I did write that part of this blog was going to be dedicated to my personal connection with gaming; let’s start with one of the most raw and visceral emotions of them all. Fear.
For some the fear in gaming is experienced by getting startled by a stray bullet in Call of Duty or a desperate escape from the planet Zebes in Super Metroid. There are some games that are scary due to their content and setting. A couple of prime examples are Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame. As I flesh out this and subsequent lists, I’m sure a few horror, or horror-hybrid games will place. However there are games that are not even close to the horror genre that have left such a lasting impression, it still remains fresh in my memory. There is at least one game on this list that literally ruined my affinity for it, haunted my dreams, and took decades to get over.
5.) Gauntlet II (arcade, 1986)
How could the kick-ass sequel to one of the original multiplayer Hack n’ Slash games (Seriously,there would be no Diablo and Baldur’s Gate if not for it.) frighten anyone? Easy. Whoever set up the Gauntlet II cabinet at the Time-Out at the West Covina Fashion Plaza set the volume to obscene levels. When I heard the baritone voice of the narrator “WIZARD NEEDS FOOD…BADLY” (when doesn’t he?), it rattled my ten-year old brain meats. After one quarter’s worth, I had had enough and backed away from the devilish machine.
4.) Dragon’s Lair (arcade,1983)
I really enjoy the concept of rooms with monsters, tricks and traps. I like it so much I will probably write about my enjoyment of them in the near future. Dragon’s Lair really did a great job of showing the consequences of slow reflexes and bad decisions in an darkly humorous way. When the player runs out of lives, the game shows the protagonist (Dirk, the Daring) wilting away into a collapsing skeleton. It doesn’t seem like much now, but to a seven-year old me? It was scary enough that I had to turn my head away at that part. Unfortunately, the game often drew a crowd of spectators (largely in part to a second display on top of the cabinet). I had to pretend I was tying my shoes in order to save face.
3.) Space Ace (arcade, 1984)
Dear Don Bluth,
Are you trying to ruin my childhood?
First you frighten me with a rotting hero (see: Dragon’s Lair), and now you give me Space Ace. For starters, it’s even harder and more confounding than Dragon’s Lair. What’s scary? When you lose a life the game’s main villain looks right at you (face to face) in the eye and taunts you with his demonic voice. It’s a playground bully without the sand in the mouth.
2.) Doom (SNES, 1995)
I know. The original MS-DOS version is the best looking/sounding version, but nothing tests a gamer’s mettle like a FPS without a save or password feature. If that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, I still had to contend with Doom‘s dimly lit corridors and feelings of isolation. Plus, to a guy that was raised Catholic, the idea of demons with rocket launchers made my skin prickle just a little: hardened space marine or not.
1.) Venture (Colecovision,1982)
Evil Otto from Berzerk often gets mentioned as one creepy customer. However, the one that stands above Otto’s smiling carcass is the Lovecraftian horror known as the HALLMONSTER. The goal in Venture was to guide your bow-equipped smiley face into various rooms to steal treasure and run. Outside roaming the halls in between the rooms are the hallmonsters: invulnerable tentacled creatures that are green and mean. In essence, Venture is the love child of Pac-Man and Berzerk. If you overstay your welcome in a room (after defeating what’s inside), the hallmonster will come thorough the walls making a terrible humming sound and chase after you. I really remember enjoying this game on the Colecovision, until I really bad dream about the hallmonster ruined that (remember, I was six years!). For the next thirty years, whenever I heard a sound similar to that I would get anxious. It wasn’t until this year that I decided to face my fears and play Venture via emulation. Seriously, I was a nervous wreck and I had to stand steadfast against my fears. I told myself that I’m a grown adult with two kids that have fears of their own. It’s my job as a parent to allay their fears, so I must do that same for me. At the end of it all, I had a really good time with it, and yes…I did get over my decades-long fear. It’s this emerging maturity that really characterizes the older gamer, and play helps us deal with these raw feelings. The wonderful thing about Video Games is that we can deal with our fears and (for the most part) come up on top with talent, brains and a bit of luck.