A Time to Destroy: The games that destroy us

Some photos are disturbing. No, seriously.

[Editor’s note: Tony Ponce, which we only knew as “megaStryke” when this was published, looks at three games that have destroyed people’s bodies for his A Time to Destroy Monthly Musing. In 2012 he joined the Dtoid team as an associate editor. Imagine that! — CTZ]

Games are considered a safe activity because they provide an engaging and immersive experience without the need to leave home. Maybe as a kid you didn’t get outside much, but damn it all, at least you weren’t outside taking jumps on your bike off the collapsed fence and over the fetid canal behind that 7-Eleven half a block from your house. Your parents should be grateful for that! Maybe there is some truth to the assumption that unchecked gaming can lead to irreparable psychological harm, but at least you won’t be breaking any bones!

However, there exist a number of games that demand a little extra commitment, just enough to present an eyebrow-raising safety hazard. Without exercising caution, you too can become the victim of an honest-to-God gaming injury.

Like I said, these games typically require a little extra interaction. In other words, the means with which you control the game itself are rather unconventional. Maybe the game comes with a custom controller or maybe you are required to hold a standard controller in an awkward fashion. If you aren’t plopped down on your La-Z-Boy with your controller firmly clasped between your palms, your chances of winding up in traction will shoot up exponentially (slight exaggeration, but … well, just keep reading).

The following are three big offenders in the game world … so let’s get started, shall we? 

Mario Party

The first entry in the Mario Party franchise is the Godfather of all party games. The formula, gather a number of varied and time-limited minigames and wrap them in an inviting yet unassuming shell, is old hat by now. However, those of us who popped this guy into the N64 were quite familiar with a small handful of events that oozed a rather sinister aura. These events, like Tug ‘O War above, required you to rotate the analog stick faster than your opponent. Your thumb was inadequate for this type of action, thus leaving you with two alternatives. You could grip the joystick between your index finger and thumb then rotate your wrist, but this method was sorely lacking in comfort. Most likely you placed your palm directly on the nub of the stick and put your entire arm to work, thus ensuring the most efficient results. It also ensured that the abrasive surface of the stick would tear into your hand and peel off the flesh. Try explaining to your social studies teacher that the reason why you are unable to grip your pencil properly is because of a massive gash on your palm following an exuberant round of virtual paddleboats.

A number of complaints eventually prompted Nintendo to offer free safety gloves to owners of the game and to exclude such events from all future sequels.

Arm Spirit

Distributed by Atlus to arcades across Japan, Arm Spirit was an arm wrestling simulation featuring a motorized hand that increased in power with each consecutive challenger. Forget the digitized challengers on the screen, your real opponent was a machine with limitless stamina and no clear ceiling to its strength.

Any chump with a third-grade reading level should know what would happen next. Three broken arms later, the machine was whisked away, never to be seen again (I can only hope). The total lack of foresight that went into the development of this torture device is astounding.

Guitar Hero

In December 2006, pitcher Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers missed three playoff games because he played too much Guitar Hero. Strain from repetitive arm motions … yeah, at least that injury makes sense.

Some other guy trashed his knee while gunning for some “style points”, i.e. extreme poses. It takes a special kind of game to draw out the latent rocker in all of us, but it takes an even more special kind of game to sucker players into contorting their bodies into unnatural positions willingly. I would have thought this kind of business was DDR territory, but what do I know. This story is so unbelievable that the dude felt it necessary to immortalize his “accomplishment” with a Web site detailing his harrowing adventures and long road to recovery, complete with juicy pictures every step of the way.

What surprises me most about these types of games is how people react when they find blood running down their leg or their arm hanging limp on their side. It’s yet another in a long list of game achievements that will be related to all their friends with pride and enthusiasm. Gamers love to show off; sharing tales of game-related injuries is the closest analogue in the gamer sphere to describing that time in that seedy Jersey bar when Big Bruno stuck a knife six inches into your abdomen. It’s not the injury itself but the story that gains admiration, yet one would think you’d keep something as embarrassing as losing flesh and blood after an evening with Yoshi and pals to yourself.

I suppose it’s possible that one can glean as much satisfaction from self-destruction as from virtual destruction, possibly more. Scary thought … I think we have problems. I guess it is true that gaming leads to irreparable psychological damage.

Tony Ponce