Now you’re playing with (really horrible) power
Video games frequently work as excellent power-fantasies. But thankfully, they play up the ‘fantasy’ side of that equation. You see while many (in fact almost all) super-powered video game abilities look like they’d be awesome to have, if transferred to real life, a lot of them would actually be a living nightmare.
Sure, they look all cool as your top gaming heroes are flipping, flaming, and flying around, laying waste to all and sundry. But if you actually had to deal with those abilities yourself? You’d be praying for death within the hour. Some would be horrendously painful. Some would be almost impossible to manage. And others would just make day-to-day life utterly unlivable. Click on, and I’ll explain why your standard-issue human form is infinitely preferable to a lot of the ‘augmented’ options.
Mario’s mushroom-infused growth-spurts seem, on the surface, like the most innocent and benevolent of cartoon superpowers. Eat an oversized fungus, double in size, become hardier and more resilient. Fun, right? Wrong. Imagine the actual physical process of rapid bodily expansion. Imagine all of your muscles and bones exploding in size over the space of a second, crunching, stretching, and jostling for space within your rapidly over-encumbered physicality. Imagine your skin stretching and contorting in order to accommodate your newfound internal mass.
And beyond that, imagine the additional strain put upon your internal organs, lungs, heart, liver and kidneys suddenly working quadruple-time to sustain your instantaneous bulk. There’s a reason that bodybuilders do cardio as well as lifting. Unless all of these things happened in perfect synchronicity, Mario would rapidly be reduced to a quivering, agonised heap of cracked bones, burst muscles and ripped epidermis, if indeed he even survived the process without suffering a fatal heart attack along the way. And let’s face it, eating something as big as your entire body is going to be pretty traumatic in the first place. And unless the physiologicall effects somehow spread to your clothing, you’d end up naked as well. Humiliating.
A bionic arm
A bionic arm would be great, yeah? A giant, oversized, robo-appendage for grappling, swinging, and clobbering wrong-doers in the face with all the force of a quickly-swung car engine? It’d be like being a mad, mechanical, turbo-Spider-Man. Except that it wouldn’t. It would be horrendous. First, think of the logistics of having a giant slab of iron and electronics grafted to your shoulder. If the infection and perpetual agony of having wires and cables screwed into your central nervous system didn’t get you, the sheer weight of the thing would.
It’d all be fine while you were still lying in the recovery ward hopped up on a hallucinogenic fantasy world’s worth of painkillers, but the second you tried to get up and leave? Rip. Tear. Clang. Haemorrhage. And should you somehow have managed to bulk up to the degree that you can take the weight of a fully-loaded barbell hanging off one shoulder, it’d all go wrong the instant you tried to use the thing. The sheer force of a high-speed, long-distance reel-in would probably wrench the thing out of your soft, vulnerable tissue, leaving you bleeding out in the dust while your metal mutilation went speeding off into the horizon, taking a few flapping shreds of muscle tissue with it.
The world slows down. Previously uncatchable enemies begin to aimlessly drift through the air like underwater sloths caught in a moderate current. Their brief, flailing attempts to track you give way to impotent confusion as you seem to vanish from their field of view in an instant. You have a bead on everyone in the vicinity before they even know you’ve raised your weapon. Hell, half of them are dead before they even realise you’ve pulled it. But inside, you are losing your goddamn mind.
The fact is, you’ve spent your entire life thinking at a certain pace. That pace will vary depending on the individual and the situation, but in general everyone has a pretty solid relationship with the way their thoughts relate to the evolving world around them. Throw that out of the window, and you would rapidly lose the plot. Spend a day quickly switching between speeds, and you’d end up disoriented beyond belief. Throw in a violent, life-or-death situation, and you’d be a puddle of vomit and tears within half an hour. And that’s before we even factor in that most video game bullet-time is rationalised via faster-thinking and accelerated instincts. Consider how fast you’d have to think to perceive time slowing down for extended periods. Even the most dedicated amphetamine-head doesn’t achieve that. It’s no wonder Max Payne is miserable. A dead family, a painkiller habit and speed-psychosis does not a very cosy winter make.
‘Hey, I’m over here!’ ‘No, too slow, now I’m over here!’ ‘Ha! Now I’m over here, and there, and everywhere, including right behind you with a big knife!’ Oh, what a cheeky, irritating scamp teleportation would make you. Except that once again, but for slightly different reasons this time, it wouldn’t make you that at all. Because theoretically, teleportation doesn’t move you around.
If we’re going to subscribe to the general gist of Star Trek transporter technology (and the vague method agreed upon by actual science), teleportation doesn’t move you through space as much as it rips you apart, atom by atom, and rebuilds a replica somewhere else. Effectively, you’re killing and cloning yourself each and every time you jump. Dishonored’s Corvo gets a free pass, as his Blink ability is actually more of a rapid warping movement than a true teleport. But Dhalsim, M. Bison, and those Translocator-using, telefrag-jockies from Unreal Tournament? All dead, a million times over. In a very brief, but probably nightmarishly excruciating way.
’Ooh, magic shoes that increase my acceleration and top speed to several times beyond those my body was designed to achieve. Great stuff. Let’s take them for a spin and see how far I can get in 30 seconds. I bet I can do at least a couple of miles.’
But you know what? You wouldn’t. You’d probably last about half that time before your body came apart and scattered itself behind you in a messy line of splatter and meat. Because, again, your body is just not designed to work at that kind of capacity. In a very short period of time, your joints would be resolutely knackered, bone grinding against cartilage fast enough to light a small camp fire. Your muscles would be in agony due to the instant build-up of lactic acid, and unless you were particularly well armoured (a situation which would no doubt bring all kinds of chafing problems of its own), the air you passed through would be like sandpaper against your skin. Sonic the Hedgehog? Sonic the jibbering mass of bloody pulp, more like. And the blisters would be just hellish.
’Nothing can hurt me! I’m an indestructible wrecking-ball of unstoppable momentum. Incoming enemies? I’ll just run straight through them! Rock in the way? Zoom! Smash! Gone! Tricky array of bricks to navigate past? I’ll just bump into them and watch those bastards explode!
Phew, I’m a bit tired now. Think I’ll have a little sit down. *CRASH* Shit, the chair has exploded. *BAM!* Crap, the ground underneath the chair has also exploded, and now I’m sitting in a crater. Could you give me a hand up? Cheers. *SCHMLOOOM!* Dayum, sorry about your arm, dude. Didn’t expect it to just burst like that. You know I hear they’re making great progress with bionics now. Maybe you could look into getting one of those.’
When will the pain end?
So that’s it for now. Probably better I round off here, before I ruin any more giddy gaming fun with stark images of desecrated anatomical devastation. But are there any other video game powers you reckon would be a right old crock of shit if you had to deal with them yourself? Let me know in the comments. Because you might as well, yeah? Yeah.
And while you’re here, check out some of our other content related to just how deeply video games lie to you about supposedly awesome stuff. The most ludicrously impractical FPS weapons would be a good start. And that feature’s RPG counterpart? That’s just lovely as well.
Written by David Houghton on July 25, 2014 for gamesradar.com