When it comes to making virtual worlds, game programmers can do whatever they want. They have absolute freedom. They can concoct a terrifying monster, they can give you the ability to fly, they can provide you with the catalyst to live out all of your Rambo-esque fantasies. They can build entire cities, dense jungles, or underground temples. They can hide Easter eggs anywhere they please, they can fill the dialogue with classic video game in-jokes, and thanks to recent technology, you can have sex with prostitutes, followed by murdering them and taking your money back.
However, even though I appreciate the creativity that goes into even the worst games (because let's be honest, it's hard to make a compelling video game, especially these days), there is one thing that I hate so much that it's literally a deal-breaker for me in some games. I'm talking about water.
I love horror games. The only kind of game I love more than a good horror game is a good, challenging platformer. I got more excited during this past E3 from watching footage of Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 6 than I did anything else. But you know what? If one of those games has a section that requires me to be underwater with enemies, there's a good chance that I'll get so stressed out that I'll either turn the game off or ask someone else to play that section for me.
Now, this fear I have didn't become realized until the advent of 3-D worlds. I can handle swimming levels in 2-D games just fine, and I think it has to do with controls. In the old school platformers, the controls in water were practically identical to the controls on land. In the case of the NES, the button you used to jump was the same one you used to swim upward, makes sense. When it comes to 3-D games, however, you usually need to learn a new set of controls when encountering a swimming section. No matter how many 3-D Mario titles I play, I always have trouble getting acclimated to the controls again.
But getting used to the controls is my own problem. It's really just about stress. It may be because I have an oxygen meter, or because I have to fight enemies, but being underwater in games just stresses me out. The first instance I can think of is in the Sega Genesis Sonic titles. In this case, though, it has absolutely nothing to do with the oxygen meter, absolutely nothing to do with the enemies, and everything to do with that terrifying music when Sonic is about to be deep-sixed. You know the music I'm talking about. I still hear that music in my nightmares, followed by the horrifying visage of Sonic's slow, agonizing death.
The fear continued with Ecco the Dolphin, a game that takes place entirely underwater. Why did that game scare me? Because sharks, bro. Then once games got into the 3-D space, Tomb Raider II came along and traumatized me forever. Ecco the Dolphin is understandable, because he's a dolphin, he belongs in the water. But the first time I got attacked by a shark in Tomb Raider, that was it. No thank you, sir. I turned the game off, and never returned to it. Stupid Lara Croft, there's a reason you don't go underwater, because that's where God put all the monsters. Seriously, have you seen some of the stuff that washed up on the shores after all the tsunamis in recent years?
You can't look at that thing and then tell me that it's not a monster. That thing has about 7 SyFy original movies in production about it at this very moment. I don't know what species or family this fish belongs to, so I made one up that seems the most fitting, and I've decided to call it "Satan's Nightmare Fuel."
I've always been fascinated by Greek mythology, and one of my favorite movies of all-time is Clash of the Titans. Not the 2010 remake disaster, but the 1981 original, the one that had real thespians like Burgess Meredith (Rest in peace, Mick). That movie still rocks from top to bottom, and if you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself. It was one of those movies that was always on television when I was a kid, and I never passed up an opportunity to watch it. The giant scorpions, the Stygian Witches, Cerberus, Medusa, Calibos, this movie had some amazing villains and awesome stop-motion effects. But the highlight of the film was definitely the Kraken, the most terrifying creature from ancient mythology.
Look at that thing...just awesome! Being the mythology buff that I am, I was pumped to play the original God of War back in 2005. Then I realized something. I said to myself "I'm probably going to have to fight the Kraken." Then I remembered that the Kraken came from the water, and I'm probably going to have to go into the water to kill it.....F that! The Kraken did make an appearance in the sequel, and I was beyond happy to find that I didn't have to follow it into the abyss. But the God of War series, despite being a personal favorite of mine, is also one that I find myself with feelings of unease towards. I'm yet to play Ghost of Sparta, but in the four titles I've played, there is always a swimming section. Going back and playing them now, I have no problems, but upon the first playthrough, my stress level is at an all-time high because I didn't know what to expect. The swimming sections are mostly pointless in the series, except in the original, which is also the only title in the series that has obstacles and things that can kill you.
Remember Kingfin from Super Mario Galaxy? Yeah, he was terrifying. Remember El Lago from Resident Evil 4? Horrific. Remember swimming with Emma in Metal Gear Solid 2? That's the reason my hair started turning gray.
Have you ever heard of Leviathan? The most terrifying thing ever thought up by anybody ever? He's mentioned in the Bible as a giant monster. In Satanism he is one of the four princes of Hell. You know where Leviathan lives? The water. I rest my case.
I'm not scared of water in my every day life. I'm not afraid to go swimming...in pools. Screw the ocean, man. When I'm in a pool, the worst thing that'll happen is I run into some urine or I see a very hairy, sweaty man walking around. But I still prefer that over being swallowed whole by Nessie.