Curiosity Killed the Gamer

The strange allure of murdering your video game persona.

One of the biggest attractions at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo was an interactive snuff film called Pain. The game, which will be released this fall for the PlayStation 3, has a simple premise: Using a giant slingshot, inflict as much damage as possible on your character. Fling him into the sky or slam him against a bus. Send him sprawling across a busy city skyline and onto the hoods of passing cars. The more creative the death, the better. Pain will even reportedly include an option for a kind of injury H-O-R-S-E, wherein players attempt to mimic each other’s onscreen disasters.


It’s a provocative idea, and the game has already garnered a good deal of attention. But Pain’s Colorado-based developer, Idol Minds, didn’t exactly pioneer the art and science of virtual suicide. The company is simply riffing off a decades-old impulse, one that dates back to the earliest days of gaming. What’ll happen if my car goes flying off the track? How about when Mario falls into the fire pit? From the first Nintendo console to modern shooters, we’ve always used self-destruction to push at the edges of our favorite video games.

Click here for a slide-show history of video game masochism.