Some might say that my “fright reactions” are often at an elevated state.
I’m easily startled by people rounding cubicle corners, I overreact to drivers inching towards my lane in the road, and static electricity in particular makes me jump back inordinate and embarrassing distances.
Those things may all be true, but I prefer to re-label “fright reactions” as “anti-predatory mechanisms.”
I mean, my ancestors didn’t survive billions of years just so that I would suffer cardiac arrest from a fast-moving cubicle farmer balling out of control for the laser printer.
We all like to think that games release some intangible level of endorphins or adrenaline into our bloodstream, relaxing or exciting us in controllable doses.
But Dead Space
EA’s just-released sci-fi horror game is certainly “exciting,” but in more of an “alarmed response” way than I’m used to drinking up during a videogame.
Onboard the USG Ishimura
, I’m experiencing sensory overload – ironically – through sensory deprivation.
Trying desperately to dig through the dark, my pupils are dilating like I’m high on THC.
Straining to categorize between innocuous versus dangerous sounds, I can practically feel my cochlea throbbing in my inner ear.
My mouth is going dry, presumably to keep my unblinking eyes from drying up and perma-gluing my contacts to my cornea.
Gee, other than that, I’m great.
While I’m feeling the chemical reaction from being “thrilled” from the expected cat-jumping-out-of-the-closet tricks, the auditory frights are on par with anything being thrown at me visually on the screen.
Perhaps the audio is so frightening because I have so little control over it.
In the game, when a violently-disfigured Necromorph is plodding towards me, I can (sometimes, definitely not always) fall back, rapidly assess the situation, hone my target, and saw off a limb with a prize-winning gunshot.
And I could do this with far less panic if I decided to cheat myself, mute the volume, and nullify the $60 I just dropped at Software Etc, sure.
But it’s that volume
that pours horrible ambient sounds into my ears.
And the volume
of darkness poured into the set pieces making the blood pulse through my ocular veins.
Dead Space is, and already has, set off a disturbing number of dormant anti-predatory mechanisms in my brain. This, coming from a guy that’s already beset with daily elevated fright reactions.