Ah, the almighty dodge roll. How many times have you saved my avatar’s sorry ass from annihilation? The dodge roll is such a vital action adventure game convention that playing a game without that function is oddly restricting. In fact, when I start a game without the ability to dodge roll, I instinctively think that it must be unlockable somehow. This weekend, I played indie 3-d action fighter Lugaru, a deceptively simple interface that is frustratingly hard. Sure enough, one of the first tasks in the tutorial was to learn how to dodge roll (and its equally valuable cousin, the handspring).

It makes sense that some sort of emergency evasive maneuver lends itself well to the genre, where fast reflexes often mean life or death for the player. In certain games, intelligence may not amount to much if you have the finger dexterity and timing down (I’m calling you out God of War). From Zelda to Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid to Kingdom Hearts, a fast roll to one side or the other exists in all these games. It is however, notably absent from games where the character is purposefully encumbered. I’m thinking Resident Evil, where many times I could’ve survived a zombie rush if only I could roll out of the way. Gamers pride ourselves on many things, amongst them is our reflexes. Among the things we’re not so proud of is our physical fitness level. Being able to translate our fast moving fingers to our slow moving bodies is cathartic to say the least.

From a gamer’s perspective, I’m starting to worry how the prevalence of dodge rolls is affecting my real life. An FPS will never convince me to shoot innocent people. Grand Theft Auto doesn’t breed a disrespect for the law for me. My concern is how these nimble gymnasts in the form of video game characters are boosting my confidence in my own abilities. I can say that I walk across the street with heightened confidence that if a runaway car comes my way, I’ll be able to roll to safety. I wouldn’t be shocked if at the precise moment some on-screen prompt at the bottom of my field of vision would tell me precisely which button combination to press.

Acknowledging the importance of the dodge roll, I will also add some caveats for the incorporation of dodge rolls in games.

  1. A dodge roll should move the character at a faster rate than the regular movement. This is so essential as to be almost definitional of a dodge roll.
  2. A dodge roll should have an appropriate recovery period. In other words, characters should not be able to substitute rolling for running. That would be absurd.
  3. Aforementioned recovery should occur after completion of the maneuver. Dodge rolls should be instantaneousness at the press of a button.
  4. Dodge rolls should be unlimited. As mentioned before, it is so necessary that it should not be restricted in use.
  5. If the character does not start out with the dodge roll, it should earn the ability soon. Given it’s usefulness, I don’t want the reward of something so foundational so late in the game.
  6. Of course, all action adventure games must have a dodge roll (or evasive equivalent like handsprings, short-range teleportation, etc.).

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