The Hardest Game

It’s not Demon’s Souls (though I played a bit of that, and it’s as hard as everyone says it is) and it’s not Super Meat Boy. This isn’t about difficulty, it’s something else entirely, maybe courage. The hardest game I’ve ever played? Dead Space. That’s right, I’m halfway through the original Dead Space right now and I’m really not sure if I can keep going.

I don’t like scary movies; I avoid them at all costs. I don’t like the emotional drain of jump scares and constant tension, it’s exhausting. Dead Space is nothing but jump scares and tension—it’s almost unbearable. Dark corridors, scratching, scurrying sounds in the distance, bloody writing on the wall, grotesque human/monster hybrids, I can’t take it! I played the game for a full two hours (the longest play session I can manage) a couple weekends ago and my emotions felt raw and frayed afterwards.

So why am I playing it? Because it’s a good game, and I like good games. I like experiencing the best of gaming; it helps you appreciate the changes and evolution of the industry. People have been going on and on about how great Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are, and I felt like I was missing out. I thought that if I approached it from a gameplay perspective—that I was only playing it to see how the mechanics worked and how the experience was designed—then maybe I wouldn’t be so scared. Last night, after a particularly terrifying section where I was chased by a horrific unkillable monster, I thought about sending the game back to Gamefly unfinished (gasp!).

What’s weird is that I love scary books. I’ve read a lot of Stephen King, and a good bit of unsettling works from other authors. I like creepy books that give you weird dreams and force you to put them cover-side down on your bedside table. So why can’t I handle Dead Space? I think it’s the participatory nature of games. In a book you’re reading about another character’s choices. They’re going to go down that dark hallway whether you like it or not, you’re just along for the ride. In Dead Space I have to choose to walk down that dark hallway. I have to face down the monsters and my character lives or dies based on my courage and skill. I have the video gaming skill, I like to think after a few decades of gaming I’m pretty good at most games, but I’m not sure I have the fortitude to venture into the digital darkness.

I’m really intrigued by the Dead Space story and I want to see how it all turns out, I just don’t know if I can take much more. You can call me a weenie if you want, I don’t care. I’m totally okay with the fact that I’m terrified by this game. Maybe I can give it another go this weekend. Open the blinds, let the sun in, put on some overly cheerful Owl City in the background…maybe. All I know is that if Dead Space is this scary, I'm not sure I'll get around to playing Dead Space 2 for a while.