As with any form of New media, video games have often been culturally demonised as a life destroying habit. Whilst this Luddite-esque concern has been rightfully ridiculed in the majority of mainstream media forms, there have been some glorious cases of ownership of this fear, and a leaning into its absurdity . One of the best things to come out of this demonisation, is the trope of the ‘killer videogame’ – essentially, a video game that if you play, it will literally attempt to kill you in some way or another.
At once campy and creepy, the trope has led to a treasure trove of videogame based fiction. Some of it bad, none of it good, and most of it hilarious.
With Halloween only 3 weeks away, here is a list of the most deadly (fictional) videogames:
In what is technically Disney’s only slasher movie, Stay Alive tells the story of an online PS2 game of the same name, whose players get killed off one-by-one in both and game and real life accordingly. In the game, you and your friends must fight through a haunted mansion on Garouge Plantation, but be careful! Wandering around the virtual mansion grounds is the ghost of the real life serial killer, Elizabeth Bathory. If ol’ Liz murders your character in game, it will be closely replicated after you’ve logged off…
Terrifyingly, Elizabeth can even get your character if you’re offline. She will ‘unpause’ your game in much the same way Lisa was rumoured to in P.T. So you’re never safe.
Dead or Alive? I’d be Alive! Thanks to the great work done by a post-Malcolm in the Middle Frankie Muniz.
In a sweet meta-twist in Parappa the Rapper 2, Parappa must travel inside the ‘Food Court’ game in order to stop the noodleization of the world by the evil Noodle Syndicate. The game was infamous in Parappa’s world, due to the rumour that if you couldn’t complete it, you would only ever be able to eat noodles for the rest of your life. Without the balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, one can only assume that everyone who played the game would thus die a slow, horrible carbohydrate-induced death.
Dead or Alive? Alive. I could easily live off just noodles if I had to.
The Bishop of Battle
The 1980’s not-so-classic horror anthology, ‘Nightmares’, stars Emilio Estevez as a ‘videogame wizard and arcade game hustler’ determined to complete the infamous arcade game The Bishop of Battle. I’m sure that all sounded much cooler back then too.
No one has ever been able to beat the 13th level of The Bishop of Battle, until this ‘wizard’ shows his magic. Obviously, the game then comes to life, and Estevez has to shoot these wire-frame sprites with his awesome laser gun. When the titular Bishop finally confronts our favourite videogame sorcerer however, he is unable to escape, and now he will be stuck in the game forever (and ever, and ever, etc.).
Dead or Alive? Dead. I’m so dead. Videogame Wizard? Get the fuck outta here.
In what is potentially the most dated episode of X-Files, FPS tells the story of a killer VR game called… FPS. No points for originality there.
In it, Mulder and Scully must travel into the game to uncover how it’s players are mysteriously dying by virtual gunshot wounds. Throughout the course of their investigation, they find that a secret character, Maitreya, had been programmed into the game, and for some reason she was able to actually kill people or something. I don’t really know. Just go with it.
Just beware, because this bondage-wearing avatar is as deadly as she is over-sexualised.
Dead or Alive? Alive, but only because I can’t afford a VR headset just yet.
Neil Gaiman’s Virus, written in 1998, is a short story about a small untitled puzzle game. This game (presumably a free-to-play title) is so addictive, that every has to play it. Everyone. The problem occurs when everyone keeps playing, and we forget to perform our societal responsibilities, such as eating, or going outside. In the end, the outside world begins to crumble away as we can’t take our eyes off our screens.
But to be honest, I don’t think I’d even bother to install this one. The game just doesn’t sound that good. The narrator remarks that by ‘putting a black square next to a red line’, will help solve a puzzle. Pfft. Why can’t I shoot anything?
Dead or Alive? Alive; even doing the washing up sound’s cooler than this Candy Crush clone.
Okay so this one could actually be real. Polybius is an urban legend, that tells of an arcade game designed by the government to produce psychoactive effects in its players. Released in only a select few arcades in the early 80’s, the game proved to be ultra-addictive, with arcade goers even fighting over who could play next. After finally tearing themselves away from the game, players would then suffer from insomnia, amnesia, and even potentially commit suicide. The urban legend for this game is vast, and definitely worth checking out if you fancy some creepy story to tell for Halloween.
Some developers have gone as far to ‘remake’ Polybius. It even released on the PS4 earlier this year. I’d be wary of installing it however, as who knows what will happen to you…
Dead or Alive? I’ve not tried it yet. You first.
Does The Matrix count as a videogame? What about Tron? They’re technically just computer programmes I suppose… Also Sword Art Online, of course, but that’s essentially a less fun FPS.
What other killer videogames might I have missed?
Follow Cleon on Twitter; a social media game which may have already take his life.