Visceral Thrills

I didn’t blink, I’m not sure I even thought.

It felt like pure instinct. I slammed the biting saw-blades downwards at my assailant. There was a sickening crunch as the whirling mass impacted with his skull, only just audible over the roaring sound of the weapon, and it was only an instant before the bone gave way to the speed of hard steel. A moment later, the blood. It sprayed out in all directions, covering both of us in dark red gore. Chunks of flesh broke apart and fell away from the blade as his body collapsed to the ground. I grinned with a lunatic leer as the blood splattered all over my.. screen.

So I hadn’t lost it entirely. I was just playing Gears of War again (on a borrowed 360!).

Gears isn’t likely to make my all-time top games list ever, as it’s just not really my kind of thing, however I do enjoy it a lot, certainly a lot more than most FPS games too, even though it shares a lot of mechanics with them. One of the major things about it that appeals to me, which was also a real surprise to me, was just how much I liked the ‘feel’ of certain things in this game. Especially, as described above, the close-quarters gore-filled kills when using the chainsaw bayonet; although the shotgun at point-blank range proves to be a lot of fun also! I must admit I was also a tad concerned by my attraction to this, but on the other hand it’s not especially realistic, and it’s really hammed up. Perhaps the best thing about it is the way the blood splatters ‘onto’ your monitor screen as if you are watching it through a camera lense. It’s just so… tastey! (Itchy Tastey?)

Rrrrrrrrrrrr

Rrrrrrrrrrrr

This is an almost indefinible quality in games for me, and I find it exceedingly rarely. I don’t really think I’m caught up in the Mimicry of it, as I certainly haven’t ever harboured any secret desires to chainsaw anyone’s face off, you maybe dissappointed to know. I don’t even like guns! But it’s something about the sheer experience of it that stands out to me. I also have to note it’s something in a game where the graphics & sound really do matter too, so I suspect getting this kind of feeling may increase as graphics improve even further. I’ve also noticed I tend to enjoy this kind of thing even more when other people are playing with me – ie: an audience. Which I think is related.

I think the trouble with it is that it tends to wear off pretty quickly with time and repeated play, especially for me. This could be because I am far from an adrenalin junkie; many things that seem to excite other people adrenalin-wise don’t tend to do the same for me, especially when repeated often. It maybe why this occurs so rarely for me in video games also. I think I also ‘suffer’ from the fact that I am so familiar with so many video games having played them all my life, that I just don’t get the ‘initial thrill’ in the same way a new player might.

I think in Gears’ case there is definitely an element of agon to the proceedings too. As on some occasions it is an added challenge to go for the spectacular close range kill – something I have noted definitely attracts me.

I tried to think of some other games that have had a similar type of effect on me, and there really aren’t many, but here’s what I came up with for now:

Ninja Gaiden (Xbox versions). These games really do pile on the gore in a similar fashion and at first you do get this real experience of slicing people up with a sword. I do think it wears off pretty quickly for me as the tactical elements of the combat start to become more important. Which is what has really killed NG2 for me for now, as I discovered the fighting mechanics are actually less interesting, mainly due to the

NiGHTS into Dreams – something completely different. It’s more of a ‘rushgame‘ but I still certainly played this game repeated just for the ‘feeling’ it gave me of flying & floating about, as much as it was trying to race through the levels.

Gun Valkyrie – another XBox third-person action game. This does certainly seem to be the easiest current game environment to provide this ‘experience’ feeling in for me. Again in this game is about the feeling of flight and total control over your jetpack.. once you really master it! I tried to re-play this game again recently, and whilst I can remember a few things, I found my control skills had dimished to the level where I have to re-learn to be good at it again. Unfortunately it’s unlikely I’ll ever really enjoy it in the same way again.

Space Channel 5 – a possible candidate. Again.. once mastered, many of the parts of the game become so easy, you’re just ‘enjoying the ride’ – the music and tapping along to the beat. This is the only ‘dancing’ game that’s ever made me actually want to dance along with it. Light years ahead of all other “rhythm action” games in my opinion.

Numerous fighting games – Of course I certainly get a bit of the “beat” in my beat-em-ups from time to time. I think the earlier Street Fighter 2’s did the best job of this really, as they had the nicest sound effects and ‘feel’ to the contact. But generally Capcom games do ok in this department as they feel noticably better than the others. But this feeling does wear off especially quickly with me with beat-em-ups so I can’t think of anything else notable, especially in 3d fighting games I can’t think of any example that did it to me.

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