Games and Movies: The Expectation of Survival

Link Eyes

I wasn’t cognizant of the fact that I was dreaming, but was present enough to abstract out of the setting I was thrown into, and confidently decide that I was in a movie/game. For whatever reason (perhaps setting, cinematography, and general vibe) I had some cognitive foresight which changed the way I approached each frightening situation.

I had a pretty intense nightmare the other night. I won’t go heavily into the details but it involved creepy sickle-armed giant alien mutations that were attempting to kill me and my friends. The weird thing was, it was so overly dramatic and detailed (with your usual flickering lights, death trap situations, and eerie music) that I actually had the thought in the middle of the dream that “I can’t die… I’m the main character of this movie.” Which was pretty weird but gave me a vote of confidence in a fairly dire situation.

I then woke up to my 7:00 alarm, which I instantly snoozed and went back to bed. At this point I slipped into another dream, but this was quite different. There were elements that clearly alluded to a video game space. The creepy aliens were back, though slightly more tank/scorpionesque, and I was tasked with escaping and damaging the aliens as much as possible. The setting was something along the lines of Jak and Daxter with a bit more of a survival horror twist.

The dream ended with two of the aliens closing in on me as I backed myself into a corner and unloaded the last of my ammo unsuccessfully at them. Right before I awoke, though, I had an interesting thought, “Well this was a bad route; I will try something different next time.”

The whole thing is a little weird. I don’t generally lucid dream, and I guess this wasn’t even lucid dreaming. I wasn’t cognizant of the fact that I was dreaming, but was present enough to abstract out of the setting I was thrown into, and confidently decide that I was in a movie/game. For whatever reason (perhaps setting, cinematography, and general vibe) I had some cognitive foresight which changed the way I approached each frightening situation.

In a movie setting I had an expectation of survival where in the video game setting I had an expectation of revival.

In a movie setting I had an expectation of survival where in the video game setting I had an expectation of revival.

Expectation of Survival:
In a movie setting, the character we are following as the viewer generally can’t die (until perhaps the very end) because by the nature of that storytelling, them dying IS the end. There are clearly exceptions that play with these viewer expectations, but for the most part we can expect survival.

Dis-similarly, I shouldn’t necessarily walk up to say, the Cerberus in Devil May Cry 3 with an expectation of survival. Instead, (especially with my eager front loading of difficulty) I step into that battle with an expectation of revival. That is, in the likely event that I die, I will at least come back with new knowledge gained. Again, there are some exceptions (Diablo on hardcore, not starting over Fire Emblem matches when characters die) but for the most part, this holds true.

The dreams made me reconsider how these different perceptions may play a role in life. I don’t necessarily have the same steadfast expectation of survival as in a movie setting, and clearly don’t have an expectation of revival, but I think analyzing these ideas could teach me a lot.

So, I have SOME expectation of survival… and I hope most people out there do. Kind of like the concept of Going Concern for the accounting folk, I live my days expecting to not die from some random freak accident. But at the same time, throw me into an Alien setting or a Die Hard action sequence and I’m pretty sure my confidence would be shattered fast.

Now this (perhaps callous) bravery in the face of life threatening situations isn’t necessarily realistic nor always healthy, but for me there is a glimmer of wisdom in this courage. There was something amazingly gratifying about that realization that I was the main character in my movie and that I couldn’t die. It almost felt like a weird loop of destiny which empowered me and thus reinforced my destiny to survive. I’m not generally a believer in a predetermined path, but it is interesting to consider in the frame of a movie.

Now this (perhaps callous) bravery in the face of life threatening situations isn’t necessarily realistic nor always healthy, but for me there is a glimmer of wisdom in this courage.

In my dream I was in a portapotty-style enclosure while the alien’s razor sharp hands slowly ripped through the crack that separates the top and the door, and I was scared out of my wits cowering in the corner. But then I had that realization, and gained this amazing burst of courage. I instantly went over and grabbed the lock for some leverage to pull heavily on the door and started swatting at the poking and prodding instruments of death.

This added effort was just enough to keep that creature out of my enclosure long enough for some support to come, which would ultimately unfold a future of survival (though still quite gruesomely). The realization was crucial to my survival (in this dream, in a movie) as the empowerment gave me a surge of clarity and allowed me to take actions that may not have ensured survival, but were surely better than cowering waiting for death.

The realization was crucial to my survival as the empowerment gave me a surge of clarity and allowed me to take actions that may not have ensured survival, but were surely better than cowering waiting for death. I’m not saying I will be expecting invulnerability and run blindly into a bulletstorm any time soon, but I do very much wish to have the presence of mind to find clarity in the face of danger.

Now I’m not saying I will be expecting invulnerability and run blindly into a bulletstorm any time soon (unless I have a star that is), but I do very much wish to have the presence of mind to find clarity in the face of danger. We can’t predict the kinds of fight or flight situations we may find ourselves in, but having this moment of clarity could mean:

The presence of mind to call 9-1-1 (or 9-9-9 for my brother) in an emergency situation; the ability to stay my breath when trying to remain hidden; the reflexes to deal with unfortunate traffic situations; the strength to fight a frightful disease which is weakening me from within; and even, perhaps the strength to face death when it comes.

So when that moment comes I hope I have that clarity. If I don’t, perhaps I will have the presence of mind to remind myself that I am the main character of my own story and I’m the one with the best chance to halt my candle from extinguishing. I will give myself a little Balthier style pep talk about being the leading man!

Perhaps I will have the presence of mind to remind myself that I am the main character of my own story and I’m the one with the best chance to halt my candle from extinguishing.

That’s all for now. Stop by next time to hear my thoughts on the expectation of revival within games. Until then, let me know what you think of this expectation of survival. Do you think a little bit of an expectation of survival can bring clarity at scary moments, or is it more a recipe for quick death? And have you had any bizarre moments in dreams similar to this kind of realization?

Thanks for stopping by! Until next time, game on and learn on!

~Dylan

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