5 Video Games With Disturbing Implications You Didn't Notice
For the most part, video games are fairly straightforward: Something bad's happening, you go beat the piss out of whatever's causing the problem, everybody's happy at the end, and things return to normal.
But video game life, just like real life, isn't actually that simple. There are often some mighty disturbing implications, not to mention collateral damage, behind even the simplest of actions. Even though the game would prefer not to talk about it, it's still true that ...
A Tournament in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Kills Millions
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes the concept of "not in my backyard" to a psychopathic extreme: When you wander through the wilderness, you can kill whomever you want. Animals, demons, thieves -- it's pretty much open season in the open world. Within walled cities, however, life suddenly becomes very sacred. If you get caught killing anyone, then it's off to jail with you.
Luckily, for those of you who consider a game ruined if you can't commit murder absolutely everywhere, the Imperial City offers an arena where you compete against other warriors for fabulous cash and prizes, along with the honor of not being skewered on somebody's sword.
"Now shake hands like a good sport -- oh, right."
You win the Arena Grand Championship after 22 matches, which isn't a huge body count, although it should be enough to satisfy any gamer's inherent bloodlust. Hell, gladiator pits were a real thing, weren't they? It's no worse than that. Right?
The Disturbing Implication
Actually, when you stop to do the math, you realize that a few more than 22 people die. And by that, we mean a metric fuckton more.
Like, you know all the skeletons ever? More than that.
In the arena, the more you win (i.e., kill), the higher you rise in rank. The game sets it up so that opponents of equal rank compete, so when you start out as a "pit dog," you can only fight other pit dogs. After you've killed three dogs, you're promoted to brawler and must kill three fellow brawlers to rise another rank. Sounds simple, right? Well, each of your opponents has three kills of his own; if he didn't, he wouldn't be a brawler. Between you four, there have been 15 deaths in all. Perhaps you see where this is going.
The next rank is bloodletter, and each of your three opponents traveled his own 15-death path to reach that rank. We're now up to 63 total deaths. This goes on and on, with the death toll rising higher and higher, until you reach the championship rank, when all of your opponents are there due to a river of blood left in their wake -- by this point, you and your opponents have contributed to an astounding 16,383 deaths. The grand champion, whom you challenge and kill next, is responsible for at least that many deaths himself, since he fought to become grand champion the same way you did.
And we're not even counting his early murder years as a bastard Imperial orc vampire lord.
These numbers, however, assume that each of your opponents has only the minimum number of kills necessary for the title. In practice, many will have more; a first-time pit dog could fight a pit dog who already has two kills, for instance. So, if we assume your opponents always have the same kill count as you, using the humble formula of 2^n - 1 to determine the total number of deaths after each match, we find that your 22-match rise to grand champion results in ...
... 4,194,303 deaths. For a sport. That's just you, by the way -- what of the many people who challenged the grand champion and failed? Their paths resulted in almost as much death, and they didn't even get a cool title to show for it. It's no wonder there's less than a thousand people in the world. Genocide is their international pastime.
Date Rape Drugs Are Legal in the World of BioShock: Infinite
Even without the sudden revelation that you are your own bad guy, BioShock: Infinite is still one of the most complex and obtuse games in history, and unraveling its plot requires a lot of attention paid to dialogue and contemplation about what it all means. Luckily, giant guns and violent magic help to counteract all that tedious "thinking" shit.
"But what is the thematic significance of bodily enhancements that-"
*BANG*, that's what.
Your character's magical powers, known as Vigors, can fuck up your enemy's life in a bunch of different ways. For instance, the first one you find, Possession, allows you to place people and machines under your control, turning them into puppets that do anything you want. And we do mean anything.
All of this is typical video game hero stuff -- you use the spells to gain an advantage in the game's endless gun battles -- but with one catch: The Vigors you use are available to everyone who lives in the city. They're sold openly, without so much as a prescription. Hmmm ... we wonder what depraved bad guys would do with a magical elixir that asserts instant mind control over any victim?
The Disturbing Implication
Yes, while you mainly use the spell to turn enemies into mindless zombies who kill other enemies for you, it's marketed in the game world as having, well, an alternative use. Here's how the manufacturers advertise the stuff:
Using the universal symbol of romance and sex: the cornucopia.
Yep, it's a love potion, but not the innocent kind that corny novelty acts from the '60s like to sing about. See, Possession's effects last for a short amount of time, so using it to kick-start eternal romance is out of the question. Using it as a roofie, on the other hand, is the name of the game.
No wonder that horse looks so scared.
But wait, it gets worse! Everyone you've used Possession on kills themselves after the spell wears off. The cost? 50 bucks. The BioShock universe openly, and knowingly, markets a dirt-cheap rape potion, one that will cause the victims to commit suicide rather than press charges. We would say the president of Possession Inc. has a ton of explaining to do, but we have a feeling he's not just the president; he's also a client.
Portal's Companion Cube Is Filled With Failed Test Subjects
For a game known mainly for humor and cake, Portal is surprisingly creepy and dark. Even the inanimate objects are disturbing. Take the Companion Cube, which is a waist-high crate painted with a pink heart. Despite only showing up in one stage, the Cube has become one of the most beloved and memorable characters in gaming history.
Looks like Valve's plush headcrab has some competition in the cuteness department.
What's disturbing about that? That thing's adorable!
The Disturbing Implication
As it turns out, the Companion Cube is stuffed with the body of a human, either dead or incapacitated -- namely, a former test subject that didn't escape GlaDOS' pre-game takeover of the facility. You didn't waste money on a plush Companion Cube; you wasted money on a plush Companion Coffin.
And if Chell takes the burned Cube home, well, that's a funeral urn.
As pointed out in videos like this one, there is a popular fan theory that notes all of the little hints the game drops as to the Cube's true nature. First, there's a sequence that's played for laughs where GlaDOS heavily implies that the Cube is both sentient and capable of emotion, then forces you to chuck it into an incinerator before you're allowed to move on.
Once you do so, you unlock an achievement called "Fratricide." While it sounds like something a comically evil dean would want to do to a group of wild, alcoholic college kids, it's actually a term for the murder of one's brother or sister. Eh, just a throwaway joke, right?
Does it scream as it burns? Or is that just your wailing conscience?
But then over the course of the game you come across several Rat Man dens. Rat Man, as we've mentioned in the past, was one of the few scientists to survive GLaDOS' attack. In his dens, you notice several strange things on the walls. Such as this:
For a good time, call Ce-Ce.
The Rat Man is actually the sanest character in either Portal game.
In the first pic, we see what's basically a shrine to the Companion Cube, anthropomorphizing it into something other than a stepping stool. But the second pic is somehow stranger still, because now the Cube is taped over random faces. Those faces were almost certainly those of Rat Man's non-surviving scientist friends (the calendar next to it says it features Aperture Science employees). Friends that Rat Man believed had been turned into Companion Cubes.
Then you have lines of dialogue from GLaDOS (that, again, you probably dismissed as jokes) warning the player to ignore the Cube if it should ever start talking. Like if, say, the emaciated bound-and-gagged prisoner inside were to ask for help.
"The Cube cannot speak. And baked good are forthcoming. Just trust me."
Also, remember how you incinerate the Companion Cube? That's the only time you do that; all other cubes (the ones without hearts on them) simply get disintegrated unceremoniously. It appears that GLaDOS (who, at this point, was pretending to be on your side) set this up on purpose. If the Cube had disintegrated like the others, it would have left behind the body/remains of a former test subject, completely exposing GLaDOS' intentions and convincing everybody that purchasing a plush Pokemon might be a better idea.
Or perhaps not, considering ...
Pokemon Features Way More Murder Than You Think
Yes, we realize the game is about an unsupervised school-age boy kidnapping vicious monsters and training them for battle against other vicious monsters. He keeps doing this until he has captured each and every Pokemon and is crowned King of All Monster Kidnappers (or Pokemon Master, if you prefer the technical jargon).
"Pokemeister," in their native land of Germany.
But there's a reason they're allowed to sell the game to kids -- it's all toned down to remove the murder. When two Pokemon engage in a sanctioned battle, it's the safest thing in the world -- they fight until one of them faints, at which point they're rushed off to a Pokemon hospital for quick recuperation. So it's really just a sport. Sure, it's more like dog fighting than kickboxing, but at least it's bloodless.
The Disturbing Implication
Wait a second. What about those times when you're wandering around and a wild Pokemon picks a fight? If you win, the Pokemon faints, a clear sign that it needs medical attention. If you don't capture it right then and there, you're basically stranding it in the wild, leaving it to die.
Luckily, nobody loved him anyway.
And you do this over and over again. Remember, Pokemon is an RPG with tons of random battles, all against other Pokemon. In the course of a game, you'll probably battle thousands of these annoying critters, and all but a hundred or so will end up abandoned, unconscious, and slowly dying, with nothing and no one around to save its life. All because of you, you heartless douchebag monster wrangler.
On the other hand, you're at least keeping other wild Pokemon well-fed. As has been shown on many an occasion, Pokemon can and will eat other Pokemon. If they come across a tasty-looking morsel lying dead on the ground, it's dinner time; if the Pokemon's simply unconscious, it's fair game, too. After all, what better way to guarantee freshness than to swallow something alive and wriggling?
Your Entire Race Accidentally Kills Itself in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda storyline is more than a little confusing, what with all the prequels and retcons we've put up with over the years because somebody at Nintendo thinks Zelda III wouldn't sell. On the plus side, the games are amazing, especially ones like Ocarina of Time, which gives us a pre-pigman glimpse of Gandondorf and an introduction to Link's people: the Kokiri, a bunch of immortal childlike elves who are lucky they're immortal, because they're also weak and useless.
Kokiri Clan somethin' to fuck wit'.
Well, it turns out Link isn't actually a Kokiri, but an orphaned Hylian that the Kokiri took in and raised as their own. This would explain Link's non-uselessness, and also why he can leave the forest without immediately perishing. Which would apparently be a thing if you're a Kokiri.
Yep, the price of Kokiri immortality is that they must stay within the trees, for if they don't, they're done. That's kind of a bum deal, because the forest is honestly the most boring-ass part of the game. So you leave, a whole bunch of stuff happens, you defeat Ganondorf, you save Zelda, and every NPC the game has to offer joins you for a celebratory block party.
A rave so awesome that it got its own end credits.
The Disturbing Implication
This "everyone" includes the Kokiri, who, if you'll recall from about 50 words ago, die if they leave the forest. This is not some cutesy way of saying "the big bad world will hurt us because we kinda suck at life." No, it's a literal death, one that they knowingly embraced by choosing to attend this party that is outside the forest.
Think about it: The Kokiri never show up again after that. Ever. Every other race does -- if you're jonesing for Gorons, Zoras, Hylians, and Gerudos, this series is your Dr. Feelgood -- but the Kokiri appear to be extinct. The closest any sequel gets are the Koroks, who are less Keebler Elf ripoffs and more walking slugs in leaf masks.
Every day is Halloween in Korokville, even though they are terrible at it.
And that's just one timeline; the Zelda series is split into three alternate universes, to get around the fact that a drunk could tell a more coherent tale. In the other two universes, every race is present, except for the Kokiri. Not after they are seen at the party, outside the forest that keeps them alive.
Yep, we believe it's all because they didn't listen to their own prophecy and self-genocided themselves as a result. If Darwin Awards exist in the Zelda-verse, these guys would win all of them.
For more from Adam, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter. If you want him to write some words for you, you can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. He broke down and made a Twitter page just for his Cracked fans.
Related Reading: Speaking of horrifying implications, did you know Star Trek's Federation was a lawless anarchy? You might also be shocked to learn Tim Allen's The Santa Clause is a prelude to inevitable patricide. If you thought all this was bad, the mind-bending awfulness of the Harry Potter universe might just shatter your world.