Getting The Urge

Urge 2 Kill

"Watch, this is funny. I saw it in a game once..."

Games are funny things are they not? In one of my other articles I talked about how games allow us to do things we wouldn’t normally consider doing in the real world, and it seems even little things that we do in games, we do without thinking. What I mean is, the way we feel the need to smash a line-up of bottles on a wall! Seriously, who can resist it? You’re standing there with a gun in your hand and you see a set of pretty bottles all in a row sitting on a shelf, the maths is easy; Gun + Bottles = A smashing good time! That’s maybe too obvious for what I’m trying to put across here though, let me explain; there are little urges at work in our brains that persuade us to do some really odd things in games sometimes.

Smash em' up

WARNING! Office boredom can be hazardous to others around you

The first time I became fully aware of these strange urges was whilst playing through GoldenEye on the N64. At one point you find yourself in a big Siberian control room full of TV screens, spotlights, surveillance cameras and glass partitions, and all of them shatter or explode with a satisfying burst of colour and sound. I re-played that level quite a few times, not for a better finishing time or a higher score, but purely for the sake of trashing the place. Seeing all that shiny reflective glass just made me think it would all look better in bits on the floor! As most little boys know, destruction is fun and most of us (as young lads) probably needlessly destroyed a lot of toys, I know I did! There are games that focus particularly on our destructive nature too, such as Pain. If you’ve been hiding under a rock (on Mars) perhaps some of you’ve never heard of Pain before. The idea is simple; you pick a person to load into a giant catapult and fire them off into the scenery, causing as much damage and mayhem as possible before you finally run out of momentum. Sounds a bit dumb right? Well it is, but it can be quite a hoot too.

Pain

Now that's what I call a Pain of glass! *groan*

Anyway, I digress. Strange urges in games range from anything from feeling you have to shoot things right in the head, to jumping off really high places knowing fine your character is going to die horribly. Quite often I find myself walking/running down a street in a sandbox game and I spot a ladder or scaffolding going up the side of a building, and I’m compelled to climb it, I just can’t help myself! I need to know where it leads, it’s usually nothing at all and after scaling the very high building/crane/construction site ladder, I find myself very high up with nowhere to go. Well I don’t want to have to come down the same way do I? And so the urge to jump comes upon me like a clinically depressed lemming. Which is fine if you’re Cole McGrath, Alex Mercer or a cop from Crackdown, but Nico Bellic should not be considering such options. Ah yes, GTA. Now there’s a game packed full of odd urges; I drove for miles in GTA4 to make pigeons explode over and over again, just to hear that distressed “Baa-koo” as a shower of blood and feathers filled the screen! Much more satisfying than hidden packages (though I gave up after about 90 of them) I think. A lot of people said Assassin’s Creed was too repetitive and I agree with them in a lot of respects, but I found myself going back to that game just for the suicidal (read: leaps of faith) jumps into haystacks. Finding the highest possible ledge to leap off became a sort of weird addiction to me, and it didn’t stop there. Those ‘simpletons’ roaming the streets that attack you for no reason, I found them very fun to punch in the face! I’d stalk around on ground level for ages just waiting for one to come along and throw a fit near me, just so I could belt him! Strange urges indeed.

AC jump

Xtreme Crowd-Surfer 2

Driving like a maniac seems to come to us all naturally too, have you ever tried to be a sensible driver in a sandbox game? Just try it for ten minutes, I can guarantee before you know it you’ll be running red lights and knocking over mailboxes like a crazed ambulance driver on his last day of work. It just seems to happen to us, we do uncontrolled schizophrenic stuff as if we’re on an unforeseen day-release fresh from the loony bin. The other strange compulsion I’ve found I have is crashing a car on purpose! Call me mad but sometimes I just want to see how crumpled it can get before giving up the ghost. So what if I’ve just managed to drive the last ten miles of road at over 100mph without getting so much as a scratch on the paintwork, I want to see if the guy inside can exit through the dash-board! And yet there never seems to be any proper kind of provocation for it, except that deep and basic impulse.

Burnout

"Hi, is that the AA?, I've had a bit of a hiccup"

The need to hoard ridiculous amounts of pointless items also seems to come upon me subconsciously too, and I never really notice it until my inventory is stuffed full of crap I don’t need. But can I get rid of all the junk? Hell no! I’ll squirrel it away somewhere under a generic rock in the futile hope of somehow finding it later on. If I can’t do that then I’ll spend twenty minuets re-arranging my inventory so I can carry that extra pointless item I’ve found, I don’t need it (I don’t really want it) but damnit, I’m going to have it. So often have I found myself stuck at a locked door in a game that refuses to open until I bring it that ‘odd smelling cheese cake’ (or any other unthinkable item) I walked straight past half an hour ago, that I’m always (always) procuring a large quantity of useless tat on a continual basis, in fear of being stopped dead in the future. Seriously, I’d steal the lint out of an NPC’s pocket if I thought it might help me later in the game.

Inventory

Why oh why can't I just carry my 25 swords?

What can this tell us though; that deep down gamers are really a bunch of psychotic, kleptomaniac nut-jobs that need locking up? I think not. See, what I think is that we all have these impulses within us, it’s just that gamers have found a release for them. Granted there are some of us that find it hard to tell the difference between real life and a virtual playground, but the majority of us see it for what it is; a chance to be an entire wicker basket short of a picnic.

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Written by R.Furie

Ross has been playing games since he can remember and has had games machines around him all his life. He's what we now refer to as "Old Skool" because he grew up playing games with a hand carved wooden joystick on a TV forged from rope and stone. Nourished on a diet of Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Joust, Gauntlet, Bomber Jack and other various wholesome arcades he has grown to become a versatile and open minded gamer. Favouring the style of open-world games he's sure VR can't be far away, and looks forward to attaching himself to a colostomy bag and slipping into a deep VR coma so he need never have to deal with real life again.

2 comments

  1. You’re right about odd compulsions in games. However, I can’t remember once walking around my school and having the urge to break all the windows? Why do you think that is?

    From studying myself, I think it is a desire to explore how deep the interactivity is within a game.

    P.S. Speaking jumping off cliffs, I just threw myself off a building onto some rocks in Uncharted 2 this evening. I think I just wanted to see how the game would handle it.

    • R.Furie /

      You’re right on the button there pal, I think it’s all about seeing how deep the interactivity is in a game when it comes to smashing stuff up.

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