|Left: Little girl. Center: Little Boy. Right: Totally uncalled for.|
I can’t recall ever seeing a child die a bloody on-screen death in a horror movie. Maybe it happens, but if it does it must be rare. No matter how evil the foe, there is usually an unspoken agreement with the audience that the kid lives. Barring that, they die off-screen. This is supposed to be entertainment, after all. The moment a kid dies it stops being entertaining or scary. Our instincts to protect children go too deep, and when the audience sees something like that they are going to be yanked out of the story. They are no longer frightened, because they are no longer taking part in the experience. This is particularly true of people who have kids. Kids might die in a drama, but creating nameless underage “extras” to be slaughtered is a major violation of the viewer’s expectations and they will probably rebel by disconnecting from the story if they don’t quit it outright. As a storyteller you can break or bend this rule if you like, but you had better be careful and you had better know what the hell you’re doing.
And more to the point, you shouldn’t need to kill children to make your story frightening. Once you establish your foes, creating fear is much more about pacing, suspense, the threat of harm, and fear of the unknown. If your story isn’t scary, you don’t need to have your monster kill kids, you need to figure out why the audience isn’t connecting with your protagonist and vicariously experiencing their peril. Introducing kids is a ham-fisted solution to the problem and if you’re using it you’ve already messed up.
Later that ghostly little girl showed up again and I was obliged to fight her. I’ll give the designers credit: It was indeed shocking, but man, what were they thinking? Yes, she was a ghost, but shooting guns at kid-shaped targets wasn’t what I signed up for here. I found it revolting.
Later there was a scene that perfectly illustrates how “less is more” when it comes to scaring people:
The aliens in the game are harvesting people for food. They just teleport handy containers of people like planes or buildings onto their spaceship. (It’s really big.) They take the people out and leave the Earth junk laying around. This is a great device, since it lets the viewer see familiar objects in the alien setting, which creates a nice contrast to remind the viewer of how strange their surroundings are.
|Wow. Yikes. If they’d stopped here, they would have been way better off.|
I think using children like this was a major miscalculation. Nobody wants to gun down kids. At all. Not ghost kids. Not alien kids. Not virtual kids. It’s just a terrible move. I don’t care how ugly you make them, how many hit points you give them, or what weapons they have, nobody is going to derive satisfaction from overcoming child-like foes. There is a reason we’ve spent the last twenty years of gaming doing battle with Zombies, Orcs, and Nazis instead of fighting the cast of Romper Room.
I haven’t seen anyone else complain about this, so perhaps I’m alone in my thinking here. Maybe it bothered other people but they muddled through without making a big deal out of it. I’m still playing, but for me the sense of immersion is gone and I’m viewing the game with a far more clinical eye.
UPDATE UPDATE: Enough anklebiting. Comments are closed. If you have mean things to say about me, do so on your own space. If you want to drag me into an endless cycle of insulting nitpickery, then don’t be surprised when your comment gets nuked. I do this to have fun, and you’re making it non-fun. If you don’t like my website then piss off.
(Just for clarification, the anklebiting comments are deleted, just so everyone doesn’t look at what they wrote and wonder what led to this.)
Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?
What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?
A Lack of Vision and Leadership
People fault EA for being greedy, but their real sin is just how terrible they are at it.
The Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make
How did this game avoid all the usual stupidity that ruins remakes of classic titles?
The Strange Evolution of OpenGL
Sometimes software is engineered. Sometimes it grows organically. And sometimes it's thrown together seemingly at random over two decades.