate II has the Wild Mage, whose entire deal is that their ability to cast spells is hindered by a randomizer which could do absolutely nothing at all. It could also cause the mage to explode, or turn into other things. The Jester in Dragon Quest III will largely just do whatever they want but are later able to become powerful Sages, one of the better classes in the game. There are also characters with a move or two which produce random effects, with Earthbound‘s Paula and her Pray move coming immediately to mind. In that case, that move proves integral later in the game.

I stole this one from the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate web site. No one can stop me. No one is willing to do so.
I stole this one from the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate web site. No one can stop me. No one is willing to do so.

There’s also some examples in fighting games. Circling back to Dragon Quest, that series and its Hero came to Super Smash Brothers Ultimate with a double-dose of random: one of his moves opens up a menu containing four spells from the game, with a different set of spells popping up each time the move is used. One of these moves is Hocus Pocus, which layers a random effect onto the Hero. It’s a charming amount of chaos introduced to a game which was already controlled insanity. There’s also Charade from the Soul Calibur series, which adopted a different fighter’s moveset every time they were chosen to battle with.

This one is actually mine, as you can tell from my name being right there.

While these randomized moves certainly aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and are probably frowned upon by gamers wanting to show off their skill, the fact that they persist means that the gaming industry is still able to have a bit of fun at its own expense and I welcome their inclusion in any game they may appear in.

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