Smashing Universes Together – Headcanons in Cyberpunk 2077, Splinter Cell, Final Fantasy and more…
Before we can get into a fun post about gaming Headcanons, we need to understand what a Headcanon is. This is when media consumers like you or I, decide that we actually prefer a different ending, or that there was a connection between two characters that was never part of the film/book/game, but we have decided it’s true. It is similar to, but distinct from fan fiction, where you take characters and worlds from media and write your own new versions. Perhaps like the writer of Fifty Shades, you wanted more adventures of Edward Cullen, dirty filthy butt-stuff adventures, and began to write them yourself. This is common in Slash and Fan fiction, but not quite what I’m getting at today.
So here we go. Fictional Universes can be whatever you want them to be, and just because something isn’t canon, doesn’t mean it can’t be for you.
The best example of head canon we’ve all done is Star Wars – people choose to believe Han shot first, or Greedo shot first, mostly based on their own preconceived notions of the characters, and also happily choose to disregard any number of revisions by George Lucas himself. If even he can’t decide, then I’ll make up my own damn mind. Which era George do you go with anyway?
I seem to make up headcanons all the time, maybe more than most as I’m a writer. Here’s an example of a head canon I have decided is true for a decade or more. I watched all three seasons of 8 Simple Rules, when it was on TV in the UK a lot, and then within a year or so, the Big Bang Theory started, and for a long time, like a lot of us, I watched this too. But because Kaley Cuoco formed this bridge across both shows, I began to link them in my mind. I decided the two characters of Bridget and Penny, were similar enough that they could actually be the same person. I decided my own head canon to explain this. It was simple enough; Bridget had left home, got out from under her dad’s 8 Simple Rules, changed her name to Penny, and went to live in Pasadena California across the hall from some raging nerds for seven years. She decided to pursue acting, even though she was pretty bad at it, and whenever Penny would talk about her promiscuous teenage years and multiple boyfriends, I thought well yeah, Bridget was a lot like that, plus there were clearly some intervening years, where she went off the rails.
So Big Bang Theory and 8 Simple Rules have no real link, but my head canon is that it’s actually the same character across two shows. They exist in a shared universe for me. Is this weird? Does anyone else do this? Is it just because I’m an author and interested in plot and characters?
I suppose what I’m doing there goes further than mere headcanons, what I’m talking about is smashing universes together. And smashing universes together got me thinking. We should be happier to do this in games. Why can’t a number of games share the same universe?
Cyberpunk Shared Universes
I recently played the Cyberpunk Bartender Action sim Va-11 Hall-A, and fell in love with all its quirky characters. There were a few secret ones that crossed over from the game 2064: Read Only Memories into Va-11 Hall-A and vice versa, even though they aren’t by the same developers, they just made a quick agreement to share a few bonds. And it got me thinking about Cyberpunk cities. They are all much the same, and often at very similar technology levels. If you just ditch the names of the cities, and imagine that most of the cyberpunk themed games and stories all happen basically in the same space, you’re most of the way there.
We are about to get our hands on Cyberpunk 2077, and I know it’s called Night City, but it might as well be Glitch City, or Nivalis, or Los Angeles in 2049. I want to imagine as I’m walking around in Night City this coming November that I might happen down a dark alley and find the Va-11 Hall-A bar, and its clientele of wonderful cyborg denizens, meet Dana Zane and Julianne Stingray and strike up a conversation while she makes me a drink liberally laced with synthetic alcohol Karmotrine. Why couldn’t Dorothy be found on a sidewalk whoring, or Sei and the white knights be walking through? You could go on a mission with Alma the wiz hacker. We already know CD Projekt Red are happy to include lots of musical acts, with Refused portraying Johnny Silverhand’s Samurai band, and Grimes appearing as Lizzy Wizzy – why not have Kira Miki on the radio?
And why stop there? Smash them all together. Why can’t Deus Ex’s Detroit, Hengsha, Shanghai and Prague, all exist within the same augmented world as Night City, Glitch City, and Cloudpunk’s Nivalis. Why can’t I run across Adam Jensen while I’m playing the corp scenario? Why not have a KILL YOU Ruiner helmet on someone walking by? Why can’t Observer Redux be happening in the same city? Why can’t Horizon Zero Dawn’s post, post-apocalyptic world, be the far flung future of all of them, after the robot uprising.
I like to think all the viral outbreaks that sweep cities in games, are essentially the same outbreak. The Last of Us, Resident Evil, State of Decay, and Days Gone are largely happening at the same time as far as I’m concerned. Resident Evil is the outbreak as it happened in Raccoon City, but in other places it happened in different ways. It’s possible Umbrella has been behind every major outbreak across America. With the rampant zombies everywhere, sometimes people refer to it as the T-virus, sometimes as Cordyceps, but if you don’t care too much about tiny details it can all be the same plague. Days Gone was also happening at the same time, just in Oregon, where the zombies migrated in hordes.
For me these games all essentially exist in the same shared universe, simply by virtue of being outbreaks that happen basically in the present day scenario.
Combining Marvel and DC
Marvel and DC have been combining their different properties together for many years. Marvel generally works under the assumption that it’s our earth, and the cities are usually ones we know, New York for example, but with the Avengers tower, and the Daily Bugle etc. Obviously Thor comes from the Norse gods realms, but he exists on our earth. Spiderman can encounter the X Men, The Avengers can meet the Guardians of the Galaxy, we’ve seen it even in the films.
DC usually bases everything in fictional cities like Metropolis, and Gotham, the Amazon island etc, but the same is true, Batman can fight Superman, and Gotham’s supervillains can visit Metropolis.
But why not cross Marvel with DC. I just basically ignore the fact that they don’t crossover in my head. For me they all basically exist on our earth, and it could happen at any time that Thor met Batman, or that Spider-Man swung through Metropolis. I’ll probably get a lot of screaming naysayers to that one, but why not?
Retconning Star Wars
Now I mentioned Star Wars in passing but with the takeover by Disney, Star Wars is rife for the kind of headcanons I’m talking about. There were hundreds of books and games in the SWEU that were suddenly and unceremoniously made non-canon. What about Mara Jade? What about the Yuuzhan Vong war, the Darksaber? Jeez, Chewbacca died in the books! What about the flawed but brilliant Shadows of The Empire on N64, with Dash Rendar and Xizor – just washed away.
I like to make Star Wars what I want in my head. I have decided that Mara Jade still existed in that missing thirty year block, and had a relationship with Luke. I think the whole Jedi Academy storyline still happened, because of Luke’s flashbacks to the Knights of Ren. What did they destroy if not the Jedi Academy he tried to start up? They are also bringing the Darksaber back in the Mandalorian series, and Kylo Ren’s fall is very clearly stolen from Jacen Solo’s arc across dozens of books.
And fuck it, while we are at it, I’m not happy with the ending of Episode 9. Spoiler Alert! So it makes no sense and hurts my brain to think that Palpatine had kids and then eventually Rey. It makes a lot more sense to me that Rey was actually the Chosen One, born of the force once again to bring balance to a dark galaxy. She has those memories of Luke’s Island, not because they are premonitions, but because she was born there. She was spirited away to live on Jakku with foster parents (so that Kylo etc would not influence her) and her return heralds the possibility once again for balance to return to the force. Anakin was the chosen one, but failed to bring balance, and so the Force tried again with Rey. This is why her visions make it seem she was born to no one important. She wasn’t, it was the force.
I was happily convinced this was where we were going after episode 8, but then 9 scuppered it, so I have headcanoned it back to what it should have been. Palpatine and Kylo were liars, and Rey is the Force embodied, hence her innate ability. Convince me otherwise.
Final Fantasy Shared Universe
I know technically every Final Fantasy happens in a different world apart from a couple of sequels, and a crossover like Dissidia. Ivalice is even a particular world within FF where they have set multiple stories including FF12 and Tactics, and even Vagrant Story.
But I think the Summons and similar enemies link the universe together more than we realise. Imagine if you will that each of the planets of each Final Fantasy were each just a parallel universe of each other. If you go back far enough, they all have the same origins, creatures like cactuar and moogles and Marlboros evolved, and humans, and they were all governed by the elemental forces of the summons. Call them aeons, espers, GFs, eidolons, whatever, they exist like gods outside of time in the shared FF universe, and can be drawn into the world of any of the FF games at any time. They are omnipresent god-like elements after all.
This means in my head, that each FF world just split from another a long time ago, and share the same magic trees and abilities, the same creatures, the same moogles and the same gods. All the games are happening in the same time period, just in different parallel worlds.
Which is exactly how Dissidia is perfectly explainable and Kingdom Hearts fits in as well, stealing FF characters back when it was good.
Metal Splinter Solid Cell
Greg noted recently a particular moment in Ghost Recon Wildlands where Sam Fisher is talking to his handler, and they talk about anther grizzled old stealth operative who had recently retired. Of course they were talking about Solid Snake and just smashing those two universes together. Snake and Sam know of each other, they probably even trained in the same places, but they never met, keeping instead a private rivalry that only they knew existed.
And that means, as far as I’m concerned, all the Tom Clancy properties, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, The Division, and any others I’ve forgotten are all happening in the same world as the Metal Gear games. Sam Fisher is aware of Metal Gear Rex and Outer Heaven, and Snake is aware of Fourth Echelon. Ubisoft, if you are struggling to work out a way to bring back Splinter Cell, make a crossover game where both operatives have to team up and make it co-op!
These are just a few examples of possibly strange Head canons that I think are true, and you can’t stop me! I’d love to know what head canons you have, so let us know in the comments. Hell, maybe some of them will be so good, other people will accept them as head canon.