Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Always look on the bright side of death

Death in video games often serves as an annoyance rather than the crippling hindrance it is in reality. The reason it is there is to present a challenge to the player, making it so that he can not just breeze through sections of a game without a care. The manor in which the player has died has seen a lot of change over the years of gaming, and these days, they can be rather entertaining.

Death has been delivered in several million ways over the course of gaming history. Yellow discs eating dots have been devoured by colourful ghosts, fat Italian men have been crushed under cackling concrete blocks and generic American soldier A has shot unfortunate Nazi B into little pieces too many times to count. All I know is, if there is even a shade of truth in the film Tron, I am a terrible, terrible person. Death in a variety of sorts feature in the vast majority of popular games around. They have been getting more and more graphic as the years go by, so much so that they can very often reduce players to fits of laughter, taking a screenshot of the mangled corpse and sending it to their other slightly more disturbed pals.

The introduction of ragdoll physics has had quite an impact on comical corpse positioning. On the rare occasion that I kill two people who are standing close to each other in Counterstrike: Source, I am almost ashamed to admit it that I have stopped and giggled to myself,

"Haha, it looks like they're doing it."

I am obviously not alone in this notion though, because a lot of people use the game Garry's Mod to position people in many lewd and sexual positions, so at least I know there are people out there with very slightly more twisted minds than myself. Apart from the suggestive positioning of ragdolls, it can also be great fun to see them flying for miles when being hit by a blast, or watching the slumped body jiggle as you mercilessly pump excess bullets into it. The potential black humour in computer game deaths is brilliant.

Crash Bandicoot 2 was a fantastic example of comic deaths. When Crash died, it was not just a simple 'keel over and die' animation. He would sprout wings and ascend slowly whilst looking ticked off, feel the wrath of a plant's digestive system or crumble into dust after rubbing the wrong end of a TNT crate. The animations changed depending on the situation which was a fantastic addition to the game, causing my sadistic side to tempt Crash to his doom, just to see how he would depart from the world.

Another game that had rather comical deaths in was Shadow of Rome on the Playstation 2. The game itself switched between amazing gladiatorial battles and mandatory stealth sections which were as close to Metal Gear Solid as I am to driving a Bugatti Veyron. The arena battles were fantastic though because after a while, you would see the damage you did to your opponent. They would look fatigued and drowsy, a bit scratched maybe, waiting for you to go in and finish them off. They could also be walking around minus an arm, or with broken limbs (that would sway from side to side as they walked) making them useless and begging to be put out of their misery. The killings though were anything but merciful. Decapitating a foe would be described as a 'meat fountain', whilst separating his torso from legs was a 'red volcano'.

I could not possibly write a blog about comedic deaths without mentioning the Mortal Kombat series. At the end of a fight, once your opponent is on the brink of death, you could execute a finishing move which would often result in a very bloody affair, leaving you're opponent truly lifeless. This final attack can involve, but is not limited to severing limbs, explosive kisses, torso tearing, head splitting, spine separating, ice freezing, bone smashing gory detail. As well as humiliating your opponent, it is also a hilarious spectacle to watch pixelated people dying in ways only Hitler and Stalin's evil love child could think of.

I will finish with a feature that is in most over the top first person shooters, which is a very sure fire way of knowing that your opponent is dead. 'Insta gibbing' is the lovely term given to a death caused by some form of powerful weapon, that turns all of your flesh, bones, organs and bodily fluids into steak sized hunks of meat which fly out in every direction at high speed. Common weapons in games that yield this effect are rocket launchers, rail guns, grenades and generally hard to get hold of weaponry. To be honest, a crumpling ragdoll would be a disappointing result from a rocket in the chest, and so developers thought that the exact opposite was necessary. They were right. Seeing your once very dangerous opposition explode into a shower of blood, guts and meat is very satisfying, and empowering. It's one thing to put a whole through someone, its an entirely different level to make them explode outward from that hole (honestly, I'm not a serial killer).

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