Super Mario, Lara Croft, Pikachu, Gordon Freeman, Pac-Man, Master Chief … over 50 years, videogames have given birth to many memorable characters and, while not everybody could identify The Legend of Zelda’s Ganondorf in an identity parade or name all 151 original Pokémon, Super Mario’s beaming face is recognized the world over (see Choquet 2002). Certainly, the increased popularity of videogame play must be partly responsible for the visibility of these characters. However, it is notable that recognition extends beyond players. Reporting the findings of a 1990 study (predating the boom in popularity that accompanied the 1994 launch of PlayStation), Sheff (1993: 9) notes that ‘the Nintendo mascot, Super Mario, was more recognized by American children than Mickey Mouse’. It is clear that videogame characters have long since broken free of the PC or console screen and, from the days of Pac-Man and even Space Invaders, their presence has been by no means restricted to the interactive screen (see Kent 2001 on ‘Pac-Mania’ and ‘Space Invaders fever’, for example). As such, even those who have never played Tomb Raider are likely to have at least heard of Lara Croft. However, this should probably surprise us little and videogame characters must be

seen as treading a similar path to other fictional characters that have ‘transcended’ the texts of their original appearance (see Denning 1987, for example). In their discussion of ‘the Bond phenomenon’, Bennett and Woollacott (1987: 6) point to the impossibility and futility of conceiving the central character as solely constituted within Ian Fleming’s novels or even their film adaptations, and posit James Bond as a popular hero ‘constituted within a constantly moving set of intertextual relations’. Certainly, the intertextuality of videogame characters is evident. While videogames may have given them life, the Pokémon, like Earthworm Jim, the Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, have all starred in their own television and film series, and adorn the T-shirts, pencil

cases and lunch tins of countless children and adults the world over. Leaping from the game screen, Lara Croft publicizes energy drinks and cars while still finding time to star in a series of action movies. Indeed, cinemas have played host to a spate of videogame-related movies including ‘Resident Evil’ and ‘Final Fantasy’, for example, and videogame characters and series are frequently translated to feature-length Japanese animé (‘Tekken’ and ‘Street Fighter II’). Even this only scratches the surface of the intertextual web within which videogames and their progeny exist and, although space cannot permit an exhaustive list, some sense of the scope can be gained by considering the comic serializations, records and even Pikmin plants with which to transform the garden into videogame space (in this colonization, we note the interesting reversal of Jenkins’s positioning of videogames as surrogates of the disappearing ‘real world’ spaces of play!). Moreover, the traffic is not merely unidirectional. Videogames do not simply sit at the perimeter but are located firmly within the intertextual network of contemporary media. As such, we note the continued presence of characters such as Mickey Mouse in videogames, while Bennett and Woollacott (1987) would doubtless be unsurprised to find a stream of James Bond games (most notably Goldeneye). Games like Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire mark important moments in this relationship in moving from games as sites for adaptation to functioning as part of the transmedial storytelling system. With 1996’s Shadows of the Empire, we see for the first time a game leading the exploration of new narratives in the ever-evolving Star Wars universe, for instance (see Vaz 1996). It is important to consider that intertextuality and transmediality ensure that ‘the

videogame’, just like ‘the film’, is a slippery term and that such apparently singular, delineated media forms not only exist within a multi-media context but also that they are supported by a range of other media texts and forms. Bennett and Woollacott (1987: 9) point to publicity posters, for example, though we might also consider box art, instruction manuals, retail displays and perhaps even in-game movie sequences, in addition to multimedia marketing materials in the study of videogames. Crucially, as we have seen, for Bennett and Woollacott, just like Barker who talks of the ‘prefigurative’ function of film trailers, or Newman who investigates the availability and use of walkthrough texts and superplay videos, for instance, these media working ‘alongside’ the films, novels and games, actively cue the audience and encourage consumption in specific ways. And perhaps it is the fact that some characters are ‘flat’ – a matter that we will return to, shortly – which enables them to cross media and exceed the boundaries of single texts.