I'm feeling a little down in the dumps today and as a result, feel that I should explore the concepts and representations of failure in some of my favourite videogames.
The first example that springs to mind is International Track and Field for the PSone. Never had I heard the word "Foul," pronounced so sternly, so coldly. So memorable was this proclomation of failure that for years Matt, Reuben and I would at times spend hours exclaiming the brutal call as we played through each Mini-Olympics. I heard it more than they could ever dream to, as I lacked not only sufficient co-ordination to press the action (usually jump or throw) button in time, but also my ability to mash buttons was also well below par and I needed those few extra seconds between success and failure to acrue more momentum than I was entitled to. I still play the game today (thanks to a perfect emulation available via the Playstation Store), however my skills have failed to increase. If anything, they have receded.
Other classic aural indications of failure include the Metal Gear Solid series. Just in case you forgot the name of the protagonist, Otacon, Colonel Campbell, Rose and Major Zero would remind you in rather dramatic fashion. Sometimes the uncerimonius circumstances that led to my demise made the rhythmic chanting of Snake/Raiden seem a tad unncessary. For example, when you did a cartwheel off the catwalk, off of the Big Shell facility in Metal Gear Solid 2. Sometimes the melodrama inspired a few laughs but more often than not, the inconsistency would leave you confused and frustrated. Think about it. A highly trained operative is unable to jump between a gap in a catwalk, but he can do a cartwheel. So this highly trained operative, with millions of dollars of tax-payers' money funding his training, was never shown how to leap at all, let alone properly. If his drill sergeant had only taught him that while a cartwheel is acrobatic and graceful, jumping is the preferable method for traversing sizable gaps.
For those you who appreciate a more visual representation of failure, I would strongly recommend that you play through Resident Evil 4. If you were to allow anything other than the standard ganado to get too close to Leon's tender flesh, the end result was usually decapitation. For those of you who don't know me too well, I am a bit squeamish. I fought tooth and nail to keep Leon's head remaining on his shoulders. In the campaign I kept my head on pretty well (Ha!) but when I started playing Mercenaries mode things took a turn for the worse. In Mercenaries mode players defended against an almost endless onslaught of ganados until the time limit elapsed or you died. Further to that, as time progressed the variety of enemies encountered, and their levels of aggression and lethality increased dramatically. Let's just say that I was able to defend my cranium in about 10% of my Mercenaries playthroughs. The abundance of chainsaw-wielding villagers in this mode invariably led to my head being taken well before it's prime. Failing quick-time events also led to gruesome consequences, and many a time I felt my stomach rumble for all the wrong reasons.
What's your favourite reminder of failure?