Last year, as Halloween approached, we talked about Scariest Game Moments we’ve had while playing. There was one of my own I hadn’t mentioned.
Although I don’t know if it should be called “scary”, or something else. This happened in Ultima Underworld. As many know, U2 (as I think of it) had the FPS perspective. Other games used that view - for instance, Might & Magic, Wizardry, Bard’s Tale - but Underworld was more athletic than those.
In particular, there was jumping (not something I’ve been fond of in any game). It is, thankfully, a bit dim now in my memory. But there was some place in that game where leaping was required, and that was a painful experience.
I was already nervous just surveying the prospect. Didn’t really wanna do it. Unfortunately, making that “big step” was necessary for whatever reason. So I grit my teeth, measured the distance as best I could, and made the leap.
Immediately, I felt an unpleasant sensation in the pit of my stomach. Eeeee! Ahhhhhhh!! I’m falling!! Brrrrrrr. Splat.
Time to try again. And I found I couldn’t bring myself to watch while I jumped again (and again). Right after liftoff, I’d look down at the keyboard, close my eyes, grimace, and endure that awful “pit of the stomach” feeling. Even with my eyes closed, I could almost see it happening.
It was the first-person view that did it. I’ve played many - too many - other games that required jumping, but never had that feeling. Those, however, were all third-person perspectives.
Watching that little character on the screen go soaring off into space was not a problem. No matter if I was jumping across the Bottomless Chasm Of Infinite Restores, or over the Fiery Lava Pits Of Imminent Reload, it didn’t bother me in the least.
Okay, maybe I was bothered in the sense of being annoyed or frustrated. But there was never that “eeeeee!” feeling. For whatever reason, my brain (such as it is) equates that FPS view with “being there”, when I know full well this is all make-believe. That I can restore if I don’t make it over. That I’m not gonna be hurt. Listen, little gray cells, this-is-NOT-real! Nope, won’t pay attention.
If anything shows the difference between “knowing” and “believing”, this is surely it. One part of the mind knows the game is illusion; another part believes what it sees….and the illusion wins out, every time. Now, that is scary!