Self-Inflicted Trauma: Five Terrifying Gaming Moments

October 21, 2011 at 10:15 am | Posted in Miscellaneous, Video Games | 2 Comments

In 1993 this was the scariest thing any gamer had ever seen.

Let’s preface. I hate horror movies. I hate survival movies. I hate zombie movies. I am not a fan of films intended to scare the living daylights out of me. That’s why I really don’t go out of my way to play games that  I know are scary as all get out. Yet, sometimes the temptation is too great. Occasionally a game will get such positive press that I cave and decide to give it a play through. Thanks to my weak resolve, I’ve managed to traumatize myself a number of times. Since this is a gaming column and Halloween is just around the corner*, here’s a look at five frightening moments that kept me up all night.

*Look, ma! Topical content based on a pending holiday! I’ve got this column thing down pat. 

Doom 3 – The Arm Through the Door

ID software likes to scare the living daylights out of me and they’ve been doing a brilliant job of that since 1993. On one cold December day, my dad discovered the infamous shareware copy that made the rounds through the old FTP bulletin boards. He brought the game home on 782 floppy disks*. I, being all of five years old, decided that it would be fun to watch dad play this shiny, new computer game. Oh, what a mistake that was. Zombies, demons from the depths of hell, firefights and carnage. Suffice to say I did not sleep well that night. Neither did dad, mom was pretty upset he let me watch that game.

*Okay it was more like three, but still. If you’re under the age of 18 and have no idea what a floppy disk is, Google it. You see, there was a period of time before blank CDs and flash drives in which portable data was stored on little magnetic platters. The more you know.

John Carmack of ID Software. You are responsible for many fear-driven, sleepless nights.

Needless to say, scaring the player isn’t new to ID. They’ve long been one of the industry leaders in Pants Wetting Moments to Time Played ratio (ed note: I should have a job making up statistics). They’re also masters of game design and pushing the boundaries of technology, which is why when Doom 3 released in 2004, I was eager to get my hands on it. That, of course, led to my biggest mistake of the entire play-through: starting at 10PM on a Friday night. Doing that is much like watching a scary movie at night. The time and lack of daylight compounds the creep factor exponentially.

*Well I did get my hands on it, but I quickly realized that my computer wasn’t up to the task. A dozen lawns and $120 later, I had a video card that could handle it. Thanks for rendering my technology obsolete every time you release a game, ID.

So it’s dark outside. I’ve got the lights in my room off because my old monitor can’t handle glare very well. I’m playing a game designed by John Carmack, a man who likes to make me cry in abject terror. Clearly, this is not one of the brightest things I’ve ever done. I’m playing through and holding together well enough while the military installation the player character is stationed on succumbs to the forces of Hell. Sure, zombies start popping up. I’ve played an ID game or two in my time. I can take this. I’m trekking through the installation and handling the undead like the proverbial boss I think I am when it all goes very, very wrong.

The door I’m standing in front of won’t open.

The lights go off.

Something is pounding at the door.

And then the lights come on and a clearly angry, clearly demonic arm bursts through a small opening in the door and reaches out to grab me so it can consume my brains.  That night, 1993!Lane and 2004!Lane had a whole lot in common. Can’t sleep, demon spawn from Hell will eat me.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Psychological Trauma, Aisle Six

[Recap redacted, column writer in therapy]

I’ve played a lot of video games. None have left nearly the emotional trauma that Amnesia did. To this day, I’m still not sure what posessed me to play a game that had a reputation of turning well-adjusted players into nervous, twitching wrecks. For your own sanity, I won’t even try to pick out a singular moment that left me curled up under my desk in the fetal position. Instead, watch this poor sod’s reactions as he plays through it.

Halo – The Flood

The Flood.

The damn Flood.

The $&#@*!& Flood.

If you haven’t played Halo before, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine you’re a Space Marine on a brightly colored world battling off a horde of Evil Aliens that want to claim an oddly shaped hunk of space rock. You’re going around, slaying the aforementioned Evil Aliens, thinking you’re Will Smith from Independence Day. Just another day on the job, right? Oh if only. For the first half of the game, it’s just another space shooter packed with non-stop action. Then the pace slows down dramatically and things get eerily quiet. It’s around this point that something in the back of your head starts setting off warning alarms.

Head crab-y things. Why do they have to be head crab-y things? Why do they have to come in swarms? Why does every game I play feature baddies that want to go straight for my precious brain matter? That was bad enough. I’m fleeing from these little critters that want to have carnal relations with my skull and because of that, I was too busy to notice something even scarier.

That's just not fair, Bungie.

Exploding zombies!? Oh come on!

Ocarina of Time: Zombies! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

I love the Zelda games. They’re bright, colorful, delightful video game romps (ed note: except for the Water Temple arrrghh). These games are great because they’re accessible to just about everyone. Enemy encounters are filled with interesting but ultimately non-frightening characters. That is, up until you venture to the future and stumble into the ruins of a once great city where you’re greeted by hideous abominations known as the Redead. As soon as I stepped into this area, I knew I wanted nothing to do with them. Slow, sauntering zombies that look like some sort of evil necromancy is keeping them animated? No thanks. I’m just going to take care of you all quickly and move on. Just stay dispatch you all quick-like …

Okay. Zombies, bad. Zombies uttering unholy screams and groans of the eternally damned. And then they latch onto you and start gnawing at your skull? There’s nightmare fuel I certainly wasn’t expecting from a Zelda title.

Silent Hill 3 – The Mannequin Room

If you’ve ever played a Silent Hill game, you know that the games are built around suspense. Much like an Alfred Hitchcock film, Silent Hill doesn’t frighten by continually hurling terrifying stuff at the player. It slowly builds up

The cover alone probably should have been enough of a warning for me.

your heart rate before dropping the hammer on you. You can find yourself travelling through a dark and quiet hallway and you fully expect something to jump out at you. The longer you walk, the worse the dread becomes. Inevitably, some Big Bad will burst out of the shadows to try and claw you to pieces. You expected it, but it still terrified you because you kept telling yourself that very bad things were coming your way. The anticipation builds lets the scary thing in the dark give you an emotional whammy.

Sometimes, though, the truly terrifying things aren’t a monster under the bed or a minion of Hell of some sort. Sometimes, the scariest thing is the understated, unexpected surprise.

In Silent Hill 3 you play as Heather Mason, a teenage girl who somehow is more frightened than you are. You can’t help but place yourself in her shoes, completely over her head as reality dissolves into an unrelenting nightmare filled with sights and sounds that are right out of a horror novel. Poor Heather is constantly fending off creatures in search of flesh, but one of the scariest moments for both her and myself was one in which she wasn’t in mortal danger:

Mannequins are creepy all by themselves, but imagine you’ve just spent the last ten hours in some sort of alternate, hellish dimension. The last thing you want to see are human-shaped torsos on shelves. When Heather rounds that corner and hears the scream and then races back to find the inanimate mannequin has somehow managed to behead itself and get covered in blood, despair fully hits you. It finally dawns on both Heather and the player that she isn’t in Kansas anymore.

Written by Lane for Roqoo Depot


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  1. Reading about the flood and monsters that want to devour your brain reminded me of the first time I played Half-Life. You start out with just a crowbar and those little crab monsters are bouncing around and trying to leap on your face. That was some pretty good horror.

  2. […] Roqoo Depot – 5 Terrifying moments in gaming history. […]

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