What comes to mind?
Playing video games for a long time can cause unintentional blips in your everyday behaviour… you just might not have noticed it yet. This technological strand of entertainment has been silently teaching us a new way of interpreting our environment. To save tutorial messages flashing up everywhere, when we dive into a game, the world around us is filled with little hints that subtly guide us towards a goal and sometimes these unintentionally bleed into real life.
In a vague attempt to exorcise those impulses, here’s 12 things that we can’t see without thinking of video games.
Any obstacle that tells us we can’t go that way
This might sound silly, because it applies quite nicely to real life too. Yet seeing a locked door, or a chainlink fence at the end of an alley just makes us think of a game telling us that this is the point where the virtual world stops. In real life you’re being told that you can’t go that way either, but at least you know that if you barrelled through the door (probably with a war cry), you’d end up in an alley smelling like a dustbin. You wouldn’t be blocked by an invisible wall or suddenly fall through the world. Hopefully.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself. You’re walking down a street at nightfall, and see in the distance a door with a lamp lit above it. 43% of your body is inclined to go towards the door end enter, because in every other video game it’s an obvious environmental cue. Inside there would be items to pick up, or an NPC to talk to, or simply somewhere extra to explore. But in real life you’d be interrupting someone’s dinner, and would have to stumble out making apologies, hoping they didn’t report you to the cops.
This is a pretty obvious one. A chest, placed by the side of a wall, just begs to be opened. There could be jewels inside. Or some ammo. Or someone’s belongings, which you’ve just rifled through and oh yes, that would be the police who are banging on the door. This goes doubly for chests if they’re wooden, and have a big gold lock on the front. Bonus points if you hear the ‘da-da-da-DAAAA!’ from Zelda whenever you see one.
You’re locked in a room! There’s something (choose from one of the following: zombies, a barricade, or just your own idiocy for losing the key) stopping you from unlocking the door. While most of us in the real world would think to call a locksmith or our parents, you can’t deny that there’s that niggling thought that you could crawl through that vent in the top-hand corner. In videogames you’re always just about light enough to prevent the whole thing from collapsing in a pile on the floor, even if you’re a muscle-ripped hero with two guns strapped to their back. In real life, we think vents are probably a bit more delicate. So make sure you have a locksmith’s number on hand, ok?
Thank you, Outlast. Thank you for making me shudder every single time I see a locker. No, I didn’t just anxiously look over my shoulder for the machete-wielding twins. Even if they did step through a rip in the virtual dimension to get here, I can bet that opening a locker would greet you with a rather large problem. A shelf. There’s little point in having a locker where you have to pile everything atop of each other, after all. You don’t duck your head in horror games, but just a warning - in real life you will have to. As well as chuck out someone’s prized belongings onto the floor, indicating to anyone stalking you that someone is hidden in a locker nearby.
This is the obvious one. When you’re visiting a quaint village on holiday, or looking at your grandma’s prize pot collection, you can feel that itch. Are there rupees inside? Hell, is there anything inside that might warrant smashing it into itty-bitty pieces? Here’s a life hack that unfortunately hasn’t translated to videogames: put your hand into the top, grab, and lift it out. Bam! No more smashing pots to get at their innards. Which hopefully they don’t have. Because innards suggest organs, which suggests one messed-up videogame.
First aid kits
Do not take them from your work. Do not take them from the hospital. Do not take them from trains, planes, or your very cautious friend’s house who keeps one on the counter just in case. Unlike in videogames, they are not to be picked up and carried around for some impromptu healing. Because in the real world we have a magical thing called the emergency services - which, granted, are somewhat out of the question in games like Left for Dead or or Resident Evil. Yet the sight of a red zipped bag on the counter - especially if it’s got a big cross on it - instantly makes us feel like we need to pick it up in case our health gets too low.
The world is empty. The people have gone. The only things left behind are notes, scattered through empty buildings to hint at what came before...either that, or they’re memos that your colleagues have written to themselves. Or a to-do list your partner’s left in the kitchen. While games tell us that any bit of paper on a desk (especially if it’s glowing ever so slightly) can be read to get insight into an important bit of backstory, it’s often not the case in real life. The only backstory you’ll be getting is the tale of how much Janice from HR has to do today. And you’ll uncover why she’s been glaring at you so much (psst, it’s because you read her memos).
They always, always need fixing in games. Somehow that last drip of gas runs out just when they’re needed the most. We still haven’t got over that level in Left for Dead 2 when generators cause one beloved character to...expire. Sob. These things are usually pretty rare in real life, with most of them being seen at fairs or incredibly heavy-duty outdoor parties where you need something to power all those fairy lights. Even if there are people in fashionable dress jiving around them, the urge to find a cannister of gas and pour it in is sometimes too much to bear.
Miscellaneous herbs growing in the wild
Oh, Aloy. You might have trained us to spot medicinal ochrebloom, salvebrush, and hintergold, but there’s an unfortunate secondary effect. Now every herb (or weed springing up from the side of the pavement) looks like it could be of potential use. Because the plants we’re supposed to pick in games are designed to stand out from the crowd, the result is that ordinary plants - which, thanks to natural selection, often stand out the most thanks to bright flowers or deep red berries - appear to mimic our virtual words. It could be the case that they’re useful in real life too, but only for skilled foragers. Do not try to use them yourself. You will not get better. You will get very ill.
Gamers are occasionally quite trigger-happy. Give us a gun and a lightbulb, and we’ll shoot it. Give us a wall, and we’ll want to see if we can make bullet holes. Give us an NPC and...you get the idea. So videogames, in an effort to curb our murderous tendencies, have come up with an ingenious solution: glass. To save us from massacring an innocent (and probably quite useful) NPC, this glass stops bullets from colliding with their face. The same kind of worst-case-scenario logic applies to the plexiglass that separates us from bank tellers, bus drivers, post-office workers...but whenever we see that screen, we know we’re looking at in inaccessible area. And an inaccessible NPC.