Today is something I’ve actually been waiting to talk about for a little while, and that’s the sanity mechanic in video games. I mean Sanity in a major, game-defining way, so simple instances like Yogg-Saron from World of Warcraft won’t apply so much as, say, Daniel’s experiences in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.  Sanity is often handled poorly, either in aesthetics or in a gameplay sense, so to start off let’s look at what sanity bars do wrong before looking at a sanity mechanic that was done properly, way back on the Gamecube. Let’s see if you can guess the game I’m referring to before that time. Got a hunch on that game yet?

Sanity: The Broken Mind
The sad thing is, Sanity is often added in as a mechanic to either provide a story line mechanic or as a way of making the game more immersivewhile often wrecking that sense of immersion that the game was trying to achieve in the first place. The thing about it is, it’s basically the game dev saying “You should be scared now!” without attempting to make that fear personal. Sometimes they do manage that, like in Amnesia, the multi-hour heart attack game, but even then Sanity has it’s downsides. Unless you sit down and stare at a candle, your screen will distort, warping as your sanity drains. Why is that bad? Well, it isn’t really, except for a simple reason. Just one, tinie-tiny thing. It hurts the eyes. I complain about it, some friends have complained, and some haven’t, the kicker is, it hurts me on a physical level, outside the game. The longer it happens, the more tension and fear die as I realize that I’m not actually in any danger, I’m still just playing a game. A game that is hurting my eyes just because the character has a minor fetish for candles and/or lanterns.


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