It’s Been 10 Years Since Dead Space 2’s ‘Eye-Poke’ Nightmare
Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye… it’s been 10 years since Dead Space 2‘s traumatising ‘eye-poke’ nightmare.
Video games have a legacy of scaring us silly, whether it’s the arrival of Pyramid Head, zombie dogs smashing through windows or seeing Lisa’s flickering spectre in those inescapable halls.
Sure, movies can petrify us, but we only exist in that medium as a passenger, bearing witness to orchestrated frights. In games, to borrow a line from Tenet, we’re the protaganist of the operation. The horrors which befall us are felt even deeper – hence why Dead Space 2 whitens my knuckles by mention of its name alone.
Towards the end of EA’s grim cosmos sequel, Isaac Clarke has to climb into a surgical contraption (the NoonTech Diagnostic Machine, to be precise) to receive some information about the monsters he has to fight. To do so, a needle must be injected directly into his eye – and you, the player, has the pleasure of controlling it.
A voice instructs: ‘Step one: crawl inside. Step two: the screws go tight all around. Cross my heart and hope to die… stick a needle in your eye.’
The needle lowers, Isaac’s heart rate races along with yours. His eyes dart around in panic. Sooner or later, you have to press the button and complete the procedure – however, if you do it at the wrong time, you’ll see one of the most horrific demises in gaming.
The game’s creative director Wright Bagwell earlier told Polygon: ‘I wanted the player to get a really deep sense of anxiety about this, which I thought would come naturally from the fact that you are driving a needle into your eyeball, but I wanted to amplify it by having Isaac on the screen, reflecting his anxiety, too.’
Dead Space isn’t weak on viscera. If you’re not victorious in disassembling a Necromorph – you can’t just shoot them in the head, mind – they will rip you apart limb from limb, guts from guts. Similarly to how The Last of Us lingers over Joel or Ellie’s deaths, but worse.
Bagwell said: ‘The first time we saw it… I could barely watch it. And when we finished it… I remember everyone in the room still was cringing.’
He added: ‘That was the only thing in Dead Space that would do that. All the jump scares and blood and guts and everything — you just become totally desensitised to it after working on it for weeks. This is the only thing that, to this day, I still will have trouble watching.’
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