I’ve found myself in this very situation a fair few times over my gaming years. Whether it’s being confined to a room the size of the shed in your back yard, or exploring a vast open world with no idea where to go, I’ve been lost! Very lost, in fact. Millions of lost, I’d say. Many people find this to be a morale crushing concept, and at times I can certainly agree. I remember being lost in Final Fantast VIII a few years ago. It was a scene where my team had to infilrate an enemy base desguised as soldiers. To do so, I had to enter through a large steel door inside a small barracks. It was easy to see where I was supposed to head, but the door simply wouldn’t open. Outside there was a large empty coutyard and I’d convinced myself that I had missed something there. I spent hours running around that courtyard like a team of headless chickens, alternating over and back between the two screens to no avail. Yeah, I can definitely relate to the idea of this just crushing a player. I felt my will to play on drift away while bordom and frustration kicked in. Worse still was when I realised that there was a small red button on the wall beside the door. I pushed it and the door slid open with an R2D2 type of sound effect. I’d chalk that one up to bad game design though, but it shines a light on why people had being lost in games. It’s that feeling of helplessness that gnaws away at you. It’s staring at the door right in front of you and wondering why you can’t reach the opposite side. It can be a big bad headache and it sometimes even feels like that damn door is staring back at you, laughing it’s feckin’ doorknob off at your misforunes, and no matter how many bullets you put into it to pass the time, it just won’t budge.
Some games purposely take this idea to the extreme. The fourth instalment of the psycological horror series, Silent Hill, is a prime example of how the concept of helplessness can be used to play tricks on the player. In Silent Hill 4: The Room you begin by waking up inside an apartment that you don’t recognise. The windows are boarded up and the door is chained shut from the inside. You’re completely unaware how you got there, and have even less a clue how the doors became so heavily barricaded. You’re unarmed, unprepared and afraid. Occasionally you can hear footsteps roaming the hallways outside. Sometimes cryptic notes are even slipped under the door, but you never catch a glipse of the person sending them. The whole concept here is to drive you stir crazy. Make you frightened of the unknown, and when that unknown could be in a tiny room with you, things get really fucking scary. What makes this concept so brilliant is the fact that this is something that could happen in any game. Ok, maybe not the padlocked door and nightmare inducing scenery, but the idea of being in a room that you can’t manage to escape is common place in gaming. It’s happened to us all at some point. But when you begin the game knowing nothing about the world you’ve just entered while seeing through the eyes of a character who’s a complete stranger to you then it takes all of your power away from you, leaving you truly lost.
Perhaps this is why I don’t mind getting lost with Lady Croft. We’ve spent a lot of time travelling together and I guess we’ve become accustomed to each others’ company. Well I have, at least, she’s a feckin’ video game character. In many ways, she’s fun to get lost with. Solving puzzles is a big part of Lara’s gig. These tombs don’t open themselves, ya know? It takes time to decypher their codes and even more to find the right components to get through them. I’ve been lost more times in Tomb Raider games than I can count, especially in the PS1 titles. There are a few on that console that I’ve yet to finish because I find myself completely clueless as to where to go. The first two Tomb Raiders and Chronicles are a piece of posh British cake, possibly Black Forest Gataue. These games have never given me a problem. Tomb Raider III and The Last Revelation, however, have still bettered me to this day. Having said that though, I’ve a ridiculous amount of hours into them. Why keep trying? Why not just throw in the pixelated towel and admit defeat? Well because of two reasons really. One: I’m a furiously stubborn human being, and Two: being lost is kinda fun. I enjoy just breathing in the atmosphere of these games. Being lost deep underground, wading through cobwebs while discovering ancient cities can be exhilerating. Leaping from cliff to cliff under a stunning sunset, swimming with wildlife through fresh waters or exploring untouched chasms can be just as much fun as it sounds. I’ve been in situations where I had no idea which way was up, and the only way to survive was to search every concievable nook and cranny, and I loved it. I’ve been lost for hours on end, sometimes even days and it’s been fantastic. The atmosphere created by these games takes the burn out of losing your way, and actually makes it quite an enjoyable experience.
Becoming hopelessly lost in your favourite games has always been a double edged sword. From the frustration caused by losing my way in X-Men 2: Wolverine’s Revenge or Loaded, to the joys of trying to discover the correct paths in Super Metroid, Descent, Portal, Soul Reaver, Onimusha, Doom, and Catlevania: Symphony of The Night; there’s always been something intriging about being lost. Personally, I believe that it all comes down to the game in question. Being rendered lost due to badly designed pathways or unclear objectives can be a right pain in the ass, but if when I find myself with nowhere to go while travelling through a world that I love and respect, I can’t help but enjoy it. Forget about the final destination, sometimes it’s nice to just turn off the GPS and enjoy the journey... even if that journey occasionally include the bastard sniggering door.