Plenty of video game locations are dangerous, but that’s usually as a result of the various monsters, SWAT teams, robot dinosaurs and multitudinous apocalypses exploding off all over the place. Some video game settings, however, would be health and safety nightmares even if there wasn’t a video game going on in them. These are the homes, workplaces and assorted public amenities that are just so flat-out badly designed and maintained that the average OSHA inspector wouldn’t so much shut them down as remove them immediately from the face of the planet via a swift and comprehensive controlled explosion.
No Umbrella labs or Aperture Science facilities on this list for reasons of deliberate corruption or narratively-driven danger (and because they’re just too damn obvious). Click on, but make sure that you’re wearing a hard-hat. And ideally some manner of portable bomb shelter.
Fire Field – F-Zero GX
“Hey guys, we’ve found a giant subterranean magma cave! We’ve had a few ideas of what to do with it. First we thought we could use the geothermal energy as a clean, renewable power source. Then we figured we could study it in the name of geological discovery.
“But then we thought we could stick a high-speed magnetic race track in there. We reckon it would be best if the race track was a cylinder covered in undulating bits. How are we going to hold it in place? Oh, we’ll just stick support struts all over it. We’re sure the drivers will manage to avoid them. These are highly skilled professional sportsmen and women after all.
“We still like the geothermal idea though. Maybe we’ll just squeeze the pipes in around the race track. It’ll mean having a few heat exhausts right next to the track of course, but that’s bound to be fine. These drivers are really professional”
The Black Mesa facility – Half-Life/Black Mesa
Let’s face it, an experimental science lab in which an employee has to pass a giant toxic waste spill on the way in was never going to be in for a great time when it started playing around with the harmonic resonance of (very probably) alien crystals. Particularly when the standard company method of dealing with said spillage is presumably to flush it down into the huge river of toxic waste running right underneath the facility.
Out of sight, out of mind. Until that is, the whole place becomes invaded by murderous aliens and traversing a torrent of radioactive sludge becomes the only way out.
All castles – Super Mario Bros. series
When you let a grudge seep through into too many elements of your life, you have a big problem. Such is the case with the Koopa Clan. So long has their war raged against Mario that in order to keep him away they’ve converted each of their own homes into unlivable death traps.
In Super Mario Bros. the various lava pits and swirling flame-blades of Bowser’s various castles were kind of justifiable as an extreme security system. The airships of Super Mario Bros. 3 also made sense, given that all of their explosive and projectile defences were at least on the outside. Later on though? None of the castles even slightly make sense as homes. Whether owned by Bowser or any of his various unexplained children, each fortification is little more than an assault course of bottomless pits, collapsing floors, swirling blades and gargantuan crushing devices. At best the resident has but one small, relatively safe room to dwell in, but in New Super Mario Bros. U even that is eschewed in favour of a rooftop cannon leading to a full-scale battle arena. A feud is one thing, guys, but sooner or later you’re going to have to find somewhere to put the sofa.
Any temple – The legend of Zelda series
According to dictionary definition:
tem•ple1 [tem-puhl] Show IPA
1. an edifice or place dedicated to the service or worship of a deity or deities.
According to The Legend of Zelda:
tem•ple1 [tem-puhl] Show IPA
1. A sprawling subterranean death-trap fit only for the worship of a suicide cult. Less a place of religious meditation, more a contrived fun house of murder, a temple’s peripheral areas will typically consist of multitudinous arcane barriers to further progress combined with a plethora of lethal environmental hazards including, but not limited to, long drops, bottomless pits, fire, lava, spikes and flooding. Upon reaching the temple’s epicentre, any surviving disciples will find not an altar or sanctuary, but a large room filled with a very large monster. And then the doors will lock.
The factory level – Ninja Gaiden
“Following induction, all new employees at Bloody Mental Industries are required to complete mandatory training in Basic Wall-Jumping, Chasm-Leaping and Girder Climbing. Because we haven’t actually got any stairs. Or ladders. Or lifts. In fact the factory is mainly just girders and pits. Welcome to the team, guys!”
Midgar – Final Fantasy VII
An ingenious solution to the problem of urban overcrowding, has old Midgar. Not enough space to expand? Just build straight up! Adding an extra layer of suspended street above the old one will solve all of your worries. And what’s more, it’ll cover up all those messy slums below for when you want to take those lovely aerial shots for your tourism brochures.
Okay, to sustain the place you’ll have to squeeze dangerous magical nuclear reactors in between each and every district, but hey, as long as you install an emergency plate release system you’re golden. Anything goes wrong, you can easily drop the top layer of city onto the bottom one, clearing the space immediately. With the simple installation of a system designed soley to kill thousands of people instantly, you’ll find yourself with no safety worries at all. Don’t worry, it’s bound not to be misused.
Kirkwall – Dragon Age II
We understand that pigeons can be a problem in built-up urban areas. First sniff of a dropped pasty and the little buggers are all over the streets like hairline fractures on a Gotham City mugger. The traditional “solution” is to put small, pigeon-deterring spikes on all the things you don’t want cocooned in a crunchy layer of avian poop. In lieu of being able to safely hand out free shotguns in a city centre there’s very little else you can do. But Dragon Age II’s Kirkwall has taken the idea far too far. In short, it’s the world’s first city to be built entirely out of aggressively sharp things.
It’s one of the few towering, multi-layered settlements that would actually be safer without hand rails. Reason being that all of Kirkwall’s banisters — like pretty much everything else in the city — are covered in giant metal hand-stabbers. Its gates are built like multi-directional portcullises, forcing those traversing them to run a gauntlet of spikes on every side. And those are the safer examples. The buildings are lit by plates full of burning coal hanging from the ceiling, and in the Lowtown plenty of “fences” consist only of crudely arranged stakes sticking out of the ground. Yeah, they might keep the pigeons away, but those winged swine will inherit the entire city once everyone dies of tetanus.
The building site – Hard Hat Mack
Fact: EA’s first game was a parable to the joys of contravening health and safety regulations. Arguably inspired by Donkey Kong, Hard Hat Mack was a building-site-based platformer which tasked hero Mack with repairing floors, tidying up discarded tool boxes, and recycling crates in some sort of giant crate recycling machine. All sounds pretty positive behaviour until you consider that he navigates the site by climbing chains and launching himself off the trampolines that are for some reason lying around.
And that he fixes those holes using a runaway jackhammer that everyone else has seen perfectly fit to just let run rampant. Oh, and he has to avoid vandals who Security have deemed to allow in, as well as a completely purpose-free crushing device that seemingly exists just to crush stuff. Stuff being people.
And to confirm Hard Hat Mack’s deleriously anti-safe philosophy? The main bad guy is an OSHA inspector. Seriously. Health and safety is explicitly equated with “Bad”.
Safe and sound?
So there’s our list of places that only the bravest or most foolhardy would ever work/live/go anywhere near under any circumstances. But what about your lists? Any other places in games you think would give a safety inspector a red-faced, head-bursting heart attack? Let us know.
And while you’re here, check out some of our related stuff. The most ludicrously impractical FPS weapons would be a good place to start, as would Video game locations only an idiot would live in.
By David Houghton
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