The Question of the Week is posted every Sunday and will consist of a question followed by my answer and explanation to the same. Some questions will only require a simple answer that could potentially be followed by an explanation. Many questions will be writer oriented, but not all. Everyone is encouraged to answer in the comments and discussions/follow up questions are more than welcome!
What game scared/scares you and/or what’s the most frightening thing you’ve even seen in a video game?
I held off a bit on the video game questions because one of my favorite retro gaming blogs The Well-Red Mage (with accompanying mages) was doing a month long mage challenge in July, which I highly recommend you check out if you are of the gaming variety (the link goes to the first question), and I didn’t want to replicate any questions that might show up on that locale and/or be redundant here. Plus I figured once July was done, I could tag an awesome blog in my next video game related question. I’m sure people are still answering the older questions, and discourse is never wasted.
Then today while perusing my WordPress reader I came across a post by another of my beloved retro gaming blogs I ♥ Old Games about Metroid since the game’s birthday was yesterday, and I thought that was as good a sign as any.
Mother Brain in the Metroid series was probably the first thing I ever saw in a video game that scared me shitless. I was always creeped out by brains and skulls (ironically I went to school for psychology much later) and to have an antagonist that was essentially an evil brain in the jar was too much for my fragile sensibilities to handle. Fast forward to Super Metroid where “she” has that horrifying form and I was so terrified I couldn’t even close my eyes to blink. Seriously guys, I had to avoid the commercials for that game because they’d show a clip of the fight, and you just see this shambling, one eyed horror coming towards you. I won’t even post a picture of it here, because it still scares me that much. You can easily find it if you google “mother brain.” The thought that in this endless universe that kind of abomination could exist throws me into my own existential horror. Lovecraft has nothing on Nintendo in this regard.
Fast forward (I think) a few years to the game Life Force where you literally fight an alien from the inside (apparently the game was called Life Force only in Japan, but I recall that was the version I saw).
The final boss of the game is the alien’s heart similar to what you have to fight in one of the Contra. I think it’s the combination of destroying a heart and the alien thing that made me want to hide under my covers forever. It should also be noted that the Heart exhibit at The Franklin Institute scared the crap out of me, too. Ah that incessant beating D: I would take to going upstairs to my room whenever my brother and/or cousin would play these games and of course any of the Metroids.
Fast forward again to 1997 and Final Fantasy VII, my favorite game. Now if you’d told me twenty years prior that I’d fall in love with a game that featured alien mental manipulation and an eldritch abomination trapped in a “jar” with brain matter branching out, I would’ve laughed in your face then hid under the covers. I love FFVII passionately, but Jenova freaks me the fuck out. When you get deep into it, it’s arguably the most terrifying antagonist ever (or at least up there with Mother Brain…OH DEAR GOD), because like The Thing it was certainly inspired by, it could look like anyone.
It has the disembodied, beating heart motif, too. It’s what you hear in the beginning of Advent’s “Beyond the Wasteland,” or at the very least the song is conjuring echoes of that horror. The drums and the bells of “Those Chosen by the Planet” pierce the very heart of this paradigm.
Finally there’s Dead Space. I watched enough of this game to give myself nightmares where I’d be chased by disembodied body parts and floating fetuses *shudders* But they don’t even hold a candle to the Brethren Moons.
When your enemy is so horrifying you can only defeat him by going back in time to fight him before he’s born and it’s still a brutal battle where prayer is necessary to win, more than heaven help you.
I believe the binding tie with all of these is the Body Horror trope, which fits within or aligns with the idea of the Uncanny Valley. There’s something not right about seeing interior parts either outside or for the protagonist to be forced within in order to deal with these sentient, dangerous, and horrifying viscera.
What video game or aspect of one terrified you as a child and/or terrifies you now? Is it a game that’s classified as horror or is it a dark part of an otherwise non-horror based game?
I look forward to your answers in the comments!