We’ve all been there. No matter the role you assumed at the time, you’ve stared at that next level, that next world, that next realm and groaned, “Not water”. Over the years, the challenge of water in video games has taken many lives from us, and we’ve grown to dread the concept. We’re going to explore a few reasons why water and water levels are so grueling.
Anxiety over anything water in video games may come from a natural fear of drowning. Death by drowning haunts me in many of the games I play, like World of Warcraft and Super Mario Odyssey, but this danger goes all the way back to my childhood of playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Panic gripped me when the music changed, and steadily sped up, when oxygen in the blue hedgehog was low, and I frantically searched for the closest spawning bubbles. The experience was terrifying. I did love the “pop” sound effect made when Sonic gulped in that breath of fresh air offered by the underwater bubble. Even Super Mario isn’t immune to lack of oxygen anymore. As far back as Super Mario 64 to as recent as Super Mario Odyssey, our plumber hero needs to replenish his air supply when swimming around to help out those friendly natives of whatever water world he’s visiting. In other newer games it’s no longer a matter of drowning, but a matter of stamina. The player may even be incapable of swimming beneath the waves, but once that stamina is depleted you’re sunk with no hope of survival.
Hand-in-hand with the struggle to always find a supply of oxygen is the physics of swimming. As developers aim to make games increasingly realistic, water becomes more of a dilemma for us gamers. The problem with water is it has more density than air, meaning we encounter more molecules, creating more friction and dispersing more energy. Water impairs movement and the use of certain abilities or weapons is prohibited. Suddenly, these new aquatic enemies and monsters look pretty challenging. Going back to Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo Entertainment System, control in water levels was extremely difficult. One too many taps of the A button sent you flying into a Blooper or Cheep-Cheep without mercy. When entering the water in Guildwars 2, you are given an entirely different weapon and skillset to fight under water. Learning how to seamlessly dive and resurface in any game can be challenging as well. Nothing beats the terror that clutches your heart when being chased by a plesiosaurus in Ark: Survival Evolved but you cannot escape because you’re hindered by water.
It wasn’t until the infamous Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that I solidified my trepidation for the water. The challenge in this temple has nothing to do with movement or drowning. Link was equipped with the Zora Tunic to breathe under water and Iron Boots to sink and maneuver with some ease. However, the only weapon that worked from his vast supply was the hook/long shot. No, instead, this dungeon was all about gaining access to rooms on certain floors at certain times by lowering and raising the level of the water, and praying that you obtained every key. Just when you think this liquid that is necessary for life couldn’t be more infuriating, Nintendo makes an entire temple that will be remembered for decades, two so far, in fact.
No matter your experience with video games we can all agree that water is the bane of our existence. This element constantly returns to haunt us gamers! The only time I enjoyed the water in a game was in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask while wearing the Zora Mask. I love water in real life, but I’m not being chased by monsters that want to kill me in my own swimming pool. Perhaps the only more frustrating concept in a video game is lava.
Use the comments to tell me about your troubling experience with water in video games.