In video games, nearly everything exists to kill you. There's always a shrieking kamikaze alien spiraling toward you or an angry orc who wants to put your head on a spike (then wear the spike on his head). That's reasonable enough - those are creatures whose sole purpose in life is to murder and be murdered by you. But the proposition gets a bit fuzzier when you consider all the inanimate objects that also seem to exist solely to befuddle and ultimately destroy you.
Who put these spikes here, and why does nudging one with my foot cause me to explode? How do these boulders always seem to plummet directly toward my head? Why can I ascend a 44 degree slope like it's nothing but a 45 degree one will send me plummeting to my doom? These questions and more will be considered over the following slides.
High-speed racers lured into a sense of invulnerability by easily felled lampposts will soon meet their end under the lush fronds of the Cocos invulnera. Commonly seen in tropical and subtropical environs, the palm tree is nevertheless regarded as one of nature's leafiest killers. Just remember the old saying: tall and straight, like a gate, tall and bendy, be your end-y.
In real life, doors serve the important purposes of privacy and security. In video games, doors largely serve to kill you. Whether it's hiding a counter-terrorist soldier with an automatic shotgun, or breaking your neck from the swing of a crazed assassin wearing a horse mask, doors are endlessly hazardous. Maybe go with bead curtains instead?
You may be an ingenuitive tinkerer who is able to cobble together complicated devices from nothing more than miscellaneous electronics and scrap. You may be able to pass quietly through tiny air ducts and hide yourself in storage cabinets. But your might is nothing compared to a waist-high stack of luggage nefariously assembled in front of your escape route. Back into the waiting arms of the alien, with you!
Sure, you feel bad for your hero who has perished for the thousandth time on the same outcropping of rusty metal spikes. If he so much as brushes against them he explodes in a shower of sparks and/or blood, and it gets a bit old. But just imagine how many construction workers died installing them. Truly grisly.
45 degree angles
Video game explorers possess an uncanny capacity to forge upward on sharp slopes, walking forward with heads held high in places where normal people would be clambering on all fours. But even their physics-defying prowess knows a certain limit. If you try to push past that limit, you could end up in a cool unfinished part of the world or, more likely, sliding down/splattered across the side of the mountain.
You ran out of torches three turns ago, you're hurt, you're hungry, and you're digging upward. You don't think you're under a lake, but even so, you're pretty sure you could make the swim up to the surface as long as it means escaping from this blasted cave. Finally, you break through and the ceiling falls toward you. Your vision darkens as your body is enveloped in sand. Goddamnit.
Ah, the safety of camp! Finally, a place to rest and relax. Hey, that's a nicely rendered campfire. Do you think they made fire inflict damage in this game or did they wimp out and just make it a graphical effect? Let's check it - oh, better answer this text message real quick - wait, why is my guy dead?
In real life, boulders are the kind of thing you load up the station wagon and make a cross-country trek to see. Look at those grand old geological formations! How heavy they are, how powerful the glaciers must have been to carry them here! In video games, well, the boulders come to you. From above your head. Swiftly and endlessly.
Suits of armor
It's almost unfair to call suits of armor inanimate objects, considering how reliably they spring to life and kill our video game characters. Yeah, they're usually part of a trap and have no actual control over the giant axes or broadswords they drop towards us. But considering the lengthy list of priors, it's sure starting to look like malice aforethought.
Whether they act in secrecy behind the graphical veil of a video game or clatter on a table before you, dice are clearly the most deadly of any inanimate object on this list. The little pipped bastards can send even the best-prepared hero sprawling to the floor, and elevate an oversized rat to legendary rival status.
People put all kinds of stuff in barrels in real life: whiskey, wine, Niagara Falls thrillseekers. In video games they're mostly packed with high-powered explosives. But at least the Ordnance Distribution Committee has the decency to paint them a threatening shade of red before scattering them around crowded construction sites and military bases.
Ladders. They're like stairs, but much more compact. Simple concept, but actually using them is kind of awkward for most folks. Game characters, on the other hand, ascend ladders gracefully, never losing their balance or pinching their fingers. Unless, of course, their players accidentally press the 'cancel' button, or cause them to lean too far to the side I'll take pinched fingers.
Do you know why turtles are so slow and placid? It's because they take the responsibility of guarding the death machines strapped to their backs very seriously. They know that if any harm befalls them, they may become separated from their shells, and then the full destructive potential of their colorful carapace will be realized. Too many have fallen before the bouncing menaces already.
Bodies of water
Is there anything more serene than the ocean on a calm day? If you're the protagonist of most older games, the answer is oh god yes get me away from that wretched murder pond. Though dice and spikes may claim more lives overall, they don't make you watch a drowning animation as your otherwise competent hero sinks like a stone.
They are still inanimate objects, even if you can put dot sights and colorful decals on them.
The worst thing you usually have to worry about hiding in the bushes is a skunk or rabid raccoon. But even the most sparse vegetation can hide a hulking killer in video games. If players can exploit the stealthy underbrush, bushes become a massive boon, but in most other cases they're simply nebulous masses of leafy textures which exist only to trip you up.
Ok, so maybe a border isn't an inanimate object so much as it is a geopolitical concept. Let's just say I'm referring to the physical blockades that games erect between areas you're not supposed access yet. While illicitly crossing a border is a serious crime in real life with severe legal consequences, in video games it generally results in a massive police chase or summary execution from unseen 'commanders'. Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do...
Oh, it's all fun and games if you can stay on the trampoline. You just bounce higher and higher, ascending to inexplicable heights in gleeful defiance of the laws of physics. But as you speed up, it gets harder and harder to keep that distant black circle (or little accordion box or big green blob) under your feet. And all that fall damage is gonna catch up to you eventually.
Even the most finely tuned four-wheel drive transmission is useless against the slippery onslaught of a banana peel. Researchers theorize that replacing the absent banana may counteract the peel's legendary friction negating properties, but so far all attempts to do so have ended only in wacky sliding sounds and broken pelvises.
Did you know that most railings are installed for safety? It's true! They're usually meant to keep people from spilling down stairs or over precipitous drops. Unfortunately for video game characters, they generally serve the opposite purpose. Aside from being a great place to pitch over dramatically when you're shot, railings generally serve to interrupt precious momentum and/or slam into the nether regions of careless skaters.
This is actually a deadly twofer. First up is the tiny, pixel-wide column that nonetheless completely negates all of your hero's forward momentum. These party poopers tend to be located just over bottomless pits that seem easy enough to surmount. Just as bad are their slightly larger cousins, which fool players into thinking they can serve as a handhold or platform but are actually just there for visual flavor.
Everything is out to get you
That's just a brief chronicle of stuff that can kill you in video games. Have I missed any good ones? Before you ask, I already thought about Thwomps. Thwomps are totally animate creatures, they just happen to be in the form of giant cinder blocks. But if you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments below!