Every video game from the dawn of gaming time has come with its villains, its monsters, its bad guys and its challenges, from the level Boss that you can’t beat until you google tips, to the creature that jumps out of nowhere and makes you fear wee: Pac-Man dealt with the Ghosts, Mario faced an assortment of bad guys and bosses leading up to Bowser, Sonic had the mechanical animal army of Dr Eggman/Dr Robotnik. However, at some point gaming and graphics started to target a decidedly more adult audience and we started to face things directly spawned from our nightmares.
20+ years ago I was playing Populous on Atari in the living room and had won my first ever game! This loaded a screen displaying the face of a slightly vampiric looking character with a cruel laughter track playing. On screen was the code I’d need to access the next level, but my baby brother had toddled in and, upon seeing and hearing this creature, started screaming at the top of his lungs.
I was already scared by the horrible face and ghastly laughing, and combined with The Mothership coming in to find out what I’d done to make my brother cry, meant that I panicked and couldn’t focus on the code to write it down, or find a way to back out, so I frantically committed the unforgivable sin of turning the computer off at the wall.
This was my first introduction to how scary games could be, even at a basic level.
I remember the proud joy of getting our first game console, an original Playstation, and my brother and I enjoyed Tomb Raider 1 with its puzzles. He was sitting next to me while I played Level 3 and walked Lara around a particularly green and lush valley, when unexpectedly the controller in my hand started to lightly vibrate.
We wondered if there was a fault with our controller…meanwhile the vibrating increased in intensity and out of nowhere a massive T-Rex came onto the screen.
My brother shrieked at me to run, but I was too in shock/awe as this monster to move or problem solve on where I could possibly run to, and we watched Lara get crunched up.
My Dad got himself Quake 1 for the PC and I remember stumbling across the Shambler while playing alone in a dark room: it looked like a cute, clumsy looking abonimal snowman from behind, but once it turned around all you saw were teeth.
Looking back now I can judge the dated graphics for being nothing more than a heavily pixelated creation, but at the time it scared the pants off of me and was the reason I started relying on the No Clip cheat to move through walls and not have to face running into one of these beasts.
I cannot handle scary games.
You need me to direct falling blocks into neat rows? No worries.
You need me to jetpack onto the top of a fallen spaceship and look out for enemies? Sure thing.
You need me to run around a research facility on Europa and take out the bad guys? I’ve got it.
You want me to be one of four hunters to track down a rampaging monster before it can evolve and destroy our powerplant? Ummm, I might wait for you guys on the ship.
You need me be the security guard at a pizza restaurant and survive the night? Newp, it’s quitting time.
I’ve woken up in a strange house with no memory and need to look for answers? No thank you, I’m content to live out my life in ignorance.
I’ve tried to toughen myself up, but there’s no avoiding the fact that scary games make me roll up into the foetal position and cry quietly.
With scary films, I can watch from behind my fingers or a cushion until The Bad Thing is over, but with games I can’t enjoy the luxury of inaction as staying still = losing.
Any suggestions on how you deal with scary game? Do you play Disney songs and have every light in the house turned on? Do you hug a teddy bear or bribe a puppy to curl up on your lap? Or do you just avoid them completely and stick to Mario Kart?