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What is a Dungeon?

The dungeon has been and probably always will be an often used video game location. The well worn plot mechanic of either  escaping from captivity in a dungeon or delving into a dungeon for lost treasures, information or prisoners is in evidence across many games particularly in the adventure and roleplaying genres. The classic Prince of Persia is an example of where the main character begins the game in a dungeon and must fight to find his way out and rescue the princess. In Bethesda's RPG: Oblivion, the protagonist begins in a dungeon and must fight his/her way out through a secret passage with a hunted emporer and his entourage.

Flora and Fauna

Captured princesses and other assorted royalty, evil wizards and forgotten treasures are commonly associated with the video game dungeon so it is no wonder that most dungeons come replete with an array of deadly traps to halt the progress of those so foolish as to wander into the dungeons depths. Some of the fiendish traps exhibited in dungeons include: swinging blades, pitfalls, spikes, cave-ins, poison darts, poisonous gas, rolling boulders, spear traps, crushing ceilings as well as a whole variety of complex magical traps and wards, not to mention a whole host of vile creatures like Goblins and Dragons. In many roleplaying games there are several dungeons in the game the first of which is most likely to be stocked with cliched low-level opponents such as bats, rats and spiders.

Since dungeons are often so perilous it is important for the dungeon's denizens to be able to commute through the dark passageways without coming to issue with the traps designed keep unwanted intruders out or the captives from escaping. This is why so many dungeons are fitted with secret passages, complicated key systems and magical passwords. Learning where these special features are located within a dungeon can often enable one to evade a wild goose-chase into certain death.  

For those who are skilled and lucky enough to avoid all the perils a dungeon has to offer a reward often lies in wait. Rewards commonly come as magically imbued items and weapons like swords and magic potions, bags of gold, jewels and a plethora of other weird and wonderful artifacts. 

The Importance of Dungeons

Perhaps one reason behind the prevalence of dungeons in video games is that they provide instant motives for a character without too much need for exposition and backstory. When a character is placed in a dungeon at the beginning of a game it is immediately obvious what they must do in order to progress: escape. It is unlikely that imprisonment is something many people want to experience and so the objective is clear. This simple concept has provided the launchpad for innumerable titles throughout the history of video games that have so often began in a dungeon setting.

The Use of Dungeons

In some cases the dungeon will provide the entire setting of a game, Dungeon Keeper, for example, is a game where the player sets traps in a dungeon and populates it with creatures to defend against parties of do gooding heroes. More commonly a dungeon is one off the list of many locations a game has to offer. For example The Legend of Zelda: A LInk to the Past has many dungeons each of which ends with a memorable boss fight and has a magic item as a reward. This is a classic example of the use of dungeons in video games.


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