Take the Infamous series. It was great fun, but it's also a fine example of creative laziness. The main character, Cole, starts off with a pretty badass power already: He masters electricity. Sure, he starts off kinda weak, but his powers quickly grow stronger and stronger until you, the player, are flying across the city, unleashing massive lightning storms that devastate whole blocks. I'd like to see a game along the lines of Infamous, but about a dude like Aquaman: the superhero world's unpaid intern. The main character has to be somewhat useless at first glance, because the game isn't a brawler, it's a puzzler -- you have to be clever with your abilities, not just punchy. You start out with one power -- something kind of dumb, like the ability to speak with fish, or seeing two seconds into the future, or complete control of unvarnished wood -- and it will never grow. That's it. That's all you get: You're The Planer, master of rough wooden surfaces, and it's up to you to take this city back from the hordes of murderous criminals. But while your power is shitty, the way you use it doesn't have to be. Talking to fish is lame? Sure, if your imagination sucks. If you want to get a little creative, though, you could do stuff like this:
"WHO SMELLS LIKE YOUR MOM'S VAGINA NOW, BRAD?!"
The key is that you're not given incremental upgrades to your power; it's all available to you right at the start, and your effectiveness relies entirely on how you use it. If you're a bit on the dull side, maybe you'll just hop out there on the streets and start impotently throwing splinters at fleeing, laughing criminals. But if you're clever, you'll be snapping telephone poles down on top of their car, whipping sheets of plywood like 6-foot-wide shurikens and swinging uprooted trees like baseball bats. Unlimited power is only interesting for a few minutes -- that's why every video game is a progression of increasing strength that ends with your character at their most powerful phase. Once you get over the novelty of that deadly new super-move, though, what's the point? Nothing can stand in your path; you are a god among men. And you are bored. Limitations are much more interesting than abilities, and there's nothing more satisfying than overcoming them. Which is the greater accomplishment: the man with bulletproof skin and super-strength who stops a bank robbery, or the despot who rules an entire city with an iron fist despite only ever possessing the ability to invert men's penises with the power of his mind?