Similar to other forms of media, video games can provoke strong emotional responses from us. This is a result of impeccably crafted story lines, resonating characters, and authentic graphics. These factors are used to engage our interest, and get us invested in the game. This is why when something, particularly gruesome or unsettling happens it can affect us. The types of scenarios that can accomplish this are usually associated with pain, grisly visuals and/or lack of morals. These eleven scenes fit these criteria. Yet, what about them makes them truly disturbing, and did they go too far? Warning, this article contains spoilers.
10. Rutledge Asylum- Alice: Madness Returns
Towards the end of the game Alice hallucinates about being interred at Rutledge Asylum, an institution she was treated at for almost a decade. It is debated how much or how little of what occurred in this hallucination actually happened during her stay. However, it's hinted that some of the events did transpire. This makes this sequence all the more grim and troubling. In this scene, we're shown a worn and mentally incapacitated Alice living in an dirty padded cell. Her caretakers treat her like an animal and abuse and "medicate" her with unorthodox methods. These include trepanning (drilling a hole in her head), leeches and electroconvulsive (electroshock) therapy.
9. Ellie Kills David- The Last of Us
Many agree that Ellie was the heart of The Last of Us. She and the gruff Joel were some of the few remaining survivors in a zombie ridden world. During their travels, she came across David (a cannibal) who was suspicious from the start. After partially gaining her trust he kidnaps Ellie, and brings her over to his group's base, intending to have the teen join them and become his new "pet" . Ellie manages to escape, but gets caught in a game of cat and mouse with David. He eventually pins her down and attempts to strangle/rape her before she grabs a machete and brutally hacks his face. A combination of Ellie almost being sexually assaulted, and repeatedly stabbing David in a fit of rage is shocking and upsetting. This sweet young girl felt so violated and upset by David's abuse that she savagely beats him to death.
8. Professor Pyg Intro- Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight has some memorably morbid scenes. These include Jason Todd being violently maimed, Barbara being paralyzed by the Joker, and her fake suicide. However, I personally feel the introduction of one of Batman's most vile and disturbed foes takes the cake. In the side mission 'The Perfect Crime', mutilated bodies are showing up all over Gotham. Batman finds the victims strung up like Christ on the cross. Surprisingly, they share a couple similarities; in that they all have physical abnormalities and they don't live in the city. Eventually, Batman deduces the culprit is Lazlo Valentine a.k.a. Professor Pyg (a former, demented surgeon). He eventually finds him at Pyg's salon/hideout in what seems like a scene from a horror movie. Batman enters the dark recesses of the building with opera music blaring in the background. He finds several caged people, and a woman (her screams muffled) lying on an operating table being cut by Pyg who's horribly singing along to the music.
7. Fingers Cut- Outlast
Outlast in itself is disturbing. There are images of bodies horrifically spiked, chemically deformed people, body parts being ripped off, nudity, torture, and excessive sadism . Needless to say, there's plenty of cringe-worthy eye porn to go around. This sequence is no different. After Miles (an investigatory journalist) is knocked out by a deranged physician he's strapped into a wheel chair and taken to a bug infested and blood smeared bathroom. There he's fastened in a chair and the doctor intimidates him with an array surgical implements. Finally, after "cleaning" a pair of bone shears he removes two of Miles' fingers in a snap. Miles is yelling in agony, and shaking in his chair. I remember first watching this scene, and my heart was pounding as the doctor took out his instruments and eyed Miles' hands. Needles to say, I cringed during the amputation.
6. Pinkies not Crossed- Heavy Rain
In Heavy Rain, Ethan must go through five trials to save his son. To complete the third trial he must severe one of his pinky fingers. He has five minutes, and a variety of common household tools (pliers, saw, scissors, etc.) to choose from. What makes this scene more disturbing than Outlast's is the procedure isn't done in a flash. It lasts for a few minutes, allowing the tension to build and making the viewer realize the full weight of this action. Depending on what item you use the amputation can appear more or less revolting. There's also Ethan's agonizing and perturbing response that sends shivers down your spine.
5. Surgery- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes sees its lead protagonist Snake retrieving an agent named Paz to extract info regarding a person of interest. Unfortunately, Paz had two bombs lodged in her body, and the crew must perform impromptu surgery to remove it (they only think one's inside). The medic declares it's too late to administer anesthetics, so he removes the stitches (where the bomb was inserted), and cuts open her stomach. It's a nauseating sight as her lower intestines are exposed and spilling over. Not long after they start Paz regains consciousness (she'd passed out), and realizing the situation she's in she violently convulses and screams for help. After taking out the first bomb and knowing there's one left; she jumps out of the helicopter and explodes.
4. Needle in Eye- Dead Space 2
In Dead Space 2, there's a device called the 'NoonTech Diagnostic Machine'. Its purpose is to access information from a region of the brain called the lateral geniculate (where the data is stored) by inserting a needle into the subject's eye. Issac uses the machine, and there's two alternate endings. The bad ending results in the needle jamming his pupil and crushing his skull. The good ending shows the needle successfully entering his eye, and extracting the info. Both endings are unnerving to watch, but the bad ending seems to receive stronger reactions.
3. White Phosphorous- Spec Ops: The Line
Talk about a severe misunderstanding...In this chapter of Spec Ops: The Line you and your squad come across a refugee camp they presumptuously assume is a threat. How do they get past them? Well, surrounding the camp's territory is white phosphorous weaponry. With two out of three soldiers on board with using the chemical it's unleashed upon the camp. Shortly after the gas dissipates, the squad combs the area to see if anyone's left, and it's not a pretty sight. Several small fires are scattered across the landscape. Some of the camp's soldiers are lingering, but slowly dying as their singed skin is being eaten away by the harsh chemical.
They venture further and find dozens of civilians' corpses blanketing the hot desert ground. Their quasi-burned bodies and mortified expressions are frozen in time. The image is reminiscent of a Edvard Munch painting. They're left as haunting reminders to the squad of their rash actions. What makes this scene even more disturbing is the fact that white phosphorus has been, and is, still used in chemical warfare.
2. Fetus in the Sink- P.T.
P.T. is one of the most well received horror demos. It was spooky, cryptic and downright uncomfortable. This was supposed to spawn into a new Silent Hill game, but production was cancelled earlier this year. One of the demos most talked about scenes happens during the beginning, as a radio broadcast reports a pregnant mother being fatally stabbed in the abdomen by her alcoholic and jealous husband. You happen to be in the very house where the crime wascommitted. Later on, you hear infantile cries coming from the bathroom. Once you're able to enter you find a prematurely developed and deformed fetus crying. It's simultaneously heartbreaking to hear it wail, and distressing to see.
1. Senseless Torture- Grand Theft Auto V
The Grand Theft Auto Series has received bountiful amounts of controversy. Criticism has been directed towards its violence, "over-sexualized" content, immoral themes and supposedly influencing youth to loot, murder and revolt. This scene also particularly encountered some backlash for being sadistically ruthless. In the side mission 'By the Book', a psychopath named Trevor is ordered to torture Mr. K (an alleged terrorist) to procure knowledge about Javan (person of interest)'s appearance and whereabouts, so he can be found and killed.
Trevor's given a set of possible tools to subdue Mr. K. There are four ways to achieve this. You can pull his teeth out with pliers, hitting him in the knee or crotch with wrench, electrocuting his nipples with electric clamp or flipping his chair, putting a cloth over his face and pouring gallons of water on it. The sequence is pretty graphic,as it shows Mr. K's body responding to the abuse (red nipples, missing teeth, bruises). Plus, hearing him plead to his abusers to stop is difficult to listen to. This is why muting makes it bearable. ;) The makers behind the game also insisted this scene was intended to be satirical.
Are these scenes too disturbing, and is their unpleasant content unnecessary? I personally think no. Despite the intensity of these scenes they serve a purpose. For Professor Pyg it was showing his ruthlessness and complete disregard for human life; the white phosphorous incident was displaying the cons and terror of chemical warfare, and Grand Theft Auto it was satire. These scenes also show us a a side we (fortunately) rarely experience, and that's the brutality of humanity. It's troubling, yet weirdly exhilarating at the same time.