Suffering can be the funniest thing in the world when provided with the right context. The Germans call it schadenfreude, which is roughly “joy at the misery of others”. I gotta say, I indulge it it far more than I should, however I do go about the violence and misery in video games in a very detached way so I think I get away with it. Yes yes violence is evil and laughing at people in pain is wrong and so on and so forth. Really though it’s all situational, just look at the amount of people who laugh at old Tom & Jerry even at a mature age.
I believe that a level of schadenfreude exists in human beings at a very young age, I can easily entertain a very young child by pretending to run into a brick wall, it doesn’t get old even after the 20th time which I find is truly astounding. I’d segway this into a post about the existence of violence in human beings but that is for another time, don’t you worry. The joy at suffering might be through some form of relief, knowing that my day isn’t going like that and it is funny to watch others live a life of suffering.
I’ve always enjoyed a little pain and a little suffering to be something you can afflict on others in my video games, largely for revenge when they cheat at a higher level. You put me through all of this so now I’m gonna watch you tumble down some stairs and whine about the bones being outside or something. Other times I pick on an innocent bystander to bring on one of the worst days in their life, I roleplay as that guy who just makes peoples lives harder as I gallivant through the streets, pushing people over in Assassin’s Creed. Hey for all I know they deserved it, unlikely but still entertaining.
I think one of the greater appeals of the mischievous asshole is the payoff knowing that in a video game not many can even challenge what you do, they just moan and get on with it. I can play Dragons Dogma and smack people in the side of the head with a mace, making them drop their pot and ruin the rest of the day. Forget the power fantasies of unbeatable warriors, I want to be able to make everyone in a town miserable in one sweeping motion. Leave the spells and guns behind, lets put laxative in the towns water supply, it’ll be tons of fun. Shit tons of fun. Ha…… uncontrollable leakage.
One of my personal joys is the audial element of the actions, the sweet, delicious and every so satisfying *bonk* when a brick lands on a guys head and knocks him on the floor. The novelty of dropping guards on the rooftops onto other guards, not out of a desire to be creative but rather to hear them yell. I still go back to Spyro The Dragon on the PS1 for one reason above else: the enemy death sounds. The screaming tribesman going d’oh as I evade him and he runs careening off the stage, the little elf looking guys who scream daaaahh when you hit them off into the abyss of the pits.
For goodness sake I still think that the Spiderman 3 film is one of my favourites purely because of the ringing metallic *dong* a metal bar makes when Harry Osborne goes head first into it and flips round, crashing to the ground. It helps that he wasn’t exactly being a nice guy at the time but dammit I chuckle just thinking about it, damn that has got to hurt.
Another key element is when the ridiculous physics come into play, mostly ludicrous rag-dolling that turns what was supposed to be a simulation of a body into a tool for comedy. I have fond memories of going around in Red Faction Guerilla and smacking civilians on the head with your sledgehammer, watching them bounce and freak out. I wondered everytime if I should find so much delight in hitting at guy round the face through his windshield, of course only wonder when I’m not giggling at his flailing after I wallop him in the chops.
In fact Red Faction Guerilla is a great game for roleplaying as an asshole, you can drive through pretty much any building in the game so of course there is a mountain of situations you can play up as you do so. A big favourite of mine was to constantly shout apologeticly, pretending to be flustered as I backed up into his wife and brought part of the roof with me as I drive away. It brought out the childish joy I needed in the game of seeing something and wanting to knock it down with as much force as you can muster. Come in like a freight train and watch the pieces scatter, it is an art form all by itself.
I really would like to see more attempts at making games where you are just a horrible person in the fun way, not kicking puppies but just making life hard for those who have already got it so. Hey poor guy begging on the street, nice hat…. now its on the floor. I’m not interested in being a monster or a douche-bag, just wanna be the reason some people drink is all.
What games do you delight in being a bit of a meanie? Do people ever look at you weird or such when you delight in causing strife in others lives? Would you go and buy a game where the entire concept is “ruin everyone’s time”? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.