In video games, much like in the mind of a religious fundamentalist, science is the root of most problems. Perhaps its because the sci-fi leaning fiction of video games and the conflict-driven set-up of most gameplay lend themselves so well to scientifically-generated threats. But whatever the reason, there are far more planet-threatening Doctor Wileys around than benevolent Doctor Lights. Even if not flat-out evil, the white-coats invariably end up on the recieving end of something nasty whether by accident or design.
So we decided it was time to pay tribute to these fallen heroes of science. And in the case of those who brought it on themselves, put the boot in while they're down.>
The UAC Mars research base - Doom series
The unfortunate fate: Death by dismemberment, evisceration, plasma burn and shotgun shell, following demonic invasion. Oh, and possession too. Followed by more shotgun death.
Was it their fault? In the original games, not so much. If simple teleportation was grounds for Hellish retribution, the entire crew of the Enterprise would be nestled away in Satans lower intestine right now.
In Doom 3 though? The entire Martian facility is made up of such Comically Sinister Everything that its impossible to imagine anything occuring there could ever turn out 100% horror-free. Its perpetually gloomy. Everyone is terrified, depressed or losing their mind. Industrial accidents are ten a penny, disturbing noises drift down every corridor and the chief scientist is one Dr. Brian Elzebub*. Teleportation experiments in that place were only ever going to lead to one location, and Mr. Tumnus certainly wasnt going to be waiting at the other end.
*Okay so he wasn't really, but he might as well have been
Black Mesa - Half-Life
The unfortunate fate: Death by interdimensional alien or government hit squad.
Was it their fault? Debatable. While the resonance cascade that opened the portal between Black Mesa and the Xen borderworld was a direct result of a risky bit of science-pokery, no-one could really have expected things to go as gloriously sideways as they eventually did.
The experiment was an attempt to discover the environmental effect of increasing the natural resonance of a crystal sample, but while it was probably a bit silly to carry out said experiment on a crystal of unknown origin, very few people in Black Mesa knew that the crystal was imparted by the G-Man. And even fewer knew who or what the G-Man was. In fact no-one does to this day. He does however, definitely have an agenda and his action was conducted with a very specific end goal in mind. Which we might find out the nature of in Half-Life 3. In around 2037.
Aperture Science - Portal series
The unfortunate fate: Death by deadly neurotoxin. Oh, and company boss Cave Johnson died of inhaled moon rock.
Was it their fault? Maybe not directly, but anyone who worked at Aperture Science had it coming. This is the company that developed a way to rip holes in space from what was originally a shower curtain. The company that thought the risk of destroying the fabric of the universe during time travel experimentation was basically nothing to worry about as long as you didnt make eye contact with your future self. The company that used hobos as early test subjects, took them apart, put science stuff in them and then sent them on their way. The company that built its testing area out of asbestos and gave its volunteers tumors so that it could test its tumor-killing technology.
In short, its the company that believed the chief question in scientific endeavour is not Why? but Why not? And upon asking that question. promptly ignored the several hundred perfectly acceptable answers. So if you worked there and thought that the activation of a sentient AI plant manager was anything like a good idea, then that neurotoxin had your name all over it. And why the Hell were you storing deadly neurotoxin anyway?
The Facility scientists - Goldeneye 007
The unfortunate fate: Perforation by British secret agent and the destruction of their precious facility.
Was it their fault? Only if you apply the laws of action movies. ie. If you're not on Bond's side you're basically collateral damage. It was the '80s. It was Soviet Russia. There were probably only so many options for a high-ranking Russian chemical or rocket scientist looking for reliable paid work. Who can blame these guys for taking a government job at a secret chemical weapons facility? Hell, it's not like most of them probably even had a choice. Think about that the next time you nail poor old Dr. Doak in the face for poops and cackles.
Lester - Another World
The unfortunate fate: Teleported to the surrealisat landscape of a hostile grey alien world populated by rampaging great shadow beasts and laser-toting space fascists.
Was it their fault? So Lester was working in the lab late one night (clearly not heeded the words of Bobby Pickett) tinkering around with his particle accelerator. Lightning struck the accelerator and a few seconds later Lester was gone.
Lester didnt technically do anything wrong (at one point a computer monitor reveals that one of the systems shields is off, but its unclear as to whether this is a problem or not), but if hed just taken a step back and looked at the bigger picture for a second hed have seen that he had his head right in the physics-lions mouth. Working alone. On an experimental particle physics experiment. At night. During a thunder storm. Science fiction exists for a reason, people, and that reason is that its a field manual on how to not get teleported to the surrealist landscape of a hostile alien world. If Lester had watched more Outer Limits things could have turned out just fine.
The Umbrella Corporation - Resident Evil series
The unfortunate fate: Zombification, mutation, being eaten by zombies and mutants, being frequently blown up.
Was it their fault? Yes, yes, a billion times yes. For decades, Umbrella has devoted all of its energies towards very little but making monsters. And as the old proverb doesnt go, He who makes monsters might take care lest he thereby be violently eaten by one. Or turned into one and then shot in the face with a rocket launcher
Harlan Wade - F.E.A.R.
The unfortunate fate: Psychically exploded by his own, long-dead daughter
Was it their fault? Harlan Wade discovered that Alma was a powerful psychic when she was three years old. He immediately put her in the lab for testing. By the age of five she was miserable, angry, and lashing out in ways the research team couldnt control. Two days before her eighth birthday, Wade locked her in a containment vault, induced a years-long coma, and made her pregnant with her own DNA, twice, in order to kickstart a psychic solder program. Ten years after the second birth, he cut life support and let her die.
Yes, it was all his fault.
The scientists of Jetpack Joyride
The unfortunate fate: Death via the medium of vertical high calibur weapons fire drilling a hole from skull to perenium.
Was it their fault? As endearing as they are, yes. JJ's hero, Barry Steakfries, used to work at the lab until he discovered they were planning to use their technology for evil. The scientists thought they'd got away with it, but they weren't aware of how antisocially badass Barry is. He could have just reported his previous employers to the authorities, but that's not the Barry Steakfries way. Instead he broke back in, stole the jetpack and started laying waste to the lot of them.
And those guys really did not hgelp their situation once the onslaught began. During an attack by machine gun jetpack, you do not run around a huge open corridor. You hide inside a very small room with very low ceiling and you stay there until the screaming stops.
Big Science - Splosion Man
The unfortunate fate: High-impact detonation at the hands of pyrogenic lunatic.
Was it their fault? Working on the basis that there's no such thing as a perfectly innocent secret underground facility, yeah, we'd assume that Splosion Man's presence is their own doing. You create a being with the power to explode at will, you make him a gleefully deranged arsehole, you get what you pay for.
And what you pay for is having the last words you ever hear be an inane hollar of "Loose meat sandwiiiich!", shortly before you're scorched clean off this mortal plane. It's not a dignified way to go.
Further research needed?
So that's our list of the the most unfortunate ends to burgeoning scientific careers. But have we missed any? If there's any tragic scientific endeavour you think more worthy of inclusion, let us know.
And why not check out some of our similar stuff? Give Gaming's most magnificently murderous medical practitioners (opens in new tab) a go. And then maybe try out The science of Fallout: Part 1 (opens in new tab).