There’s an interesting piece over on Gamasutra about the effect that working on gross or violent aspects of gaming has had on three different artists and animators. “Gross and violent” in this case means watching colonoscopy videos for corridor design, animating arms being ripped off, and needing to research how bodies drop during a hanging.
I’m writing about it here, partly to flag it up because it’s an interesting read (the divide between animation and art is one I hadn’t thought about before) but I also want to ask this:
Which bits of level design or art research from games would give you the heebie jeebies?
I’ve just done a quick survey of the RPS chatroom and we’d struggle with work regarding the following:
John: “Anything to do with teeth. I hate teeth. Teeth being pulled or falling out. Bleaurgh.”
Alec: “I think anything to do with eye mutilation for me. that bit in the last BioShock Infinite DLC where [REALLY GROSS SPOILER REDACTED FOR GROSSNESS AND SPOILERNESS], urgh.”
Adam: “This is mine.”
Graham: “There’s a lot of mutilated corpses. Probably drawing textures for burn wounds in Spec Ops or horrible skin-peeled zombies in Half-Life 2.”
Alice: “Torture, or anything going under fingernails.”
The idea of researching torture and the experience described in the article or researching a hanging make me feel numb. I think I’d really struggle to shut out even a tiny fraction of that. But my Pip-specific one would be injections. Hi, BioShock!
I really struggle with injections, whether it’s watching them or experiencing them. Having to have a drip when I’ve been in hospital was quite the exercise in self-control. I could feel this thing in my elbow or in the back of my hand the whole time. So disgusting. I am actually shifting in my chair and jiggling my leg just writing this. I’m not sure if researching needles and injections would lead to becoming desensitised or whether I would end up crawling under my desk and shouting my resignation plans from there.
Thinking about what makes people squirm reminds me of the idea of abjection which came up a lot when I was studying the body in modern art at university. It’s about us being revolted or disturbed by objects or concepts which threaten our sense of self or show our bodily boundaries to be permeable. Corpses are one example – a living body is one with which we can identify, a dead one becomes “other”, rejected. Bodily waste is another example; it crosses a border and goes from being part of us to being separate. We reject (or rather, abject) those things in order to draw distinctions between them and us and to build or maintain identity. I’d expect the list of things that gross people out to have a lot in common with what is abjected.
So yes, are there bits of games would you find too gross or violent to work on?