Thanks to the many, many problems young men possess, video games about killing things have become more popular than ever. And because the pleasure felt in violently slaughtering a man is only surpassed by that felt by violently slaughtering many men, video game design has leaned towards the ideal of pitting the player against ever increasing quantities of enemies, lining thousands of poor pixelated bastards up to be cut down by greasy teens.
But this "maniac butcher hero" design choice has forced designers to make allowances for the possibility that the player might make a small mistake along the way. Killing enough Nazis to fill a stadium without any of them laying a claw upon you would be almost impossible, and at a minimum frustrating to play. To avoid this, video games have developed a variety of mechanics that allow their protagonists to absorb and recover from ridiculously grotesque wounds. And because this is Cracked and it's what we do, here are an enumerated list of these video game healing methods.
1) First Aid Kits
As Seen In Every First Person Shooter prior to 2002How it Works
First aid kits (the little white boxes labeled with red crosses) are scattered throughout the game world in locations both unlikely and very unlikely. Upon finding one you can walk over it and instantly heal all or a portion of your wounds.
First aid kits are tightly tied to the concept of hit points, which is a proxy for health invented by a moron. It serves to make health a resource to be used and conserved in a similar manner as ammunition. The downside to this approach is that the player can potentially end up in a situation where they're badly hurt, have no first aid kits around and are facing a scenario where it's impossible to survive without being hurt.
A first aid kit would contain bandages, antiseptics, painkillers and other items actually used in the healing process, so at first glance this seems at least semi-plausible. But the speed with which this healing occurs approaches tinfoil-hat levels of insanity. Also, the application of first aid products take a bit of care: Stepping on a first aid kit would have about the same effect as sitting on a doctor.
2) Eating Food
As Seen In: Gauntlet, Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many, many others How it Works
Similar to the first aid kit, by stepping on some food you'll be healed of all your wounds instantly. The size of the food item will roughly correspond with how much you'll heal.
For example, stepping on this turkey will heal Guy as much as stepping on three Manwiches.Game Mechanics
Basically the same as a first aid kit, although if the game is good you'll get to see some clever eating animations. Curiously, games with food in them are notorious for having multiplayer modes where you can really screw over your friends by eating their food. Just like a Turkish prison.
In a strictly biological sense, healing is just a macroscopic perspective of cellular regrowth, a process which requires the body to have a source of energy. This energy is commonly supplied by food - at least in the non-plant protagonists common in video games.
But as with first aid kits, it's the speed with which these entire chickens are digested and turned into re-grown tissue which defies belief. Some extremely dubious experiments conducted on homeless people in the 50s concluded that a hot dog's ability to heal puncture wounds is dreadfully slow.
3) Miscellaneous Collectible Items (Potions, Stimpaks, Herbs, Fairies, Mushrooms, etc)
As Seen In: Role Playing Games, Action Games, Adventure Games, Jewel's Foolish Games and everything else. How it Works
Again very similar to first aid kits and food above, with the form of the specific healing item being determined by the dream logic of the universe the game takes place in. In this case, the items are collectible and can be stored for use at a later time.
The ability to save and collect healing items provides flexibility to the player, which is generally a good thing. This also requires the game to have an "inventory system," which can be best thought of as a friendly invisible Sherpa who can freeze time during a battle, heal you and help change your trousers into a pair more appropriate to this particular fight. (Inventory systems probably deserve their own separate whiny-article)
The feasibility of using most of these items as healing agents is sharply limited by the fact that they don't actually exist, or if they do, don't exhibit any of the healing properties displayed in games. Ingesting random herbs or mushrooms is as likely to wreck you as it is to help you, and approaching a real life fairy and asking them to heal you is a recipe for its own type of hilarious disaster.
4) Waiting Around
As Seen In: Every First Person Shooter since 2002 How It Works
After getting hurt, all you need to do is find a place to hide. In games with this kind of healing mechanic, these are widely available - falling down is usually good enough. After five to 10 seconds of not getting injured, every one of your wounds will completely heal.
In terms of game mechanics, this completely prevents those unwinnable situations discussed above. Furthermore it encourages gamers to seek out and employ cover, which is something that earlier first person shooters didn't do. (Running sideways and bouncing up and down like a heavily armed aerobics instructor was the preferred combat technique back in those days.)
Completely ridiculous. In fact, sitting around doing nothing is perhaps the worst possible way to treat a traumatic injury. This is as irresponsible as suggesting to a friend that the best way to go cure diarrhea is to take off his pants and stand on his head it's definitely not going to help, and will probably make things much worse.
5) Visiting the Inn
As Seen In: Role Playing GamesHow It Works
Broken leg? Torso violated by an orc? Arm severed above the elbow by a prickly drowish prostitute? Well just head down to the nearest Ramada, where a night on their reasonably priced sheets will sort that all out for you. You'll wake up the next morning with your limbs and orifices restored to their original count.
In RPGs, towns act as relatively safe hubs where the player can come to restock their equipment, discover new quests to go on and yes, restore their health. The open-ended nature of RPGs mean players can kill things effectively indefinitely, so cheap, effective methods of restoring player health are necessary. Also look for the tent, which serves as a portable inn, only eight times more ridiculous.
A good night's rest works great when you have a cold, or have just drank all the whiskey. But the concept of having traumatic injuries healed by a night's rest is insane. In fact your likelihood of even getting a hotel room while displaying open wounds is pretty unlikely these days, unless you're in the South or something. Historically, you're more likely to come out of a hotel room worse off than when you enter, given well-known outbreaks of bed bugs, Legionnaires disease and drug deals that go wrong in a chainsaw fashion.
6) Cure Spells
As Seen In: Fantasy Action Games and Role Playing Games How It WorksFucking magic, that's how. In practice you tell your party's healer to exchange some of their spell points for hit points. The exchange rates for this transaction are often very favorable.
Remember what I said about cheap and effective ways to heal wounds? Role playing games are somewhat unique in that the protagonist often has the agility of a post office and is expected to take huge amounts of damage quite regularly. This requires equally impressive healing techniques to keep these games from being short and depressing.
It feels churlish to quibble about what is or isn't possible with something labeled "magic" so I have no problems stating this is feasible, provided you do have access to a healer. I tried to ask Brockway, Cracked's resident Wiccan, about the scope and capabilities of actual healing magic, but he had his eye makeup on and I couldn't even fucking look at him.
7) Teammate Revival
As Seen In: Gears of WarHow It Works
You just got shot eight times by a gun that shoots slugs the size of tennis ball cans, and have shrewdly decided to fall down, bleeding. Worry not! If one of your teammates can get to you within the next 30 seconds and touch you gently on the shoulder, you'll be up and fighting again in a suspiciously short time.
Obviously the intent of this system was to make the game easier, and encourage the player to work close with and support their teammates, noble ideals for a video game centered around genocide.
Not as preposterous as it sounds, but still extremely preposterous. Rapid attention from teammates and modern battlefield medicine have made it possible for many horrible, horrible wounds to now be survivable. This is at least part of the reason why the infantry operates in tightly coordinated squads, and doesn't just provide every fresh recruit with a machine gun, a bandanna and a push in the right direction.
But this Gears of Wars implementation is hilariously over the top. With little more than a kick in the ass, grievous injuries are healed instantly. For this mechanic to be in any way realistic, the only acceptable method would be if Dom came over, hoisted you over his shoulder, hauled you back to a firebase and then years later let you be the first mate on his shrimp boat.
An Alternative Solution
At this point I think it's worth pointing out: I'm not a complete jackass. I get that games are supposed to be fun, and that a game where you have to work through eight months of grueling rehab every time you get shot, while your wife struggles to feed your family on disability benefits, would be a bit of a downer.
So, seeing as we're forsaking realism entirely for the sake of fun, here's my proposed solution: Have every enemy attack miss. Whether it's because the bad guys are all ex-stormtroopers or because the protagonist is covered in grease, every single enemy attack must miss its mark. Maybe let some minor wounds graze the player, like bullets to the fleshy bit on the shoulder or millimeter deep sword cuts to the cheek or helicopter kicks to the face that only make them angrier. Wouldn't being awesome be awesome?
There's two obvious objections to this genius-dropping, both of which I'll refute here:
One, this will remove all sense of danger for the player, and thus make the player's eventual victory feel hollow. Which is nonsense, given that video games are already littered with medpaks, quick saves and other tools that ensure the player never feels in any sense of danger. (Not to mention the fact that we play these games from the relative safety of our farty couches.)
Two, this will remove all the challenge and sense of accomplishment from playing and beating a video game. To which I reply: You actually feel a sense of accomplishment from beating a video game? Seriously? Why? Can you name a single person who's actually asked you about what video games you've beaten? Can you even imagine a situation where someone will commend you for beating Halo on Legendary difficulty? And if no one else cares, why should you? There is no sense of accomplishment to feel because it's not an accomplishment! Playing video games is a fun way to kill time, nothing more.
So there it is game designers: Stop making the player feel like a walking hit point savings account and more like a golden god of action movies - the love child of John McClane and Rambo and a turkey baster and a mechanical womb.