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Mercurio on Fear

September 4th, 2011 by

Today, I shot a zombie in the face.

This was no video game, nor was it an experience garnered vicariously via film or television or literature. What it was, in all truth, was a duel to the undeath with a slavering, gnashing cadaver.

It was rather pleasant, as experiences go.

As the fiend approached me in the darkened corridor I had been using for shelter, its dead eyes locked on my jugular with the sincerest gleam of hunger, I began to think. I also began to reload my gun, but I was mostly thinking. And what I was thinking, it transpires, was that this is a feeling that no form of interactive media has yet to attain. Then I pulled the trigger.

Video games and their ilk are lovely things, but even the most terrifying finds it hard to truly make camp in the human psyche. They can scare you, sure, but you are always free to turn it off like the spineless cowards you are whenever an easy way out is present. Turn off the scary images and they cease to exist, and you are free to forget them. There is little in the way of immediacy.

I know a man both poor and Irish who would only play Amnesia in a drunken state. In truth, that should have meant he was always playing it, being as he is a man of unrivalled thirst and in possession of a house within an impolite proximity to an off-license. Somehow, though, he manages to limit his inebriation, and so limits his exposure to Amnesia. He plays, he gets scared, his sweaty fingers mash the escape key and then a grubby laptop trackpad drags a mouse pointer to the quit button.

This is an experience that most of you will be able to recognise from your own lives. You do it because it is easy, cowardice is always easy. I say this not to hurt you; the cowards are the smart ones. The cowards are the ones who recognise that the situation has become dangerous, and that it is in your personal interest to remove yourself from it. It is a survival mechanism, and it is a bally good one at that.

But then, the true intellectuals, such as myself, know how to channel that cowardice, shape it so that it appears to be bravery. This is a skill that can be learned, but not without a proper exposure to fear. Video games and films and other such things are safe, and safety isn’t what you need.

The zombie that stood before me was a real danger, and it as down to my skills to save me. I couldn’t blame lint on the mouse, or screen tear, or even shoddy hitboxes if I were to miss. It was all down to me, and I couldn’t just hold up my hands and state “no thanks, this is a little too scary”.

That is where the fun lies. Not in overcoming fear so much as in being forced to confront it, to play the game of the mind, to tackle fight or flight and somehow conclude that you should do both. And I was sober.

This time.

The zombie fell like a sack of loose meat, and I called my compatriots to my side. They ensured the demise of the wretched thing, taking an axe and driving it through the thing’s chest. My heart was beating with all the vigour of a teenage boy left alone with unfettered internet access, and sweat dripped from my exquisite locks.

In truth, it was recklessness that had led me to that point. I had been fleeing from a beast, and yet had not taken time to properly assess my situation. There is never the time to assess one’s situation when a dynamic withdrawal is necessary, and yet, I recall thinking, this is such a rare thing in a video game. Even in simulated fear, the mind can maintain its higher functions. Bring in the real thing, and you are running on instinct more than reason.

So it is helpful for me that I have the instincts of a debonair fox. Bob, weave, strike and look dashing while you do it.

After the corpse was turned into a fleshy paste on the chipped marble floor, myself and my compatriots returned to the foyer of the building. The room was cavernous, though littered with various obstacles of perfect dimensions to upset a man’s footing. We had negotiated most of them when the main doors flew open.

In front of us stood a creature known as a White Knight, the thing that I had fled to get me into the unenviable situation in the first place. It was cruel, fast, deadly and thankfully masked, which allowed me to avoid judging it on its ugliness if not actually affording me the sight advantage. It raised a blood-stained hatchet and charged us.

Instinct, dear boy. How would you have reacted?

No, you’re wrong. You can’t plan for this, no amount of discipline and training will truly prepare you for the sight of a crazed axeman swinging for your throat.

Instinct.

My instinct told me to drive the point of my heel into the rear of the knee of the compatriot to my front, and then run.

That was the correct answer.

Mercurio Silver is a grumpy misanthropic immortal with bold statements and a narcissistic need to force them on others. With his sharp tongue he shares his most recent realisations and thoughts right here on Midlife Gamer every month.

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