Plenty of people initially dismissed one of this television season's most intriguing shows, FOX's Dollhouse, as a jumbled, perverted mess, but as the weeks passed, the show has become cohesive and more interesting. In case you're not up to speed, Dollhouse follows a mysterious underground operation called, well, the Dollhouse in which a group of "volunteers" have had their memories, personalities, and identities erased. They are now "dolls", and through the use of sophisticated brainwashing/imprinting equipment, they can be given the memories, skills, etc. of just about anyone. I'll let Wikipedia explain in more detail.
Eliza Dushku plays a young woman called Echo, a member of a group of people known as "Actives" or "Dolls". The Dolls are people whose personalities and existence in the outside world have been wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas, including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language, for different assignments (referred to as engagements). The new persona is an amalgam of several real people, and the end result necessarily incorporates both strengths and flaws from the template personalities. The Actives are then hired out for particular jobs – crimes, fantasies, and the occasional good deed. On engagements, Actives are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between engagements they are mind-wiped into a child-like state and live in a futuristic dormitory/laboratory, a hidden facility nicknamed "The Dollhouse". The Dollhouse is located somewhere in Los Angeles and is a subsidiary of a mysterious research group known as the Rossum Corporation. The story follows Echo, who begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.
An actual over-arcing storyline is unfolding as the show nears the end of its season, and like so many science fiction shows these days, it's in danger of cancellation (in fact, word has it that the final episode of the season will not air at all in the United States, held over for international markets and an eventual DVD and Blu-ray release). Like I do for so many of my favorite imminently canceled shows, I'm ready to suggest the idea of a Dollhouse video game. At first thought, a Dollhouse game would probably suffer from some of the same pitfalls as the show itself. How does one craft a game around characters that do not grow nor have unique consistent identities? An action/shooter adventure starring the dolls would mire the game down with the same problem that hampered the "identity of the week" plots of the early episodes of the series, so here's my idea: do it as a action RPG.
Echo and the other dolls would gain experience points and level up as the story unfolds, but at the end of each mission they are wiped back to their blank states, losing those newly acquired skills and abilities. However, because Echo and some of the other dolls are gradually becoming self-aware (fragments of past imprints are combining in what Dollhouse personnel call "composite events"), some of those lost skills may suddenly become available again for a limited time when the right conditions are met. This puts the emphasis on the story rather than the action, a tactic that has helped improve the television series.
As an alternative for those action/shooter die-hards out there, the Dollhouse game could alternatively follow the character of FBI agent Paul Ballard instead. Ballard has been investigating the rumors behind the Dollhouse for quite some time even as the Dollhouse itself has been keeping tabs on him and sending imprinted dolls into his life for the purpose of giving him misinformation. He has been on a slow downward spiral as his investigation overwhelms his life; his obsession with saving Echo and bringing down the Dollhouse has cost him his career and his relationships. Ballard has shown himself to be proficient in combat and firearms usage, making him an ideal character to play in a third-person action game as his investigation leads him into the world of the Dollhouse itself.
No matter how it's done, a Dollhouse video game could be handled remarkably well provided that the proper people were involved. Key creative parts of the Dollhouse production staff (including series creator Joss Whedon at least one member of his familiar stable of writers such as Tim Minear or Jane Espenson) would have to be a part of shaping the story, and if matched with a talented developer (Konami's Silent Hill experience could be ideal, or even Eidos's recent Tomb Raider efforts could work depending on the gameplay genre) that can combine the story to the proper gameplay elements, we would be in for a fascinating and entertaining gaming experience.
If all of this sounds confusing, then it's not too late to dip into the world of Dollhouse and gain some understanding. The last half of Season One is available on Hulu, while the season finale (give or take an episode) airs tonight in the United States at 9:00pm ET/PT on FOX.